Fair play for IT

Considering a move into information technology? A job fair may well be the best way of assessing the options
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The Independent Online

It is a common misconception that jobs in IT are only open to those with a degree in computer science. The truth is that the shortage of IT professionals is so great that an increasing number of companies are looking for graduates from any degree discipline, provided they have some technical skills. No wonder, then, that many are turning to job fairs to attract them.

It is a common misconception that jobs in IT are only open to those with a degree in computer science. The truth is that the shortage of IT professionals is so great that an increasing number of companies are looking for graduates from any degree discipline, provided they have some technical skills. No wonder, then, that many are turning to job fairs to attract them.

"It's a great avenue of people-gathering," claims Peter Poulain, a partner in A&P Computer Services. "It's a rare opportunity for employers to meet both IT professionals seeking work and those who are interested in becoming professional all at the same event."

In addition, it allows firms to get to know the competition. But what's in it for the job-seekers?

The obvious answer is the diversity of employers. But it also gives candidates the chance to judge rather than be judged. After all, if you fill out an application form or attend an interview, you're the one who's being examined. Turn up at an IT fair, on the other hand, and the roles are reversed.

"The fact that these fairs are face-to-face and so informal and friendly is beneficial for all candidates, irrespective of their experience," believes Vicky Youngman, marketing executive at Spring IT, which attends between 10 and 15 fairs a year. "It helps them feel at ease and in control so that they can ask frank questions without worrying that it will go against their chances of getting a job."

Claire Lynam, marketing executive at Intranet, remarks that candidates should use fairs to find out about a company's culture: "This company, for instance, is far more informal than other IT firms, which will suit some candidates and not others. By spending time with us at a fair, people get a taste of what it's really like to work here"'

Lynam is herself a recent graduate and talks to university leavers about her role and prospects in the company. In addition, HR staff and project managers are present to answer recruitment questions. As Steve Holloway, personnel services manager of Farnborough-based computer services company Computeraid, points out, there may not be other chances for graduates to meet such representatives.

Angus Pritchard, who graduated in marketing last year and is currently doing a course in computer science, attended an IT fair in his local area to find out what kind of soft skills companies are after. "I discovered that interpersonal skills are considered vital in many IT companies because all the work is for clients and their needs must be met. New recruits, I learned, must be good team players and be able to communicate with IT people as well as end users. With that in mind, I was able to go away and concentrate on how to improve and then market my own skills in this area."

According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, only 11.2 per cent of its 600 members reported that they had no difficulties in filling IT vacancies. If you're thinking about making their job easier, an IT fair could just be the answer.

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