As with any job application, one can improve their chances of successfully finding employment by carefully analysing the specification given by the employer. Once can improve proficiency in particular skills both in terms of technical knowledge and social aspects that would become relevant in the workplace. In order to gain insight into what qualities companies look for in potential employees, I found job vacancy advertisements on the popular programmer-centric job-finding website Careers 2.0, and analysed research conducted by the University of Kent.
After looking at the skills required by the employers using Careers 2.0 to advertise vacancies, I found the following:
|Job Title||Salary||Technical Skills/Experience Required||Non-Technical Skills Required|
|Web developer||£35,000 p.a.||
||"We look for developers who have a passion for technology and a constant desire to improve and learn more skills. We are currently in short supply of people who are good at hand coding website front ends. If the following interest or maybe even excite you, then you are the kind of person we are looking for"|
|iOS Developer||£45,000 p.a.||
||"This role reports into the Development Manager, and will work closely with the Mobile Product Manager"|
||Desire to learn|
The third job, in iOS application development and offering a significantly higher salary, would require knowledge in programming for iOS devices. Not only would the applicant need experience using C and Apple's Objective-C, but they would likely benefit from knowledge in design fields, and in making applications responsive to the device running them (similarly to developing responsive designs in CSS).
Judging by the information I collected, the most noticeable value of a developer that employers look for when accepting applications is the desire to learn. In the field of programming, and particularly for the web, technologies and standards evolve very quickly, and being prepared to adapt and move onwards is very key to remaining relevant and employable. To take an example other than the web, mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS were non-existent a decade ago, and have progressed hugely in the last five years. Although the underlying languages, Java and Objective-C, have existed for a long time, more functionality is constantly being added, expanding the capabilities of mobile applications. In order to keep track of this and to be able to develop apps that will be compatible, stable and ultimately successful, one must not be stubborn or desire to remain in a different technological day.
Recent research conducted by the University of Kent concluded in a list of ten employee values that were most sought after by technology businesses. In order to reach these ten values, the Careers and Employability Service at the university asked representatives of a number of companies what they look for when picking a job applicant. The valuable data that they found can be used to draw a number of conclusions about the skills which job seekers should try to develop if they wish to find employment in such a business.
In order to collect the information used to draw conclusions, the university students created a multiple surveys and distributed them to several companies. Representatives of Microsoft, Target Jobs, the BBC, Prospects, NACE and AGR were all asked what they looked for in potential new employees. These companies spanned a variety of businesses, covering information and communications; broadcasting and journalism; and job vacancy and employment services. By gathering information and opinion from employers in varying fields, a wide picture can be built up of the skills required in general. The use of surveys overall also means that the information presented is accurate and relevant today.
The research was summarised in a table of values that were shown to be most valuable to employers. Verbal communication, team-working and commercial awareness accounted for the top three, showing that knowledge and experience in the particular field of the employer was not as essential as many may believe. Despite this, I personally wonder if more specific values are required by each of the businesses, but due to the spread of the selected companies across different fields of business, these were not common among different employers and therefore did not appear in the list summarising the results.
Each of the top five most desirable employee attributes are detailed below:
Verbal communication refers to the ability to talk in front of an audience and deliver points and opinion in this way. As an applicant for a job vacancy, showing that you are able to do this shows that you will be able to work honestly and not hinder the efficiency of the business as a result of being unable to clearly convey information.
Teamwork is also important to business. As someone working in a company, it's almost inevitable that an employee will be required to work as part of a team. Good team working skills mean that the employee is able to successfully act as a worker completing tasks and as the command of a team, as well as when collaborating with a handful of colleagues.
Commercial awareness is vital in order to ensure that an employee makes practical decisions and understands the steps that must be taken to keep the business viable and profitable. Understanding the market and the standard operation of companies in general will make an employee much more valuable.
Analysis and investigation are required in order to take up any form of decision-making or leading role in a business. It's useful for a business' employees to be able to take up leadership duties at short notice, such as if the usual manager or director is taken ill, busy elsewhere or unable to attend work. By analysing situations and investigating them, informed and inherently better decisions can be made, and this is an integral part of keeping a business running at its optimum performance.
Initiative and self motivation is also key in being a valuable employee. In abnormal or emergency situations, someone who can adapt on-the-spot, gather the resources they need in order to rectify the issue, contact those whose responsibility it would normally be, and attempt to fix the problem would be very useful. As an example, the productivity of a business – of almost any size – which relies on IT infrastructure would likely grind to a halt if the local server was not authenticating employees as they attempted to login one morning. Although neither the manager of the IT department nor the hardware specialist may have arrived at work yet, another employee in the department with initiative could find that a hardware failsafe had been triggered causing the servers to shut down, and could then restart the machines and bring the network back online.
Judging by the information given to and presented by the University of Kent, there are a number of factors, not necessarily directly relating to computers and information technology, that employers desire to see in an applicant. By acknowledging one's weaknesses, particularly in respect to the values listed above, one can understand what aspect of themselves they should try to develop. It's possible, for instance, to improve ones ability to speak and present in front of others, simply by practising. Doing so will improve the confidence of anyone, and this can give an applicant the upper hand when potentially competing against hundreds of others.
Having looked at job vacancies on Careers 2.0, and seen the research conducted by the Careers and Employability Service department at the University of Kent, I feel that I understand the attributes of an applicant that businesses look for when employing people. These include the ability to confidently and clearly voice opinion to a number of people; having initiative when strict instruction isn't available; and having experience in the field and in development with particular tools. Knowing exactly what employers look for allows one to develop one's own abilities and strengths in order to become a more employable person.