In a new survey from the staffing firm Robert Half Technology, IT leaders say work experience is their top consideration when hiring, regardless of career stage. Some prior work experience is even expected of entry-level hires, but at this level, education is also considered. For mid- and senior-level jobs, in addition to work experience, industry tenure and past-project success are important factors.

Strong business and interpersonal skills are necessary for tech professionals, 74% of IT managers said technical skills carry somewhat or far greater weight than non-technical skills. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (22%) cited an even split between the importance of tech and non-tech skills.

“A resume tells just one part of a candidate’s story,” said Ryan Sutton, president of Robert Half Technology. “In today’s tight labor market, pursuing a perfect skills and experience match is counterproductive. A smarter approach to recruiting involves gauging applicants’ aptitude, willingness to learn and fit with the workplace culture.”

Sutton added, “These results show how important it is for students to gain practical job skills while in school through internships, projects or other activities.”

All 2,800 survey respondents (in 28 major US markets) had hiring authority for information systems or information technology department

For entry-level tech candidates, here’s what gets HR staff interested:

  1. Most current work experience

  2. Educational background

  3. Past projects and successes

  4. Relevant certifications

  5. Tech hobbies (e.g. website and app development, video-game playing and development)

For mid- and managerial positions, hiring managers look at:

  1. Most current work experience

2./3. (tie) Past projects and successes and years in the industry

4. Educational background

5. Relevant certifications

And for those interested in a job in tech, this is a great time to investigate potential jobs. “Right now, the demand for tech workers is exceeding supply, we are seeing in-demand talent receive multiple job-offers,” Sutton said, adding that employers must offer competitive salaries. “Hiring managers should make sure they are paying at least market rates to attract the best talent, and they should re-evaluate compensation structures regularly to remain competitive and reduce turnover. Talent will not wait around for an employer to make a decision.”

As for which positions are in demand, Sutton said, “Some of the most sought-after roles now and through the coming year are in cloud, business intelligence, DevOps, and security. The most successful businesses already have and are improving strategies around upskilling their teams to keep up with the inevitable changes that will come with technological advances. Ninety percent of IT leaders surveyed by Robert Half Technology said they are already upskilling their tech employees — not only is it beneficial to the business to grow their own talent, but employees want to grow and develop their own skills and want to be able to depend on their employer for those opportunities.”

Image: iStockphoto/Tero Vesalainen