The Computing and IT sector is broad-which means there are a variety of ways for candidates to stand out. From data analysis to web design and programming, Computing graduates have a special set of skills to offer employers.
With such a broad scope of areas, graduates may want to consider specialising. For Computing graduates who aren't yet sure which area they may want to specialise in, the Graduate Schemes which are sometimes offered at bigger organisations can provide an opportunity to gain experience before choosing a speciality.
As a technological field, the needs of the Computing and IT sector are constantly evolving. Companies often look for graduates to come into the workplace with fresh and innovative ideas, and a grasp of the latest tech. The sector has a lot in common with Science and Technology, with many of the necessary skills required for both fields.
Candidates could benefit from additional accreditation or qualification for certain areas. For example, the Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers (CREST) provides training and accreditation in safety and security technology.
How to get a job in Computing and IT
1. Technical skills
In Computing and IT, the best way for a candidate to impress a potential employer is to have a concise and impressive portfolio which documents the variety and extent of their technical skills, and which has been tailored to suit the role.
Graduates should be able to display examples of previous work done to a high standard which exemplifies the type of work the company requires. For example, a candidate applying for a web design position should be able to bring in examples of previous websites they have designed.
2. Academic qualifications
Candidates coming into IT without a related degree will likely find it difficult to make headway in the sector while lacking the skills and experiences provided at university. For those with the academic background, having a history of high marks will help in getting a candidate's application through the first hurdle. This could be a good degree classification, preceded by great A levels and the core GCSEs of Maths, English and Science.
While some of these qualifications may not seem applicable to IT, they indicate to employers that the candidate is driven and able to apply themselves. It is an added bonus if a graduate is able to supplement their degree with other relevant extracurricular activities, such as helping a branch of student media with a website or online presence.
3. Excellent communication skills
Graduates with excellent technical ability need to be able to transpose those skills and technical expertise to someone without the same level of understanding-which requires excellent communication in both written and oral forms. The ability to relate complex ideas and concepts in layman's terms is vital.
A candidate might provide examples of instances when they have been brought in to advise on technical matters during extracurricular activities.
4. Specific relevant skills
Different areas of Computing and IT require specific skills, and a candidate should display a familiarity with the required competencies.
Security and Cyber Crime is a top issue in the sector, and a graduate wishing to pursue this field would want to demonstrate a grasp of current technological developments. Many other fields involving IT, such as Data Systems or Communications, require an excellent understanding of the appropriate programmes. For example, Computing in Communications would necessitate the use of Adobe Suite, while a position in Data Systems would likely require proficiency in programmes like Microsoft SQL and SQL Service Integration Services.
5. Web Design and Development
Computing and IT skills are highly valued in Web Design and Development, and almost all companies now have a website, often serving multiple functions such as advertising, eCommerce and providing business information.
Candidates interested in a position which will require Web Design should prepare a detailed portfolio to showcase their skills-preferably exhibiting a variety of styles for several different, non-existent companies. This will demonstrate to employers that the candidate is enthusiastic, keen to prove themselves and possesses the skills to back it up.
Computing & IT Case Studies
I think my success in obtaining the job was down to my ability to convey and articulate my strengths. Whilst I had no prior experience in Project Management or IT, I had done my research
The Employer - Madeleine Field (Recruitment Strategy Manager - FDM Group)
Name: Madeleine Field
Job Title: Recruitment Strategy Manager - FDM Group
University: Open University
Course: Politics, Philosophy and Economics
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
I see a number of candidates every day at our assessment centres and those that stand out for me demonstrate enthusiasm, motivation, a keen interest in technology, an analytical mind and logical thinking.
Can you talk us through the application process?
We are always on the lookout for high-calibre graduates who want to progress their career in IT and become a leader in the industry. Unlike many graduate employers, FDM hires all year round holding assessment days weekly and, in the summer months, daily.
Firstly, potential candidates will need to send us their CV via our website and if they pass the screening processes, a member of the recruitment team will call you to arrange a telephone interview. Your phone interview will involve talking about your educational and work related backgrounds, your current situation and your future career goals. If you pass the telephone interview stage, you will be invited to one of our assessment centres in London, Manchester or Brighton.
The assessment will focus on your interpersonal and technical skill sets, and will also allow you to gain an understanding of FDM's working environment and visit our training Academy. At the assessment, you will complete a number of tasks and exercises that will assess your technical skills and business knowledge.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application, which leads to candidates being rejected?
The most common mistakes I see are spelling and grammatical errors. Proof reading your CV and covering letter really does make the difference. It shows that you pay attention to detail and have good written communication skills. I also see many applications from people who do not actually know what they are applying for i.e. generic applications from graduates hopeful for any job in any industry and no evidence of an interest in technology.
