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Get your geek on: What skills and experience are IT employers looking for?


The information technology (IT) industry in New Zealand is booming and desperate for fresh talent. The number of jobs in the digital/IT field is expected to grow by up to 50% in the next 10 years.

Tech is no longer the domain of the introverted maths genius. These days there are plenty of creative jobs in tech companies, and employers are looking for strong communicators, innovative thinkers and team players.

So how do you get a job in IT – one of the fastest-growing industries?
The best way to get a job in tech is to have a relevant tertiary qualification such as a diploma or degree in information technology, computer science or software engineering. However, there are other pathways such as short, intensive IT courses or on-the-job training.

Siobhan Warren, graduate experience manager for Xero, offers some insight:

“Lots of employers are working to create internships in the tech space to help students get experience while they study. One of the front-runners is Summer of Tech, a charity set up to help prep students for internships, then facilitate a meeting with employers.

“From an employer perspective it’s fantastic to welcome junior talent into the company – they bring fresh ideas, enthusiasm and are really keen to learn. The best outcome of an internship is being able to offer that student ongoing work, either while they finish their degree or as a graduate once they have finished studying.

“Students need to start looking for internships and graduate roles early. Internships are generally in the summer between the second-to-last and final year at university. Graduate roles can be hired up to a year in advance, so campaigns kicking off in early 2016 are designed to attract and hire students who will start in their graduate roles in 2017.”

Other ways to get into a tech career in NZ
There are other options if you don’t have a relevant tertiary qualification or if you’re looking to change from your current career to one in tech.

Josh Forde, co-founder of technology company Rabid Technologies, explains:

“We don’t exclusively take graduates and we believe there are a range of approaches to getting that learning after school. We have hired staff who are entirely self-taught, and have also recruited from the Enspiral Dev Academy course, which is an intensive three-month upskilling course. These candidates have generally been cross-training from a previous career and we think they make great hires as they bring a lot of complementary skills to the IT space. Empathy, maturity and judgment are critical qualities and these tend to require a little bit of life experience.”

What are IT employers looking for?

To get your dream job in IT you need to start with a great CV or resume. A CV is your advertisement and its purpose is to get you an interview, so it needs to show what you can do and why you’re a good fit for an employer. We highlight a few important things technology company employers consider when they look at a job application.

1. A strong cover letter
Ian Craigie, chief technology officer for Careers New Zealand, says, “For me it’s pretty much always about experience. Where has someone worked, for how long and what did they do when they were there? Does the work they have done align with the outcomes I am looking for? The cover letter must address why your skills fit the job. It’s the narrative around you and what you have that fits the experience and attributes you talk about in your CV – and a chance to say here I am, look at me.”

2. Demonstrate you’re passionate
Siobhan Warren suggests, “Grades, part-time work, volunteering, student club membership or leadership are all things that get attention. However, the number one thing for us would be someone’s interest in their chosen field. If you’re really passionate about something, you will be exploring topics outside your study. For example, trying to write your own code, build your own computers, going to Meetups and so on. All of these things speak volumes about commitment to learning and passion for a career.”

3. Keep it short
Josh Forde continues, “As an employer, I very rarely read more than one or two pages of a CV, and a lot of the information is scanned for reference. I read the top of each section – what people say about themselves, what sort of working environment they want and what vision they have is important.”

4. Be professional
“As well as the experience, I also look for attention to detail in a CV,” Ian Craigie explains. “Are there any spelling mistakes or missing words? What is the email address? I once received a CV and the return address was something like It’s really not hard to create a new Gmail account and forward it to your primary account.”

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