Do you know what applied tech skills are? One skills gap analysis says recruiters should. [interview]

Posted May 01, 2017 by


It’s not news that there is a technology skills gap in the American workforce. The research, however, has mostly focused on hard tech skills like coding and programming. Devry University’s Career Advisory Board conducted a skills gap analysis that taps into “applied technology skills”. These are tech skills which you should find in people outside of the IT department. Recruiters should know the difference, and know how to find candidates with the right skills.

College Recruiter spoke with Alexandra Levit of Devry University Career Advisory Board. She is a workforce consultant and author of several career related books. Here, we dove into the research to help recruiters understand applied technology skills and how to find people with the skills who can help their businesses grow. This is Part 1 of 2 of our conversation with Alexandra Levit about recruiting for tech skills.

Watch the video of our conversation with Alexandra Levit, or read the takeaways in the blog post below.


Related: In Part 2 of our conversation with Alexandra Levit, we discuss how technical recruitment should focus on design thinking.

Applied technology skills are different from hard technology skills. Know the difference.

Employers have been saying for a while that technology skills are lacking, but Levit says that Devry’s skills gap analysis was showing two categories of technology skills that employers were referring to: applied technology skills and hard technology skills. “They are different,” she says, “and what you need depends on the type of job you are [recruiting] for.”

“For technology to be effective, it has to integrate people, processes, data and devices.” Someone who can do that has applied technology skills.

To assess whether a candidate has these skills, ask them a question like, “How have you used technology to solve business problems”? or “How have you used cutting-edge tools to improve outcomes of a project or previous position?” You’re looking for someone who can demonstrate they know how to apply technology—social media, development tools, etc. in their overall strategy to improve efficiency, productivity, or other everyday business issues.

Hard technology skills, however, are the skills you typically find in the IT domain. Applied tech skills? Levit thinks “everybody needs to have them.”

It’s a common false assumption that millennials have these skills. Just because they are app-savvy and have grown up immersed in technology, doesn’t mean a recent college graduate will be able to leverage technology to the fullest effect. You have to evaluate the skills of each individual.

What does the skills gap analysis say about recruiting? 

Recruiters may be unsure of themselves at first, but willingness is critical. Levit says, “Software has, in many cases, evolved to a point that you don’t need programming skills to use it handily in a business setting.” Someone with a non-tech background, say a liberal arts grad, may be just as competent using certain software as a computer science grad. You don’t need programming skills, for example, to use software in a business setting. “Recruiters need to stop thinking of IT in a bubble. Open your opportunities to all types of students – you may be surprised.”

Also read: Career and job competencies of liberal arts grads

Also read: Strategies for recruiting data analytics and related skills 

Employers should evaluate how much they expect grads to ready to hit the ground running.

Every year, research shows that the expectations of employers remain extremely high. They strive to hire candidates who are oven-ready right out of college. “As much as they tout development programs,” says Levit, “hiring managers don’t want to have to train new hires.”

That’s a problem, of course, when you consider the growing tech skills gap.

PONDER THIS: Forget about targeting accounting grads in a five-state region if your biggest need is to reach female, African-American accounting majors who graduated from one of your target schools last year. With College Recruiter, that’s a snap with our email campaigns. Would it make sense to learn how our expertise can drive more candidates to your career site?

According to Devry’s research, employers are also saying that new employees lack the motivation to train in areas where they might not have studied, or understand the importance of being cross-functional. However, employers should remember that millennials didn’t grow up with the mindset of leveraging technology in business problems—that was always held in the domain of IT”. Employers should start to take more “ownership of the up-skilling of their own workforces”, says Levit, especially by utilizing the skills they have in house to train new employees. “It’s not hard, and in many cases, it’s not particularly expensive. For example, have IT set up a low- or no-code platform for developing business applications and do a couple of sessions teaching employees how to use it.”

You will find that people who have used software before, which is virtually everyone now, will pick it quickly. “The next thing you know, you’ve got people developing applications in all different functions of the organization.”

Young professionals truly want to help do better business. On top of that, learning new skills can not only be fun, but it can affect their commitment and engagement at work.

Also read: Oven-ready hires and the problem of matching available skills to our demands

Given uncertainty in the future of H-1B immigration, take the opportunity to invest in domestic talent

Right now, the H-1B visa program admits roughly 65,000 skilled workers and 20,000 graduate students to the U.S. annually, according to Levit. Many of those visa holders are in the tech sector. However, it is becoming hard to predict what will happen with immigration and visas, with the new administration.

Levit advises, “If I were an employer, I would take this opportunity to partner with educational institutions to ramp up and develop our American-based talent”, because we don’t know how feasible it will be to sustain a visa program.

Alexandra Levit career consultantAbout Alexandra Levit: Alexandra is a consultant for all things workplace. Her goal is to prepare organizations and their employees for meaningful careers in the future workplace. A former nationally syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and writer for the New York Times, Fast Company, and Forbes, Alexandra has authored several books, including the international bestseller “They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.” She is also part of College Recruiter’s  Panel of Experts—a group of experts around the country who regularly provide top notch advice for both talent acquisition professionals and entry level job seekers.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Posted in Advice for Employers and Recruiters | Tagged