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Can better job descriptions close the IT skills gap?

Sharon Florentine | July 30, 2015
It seems the debate about the IT skills gap has reached a consensus -- both IT leaders and IT workers believe the IT skills gap exists and that it negatively impacts IT operations.

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It seems the debate about the IT skills gap has reached a consensus -- both IT leaders and IT workers believe the IT skills gap exists and that it negatively impacts IT operations. But debate remains about the root causes of the skills gap and how best to address them, according to a recent IT Skills Gap Survey released by staffing solutions, IT talent management expertise and IT services provider TEKsystems.

Pointing fingers

While IT leaders point the finger at a lack of qualified candidates and a shortage of necessary skills, IT professionals -- those in the job market actively looking for work -- believe excessive requirements are causing organizations to have unrealistic expectations when sourcing and hiring talent. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

Both IT leaders and IT workers agree that skills matching is difficult -- 81 percent of IT leaders indicate it is extremely or moderately difficult to find quality candidates and 73 percent of IT professionals say it is extremely or moderately difficult to find positions for which they are qualified. Sixty three percent of IT professionals surveyed cite unrealistic technical expectations as the biggest challenge to finding a job.

"The survey reinforces what we already suspected: The IT skills gap is real and is having a significant impact on organizations' abilities to be successful -- it can lead to a vicious cycle of lower employee morale, inefficiency and attrition," says Jason Hayman, TEKsystems Research Manager.

In addition to a comprehensive workforce strategy that includes "a broad set of approaches for sourcing, screening, hiring and onboarding, succession management and developing leadership pipelines," Hayman says a few simple tweaks to the way organizations develop their job postings can go a long way toward addressing the skills gap.

"So much of the skills gap problem starts with the job description. What this means is that there is a disconnect in skills matching. The hiring managers and the executives are saying, 'People don't have the skills needed for this job,' and candidates are saying, 'The company's expectations are completely unreasonable.' Recruiting is more an art than a science, especially in IT, where job roles can vary dramatically and where the person doing the hiring may not be technical themselves," says Hayman.

Separate must-haves from nice-to-haves

To write a great job description, hiring managers, recruiters and executives should partner with IT to determine what the bare necessities are for the job, skills-wise and then add in soft skills, says Hayman.

"Sometimes folks outside of IT who are tasked with hiring for an IT position overcompensate. They throw everything and the kitchen sink into a job description without understanding what's completely necessary and what's 'nice to have.' Faced with a long list of requirements, candidates get discouraged, feel that they don't meet 100 percent of the requirements, and don't apply," says Hayman, or they can fail an initial screening when a hiring manager or recruiter focuses on skills they lack -- but which aren't critical to the job.

 

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