Recruiting For Diversity: How IT Can Welcome New Leaders in 2016


It’s a great year for those with IT skills with the demand booming, but hiring managers are finding themselves up against a wall when it comes to the supply side of the equation – there just isn’t enough talent to go around. Or so it seems. So while those who fit the normal IT profile are likely to be snatched up immediately, there remain plenty of job openings just waiting to be filled. And they can be, but recruiters need to start thinking differently about what an IT professional looks like.

Reconsidering Qualifications
One of the fastest ways to increase the pool of IT talent is to start shifting the emphasis away from requiring four-year college degrees. Instead, IT recruiters should start accepting qualified candidateswith IT certificates. So many IT jobs are so specific that the broad knowledge base associated with a bachelor’s degree is unnecessary.

A quality certificate program will give candidates the specific skills they need without the huge time and money investments that come with a four-year degree. From there, companies can identify employees who show potential for further training, including possibly earning a degree, but first recruiters need to open the door to new talent.

Consider Bias
Not only are IT recruiters losing out on talented candidates by focusing on degree qualifications over concrete knowledge—many companies also have walled off their efforts by functioning from a preconceived notion of the IT professional. This image is too often white and male, leaving women and people of color out of the picture.

In many cases, IT companies have built bias into their hiring procedures, largely through networking and old boys’ clubs that readily exclude women and recent immigrants, anyone who isn’t tied to the current startup culture. If a female candidate walks in to interview with a panel of white men, for example, she may immediately feel excluded from the company environment. This can impact the interview quality, as the candidate loses confidence or preemptively accepts that she won’t be hired.

Dedicate Space
Because white men have already colonized so much of the tech industry, sometimes it is not only helpful, but necessary, to dedicate specific space to those historically excluded from the industry. Twitter tried this recently by focusing on bringing women to its Flight conference. This year 29% of attendees were women, compared to only 18% last year.

This success is likely linked to the taskforce of women and minorities in the IT field that Twitter created, a group that networked with Girls Who Code and TechWomen to start shifting the participation and employment demographics in IT. More companies should consider creating teams focused on diversifying the field – Twitter has shown that even a small effort can reap great success.

Train the Next Generation
Ultimately, it may not be possible to remediate the talent shortage in IT immediately – if there aren’t enough trained professionals, even among those with certificate training, then there aren’t enough candidates for the many jobs in IT. The only solution, then, is to start training the next generation, getting them interested in IT careers from a young age. While youth today may be very skilled with navigating the tech world, they often know little about the behind-the-scenes world. That needs to change.

Microsoft is making an effort in that direction, dedicating $75 million over the next three years to build up its YouthSpark program. This program focuses on exposing students to computer science at the primary and secondary school levels with the goal of increasing the number of computer science students at the university level.

With dedicated efforts from major companies like Twitter and Microsoft, the shortage of IT professionals may finally decline in the next few years, but their success won’t just be measured by job slots filled. Until the IT field begins to reflect the diversity of our communities, the field will have a talent shortage. It’s time for recruiters to open the doors and welcome qualified candidates.

Larry Alton

[ISACA Now Blog]

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