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Is there really an IT skills shortage?

IT recruitment specialist, Andrew Cross, believes there is a “disconnect” between employers and candidates, not an IT skills shortage

There is not necessarily an IT skills shortage, according to Andrew Cross, managing director of IT recruitment firm Ambition Technology.

Instead, the problem is employers narrowing their candidate requirements too much, he said.

“It really is much more a skills misalignment, as we were calling it, and that by just recognising if you look a little bit outside the box, you’ll probably solve your recruitment needs without having to offshore or go to alternative [means],” Andrew Cross told CIO Australia.

He said this disconnect is due to a gap in understanding on behalf of both candidates and employers. For example, employers are advertising for just Cloud, Big Data or mobility experts, but due to the relatively short timeframe they have existed, many candidates aren't considered "experts" or "specialists" in these areas.

Candidates are also failing to highlight skills which reflect the job title of the position they are applying for, Cross said.

“I think from a candidate perspective they need to think about the types of titles being used in job applications and address their résumés and their job applications appropriately to target what’s being sought,” he said.

“From a client perspective or an employer perspective, they need to be thinking about the reach that they’re trying to cover in potential employees and again, use appropriately worded job descriptions to cover the market. There’s a little bit too much reliance on perfect matches, not just in job titles but even when it comes through to the interview stage as well.”

Cross said he has posed the scenario of having 100 candidates to clients – five candidates have the exact skills they are looking for but employers would need to pay a higher premium for them, while 95 people may have some of the skills required, and with training, could come up to speed for the desired requirements and be a more cost effective solution.

“Nine times out of 10 the group will have a bit of a chuckle and then say ‘yeah, we want one of those five’. So you’re talking to senior executive teams who clearly understand the problem and yet still aren’t prepared to do anything to address it,” he said.

One way employers can help address the problem, according to Cross, is to think beyond just job titles. For example, he said one client was seeking a Twitter expert with more than five years’ experience.

“It’s just ridiculous ... I said you’d be hard pressed [to find that] because Twitter has [only] been operating since 2009 and he laughed and said ‘really?’ He said ‘well just find me a guru then’.

“So, there’s such a need by employers to get the latest and the greatest or the best in their field, they’re missing the good candidates and they’re missing the obvious issue.”

However, Cross conceded it is not just a matter of changing a job title that will solve a company’s recruitment needs. He said employers also need to clearly define what skills and attributes they are seeking in people and what is needed for the job.

Cross said candidates can also succeed by demonstrating how they can positively impact on a company’s financial bottom line. He advises candidates to do their research and understand the technological skills required in the position being advertised.

“Learn the language that’s being used, but more importantly, translate that into a business benefit or a solution so that you can articulate – even if you don’t have the exact package or domain knowledge … that value back to the client,” he said.

“I think it’s being solution-focused, as opposed to just word matching.”

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @steph_idg

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter: @CIO_Australia

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