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate entering the Computing and IT sector?
Identify an area of technology that you are most interested in and have the most to contribute to. Saying that you have a keen interest in social media because you have a Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn account is not enough. You need to demonstrate what skills you have or would like to learn and why. The more generic piece of advice for any graduate looking for any job would be to research the company you are applying for and express that knowledge in your interview, CV and covering letter.
What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?
The biggest challenge for graduates when finding their first job out of university is the infamous Catch-22: holding the necessary academic qualifications to do the job but not possessing the relevant industry experience. FDM has a strong belief in bridging the gap between academia and the workplace; in fact, it is the fundamental reason why we created our unique Graduate Programme.
We offer graduates the opportunity to be trained in one of our five academies worldwide to gain industry relevant certifications and further learning about current IT disciplines. After completing this training, graduates must work for FDM for a minimum of two years on one or more of our client sites, thus allowing graduates to become fully fledged IT Consultants with at least two years commercial work experience.
Where do you see the company in two years' time?
FDM is all about growth: our CEO founded the company in 1990 in the loft of his Brighton flat, now we have ten offices worldwide and have kick-started the IT careers of thousands of graduates. We will continue this rapid expansion in the UK and across the globe with our new flagship London office next in line. We will be moving to the other side of London Bridge and our office will be three times the size of our current one in Monument.
With regards to the HR graduate programme, we tend to recruit similar numbers each year. We don't like our intake numbers to get too big because we treat our graduates as individuals.
If you weren't a Recruitment Strategy Manager, what would you be?
I love working with people so that is vital to any career path I choose, I also enjoy helping people and I absolutely have to work for a company where my contribution is valued. Failing that, I'd be a professional golfer!
The Employee - Leanne Lawrence (IT Consultant - FDM Group)
Name: Leanne Lawrence
Job Title: IT Consultant - FDM Group
University: University of Sheffield
Was there a particular strategy or method you stuck to when applying for graduate jobs?
There wasn't a specific method I stuck to when applying for graduate positions but I did find it helpful to explore the potential career paths and opportunities that my particular degree or skillset would enable me to do. This really acted as a filter for me as I was not spending time applying to jobs which would be deemed far out of my reach.
What made you choose FDM?
I was approaching the end of my degree in Economics and whilst I had considered a career in Project Management, many businesses required relevant industry experience, something that many graduates lack. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an organisation out there that catered to graduates and were willing to invest in them and provide an opportunity to work for some of the most influential organisations in the world.
Why do you think you were successful in getting the job?
I think my success in obtaining the job was down to my ability to convey and articulate my strengths. Whilst I had no prior experience in Project Management or IT, I had done my research into the skills that were required to be successful within the role. I was able to demonstrate my potential to fulfil the role despite my lack of experience. I believe that in any job interview you have to be assertive and confident in your own abilities. Many companies aren't expecting you to be the finished article, but they just want to see how you would deal with particular situations and challenges given the right training and guidance.
What one piece of advice would you give to fresh graduates starting their job hunt?
Explore your options - it really is important to explore all options and opportunities and to concentrate on what you can do as opposed to what you can't. Many industries have some common ground and the right pitch and some additional training could open hidden doors to new careers.
How much do you think your degree played a part in your success?
I studied Economics at the University of Sheffield and I do believe that my degree was the stepping stone in paving the way for my career or at least getting me that first interview. Your degree and higher education provides you with the core skills to enable you to logically reason and think. However, I do believe that your higher education tends to become increasingly less relevant as you progress up the career ladder. You are not so much commended on your degree type or classification but on your ability and proven track experience in actually fulfilling a role.
What's the best experience you've had whilst working for FDM?
FDM are really keen on keeping their employees engaged whether on site or in office. Whilst I am now placed as a Consultant in a leading Investment Bank, I am never left out or removed from the activities that are taking place at FDM. They really do reward your efforts and hard work, whether this is through their Consultant of the Month nominations, commendations in the monthly newsletter or the all expenses paid annual Summer Party.
If you had to do the whole job hunt again, from graduating to starting your first graduate role, what would you do differently?
If I had to do it all again and without the help of FDM, I would definitely explore pursuing further qualifications to get me on par with other entry level professionals within the field. FDM has successfully tapped into the notion of providing their trainees with a head start by training them and enabling them to undergo industry recognised qualifications within a short space of time.
I definitely believe that this has been positive influence in my career path, whether it is the PRINCE2 qualifications or the VBA and SQL training, they have all helped to shape me into a more attractive "prospect" for employers.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with FDM Group, please take a look at their minisite.