ISE sector insight: digital industries

Alison Parkinson, Employer Engagement Adviser, and Jane Challinor, Careers Information Manager, took these messages from a conference held recently by the ISE (Institute of Student Employers), where speakers from major companies working in IT shared their insights into recruiting graduates during and post-Covid-19, and into the question of diversity in their industry. 

Companies represented included ExperianFDMFujitsuGraphcore and IBM. While some of the points raised were specific to speakers’ companies there was a lot of similarity in the trends observed, and in the approaches to each issue. 

Diversity and inclusion in the tech industry

Attracting and recruiting a more diverse workforce was important to all the speakers. 

Female applicants are found to do well at assessment centre, so recruiters are keen that they don’t de-select themselves – by deciding not to apply or withdrawing their application – before that stageUsing female role models in recruitment campaigns, challenging the preconception that tech roles don’t need people skills, and screening the language used in adverts are some of the techniques used to achieve a more even female:male gender distribution. 

Gender isn’t the only aspect of inclusion. Recruiters want to support candidates who may be less confident, for whatever reason, during the recruitment process. Providing easy-to-find detailed information about each stage of the process in advance, aimed at neurodiverse candidates but of benefit to all, is just one way they offer this support. 

Diversity of degree subject is another issueRestricting offers to people with a computer science degree, or more broadly a STEM degree, would make it difficult to fill the number of vacancies, and would mean companies missed out on a lot of talent! They make a point of including case studies of high-achieving recruits from non-technical degree subjects in their recruitment material, and emphasising the importance of transferable, non-technical skills, to encourage a wider range of applicants. A high level of technical experience and aptitude is not required for every role. However evidence of an interest in, or curiosity about, tech at some level is important. Some companies invest in programmes where 1st/2nd year students can develop technical skills.  

Changes to recruitment processes during the last year 

Much of the recruitment process had been online before Covid-19, but the introduction of virtual assessments – practically overnight in some cases – was new last year. Companies emphasised their acknowledgement that many candidates might find this daunting and their aim is to make sure each of them have a positive experience. To counter this, they put extra effort into talking to candidates in advance about what to expect. Interviewers are reminded of the risks of unconscious bias creeping in and reminded that a candidate’s personal circumstances (lack of privacy, poor connection) should not count against them. In some cases, the assessment centre activity has been shortened. 

What skills are important? 

All speakers stressed the importance of a far wider range of skills than purely technical – the skills often called soft skills or transferable skills. Emotional intelligence – a self-awareness and the ability to regulate your emotions and manage your relationships with colleagues and clients – is something recruiters look for. They want people who have a positive attitude, are driven by curiosity and able to ask questions, speak up and express their opinion – while taking other people’s opinions into account.  

The move to remote working has amplified the need for proactive communication with managers and colleagues, and for resilience and self-motivation. 

Key points to take away 

  • Recruiters are noticing higher numbers of applicants who seem unprepared to explain why they want this role, with this company. It’s important to be clear about this – in your application, and in your own mind. Your motivation matters. 
  • significant number are dropping out when they get the invitation to the assessment centre, as if they’re having second thoughts about whether this is right for them. Put the thought in before you apply – you’ll stand a better chance. 
  • You don’t need to be studying Computer Science to have a role in tech, so don’t rule yourself out if you don’t have a tech degree. Show them you’ve got the right attitude (curiosity!) 
  • When you’re demonstrating your technical curiosity, tell them how a technical concept or product has caught your attention, and how you’ve followed up by reading more about it. Telling them you use online banking or WhatsApp isn’t enough. 
  • “Technical skills” can mean writing code, creating programmes etc, and it can also mean having the human skills to make these things come to life and understand the application and output of these products and services. Demonstrating both of these would be great, but one is also good. 
  • To develop technical skills you could use resources from – for example –  Codecademyor LinkedIn Learning. 
  • Any business needs a wide range of business skills/roles.  There are lots of roles in IT organisations which aren’t IT roles… 
  • but IT is the way the world is turning! “If you’re not interested in tech, you’ll soon need to be!” 

We will be sharing more sector insights soon from the recent ISE conference on Inform.ed…


(Original image: pexels-christina-morillo-1181341.jpg)

(Original image: pexels-christina-morillo-1181341.jpg)


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