Traditionally, hiring for any position has hinged upon that holy document handed from candidate to hiring manager—the resume. Candidates shove as much lofty description of their previous work life and accumulated skills into it as possible.
The hiring manager speedily reads through the mess of resumes, looking at past jobs, claimed skills, and their education. Education is big, proving that a university or college found this person qualified to the point of handing them a degree of some sort.
This is still the case for most industries, with hiring managers spending inordinate amounts of time digging through pages of candidates and hoping to land the right one. But, where software engineers and web developers are concerned, digging through resumes is becoming antiquated.
Web development is a constantly changing industry. Having a degree in computer science does little to prove that a particular developer has the skills needed for the job.
Education vs Talent
One must be careful not to attribute inherent skill to all those who have received a degree. Further, having a degree does not predict positive job performance. Rather, it infers an initiative to move forward with a career in development.
By only targeting those who have received a degree in computer science, your applicant pool is prematurely small. And, from that initial pool of candidates, you still have not determined any level of skill.
Talent lives both in some of those who have gotten a CS degree and those who learned through non-traditional methods. Finding that talent—and filtering out those without it—is the job of the hiring manager.
Someone with six months of experience and some online training could very well be a better developer than someone with a degree and two years experience.
The Computer Science Degree Holder
The traditional route to learn new skills is through a university or college. A degree in computer science bestows the logical underpinnings for future software development training.
Computer science programs develop the educational foundation for general software development, with coursework in mathematics, databases, algorithm design, problem-solving, object-oriented development, programming languages, and more.
After completion, the graduate has to focus on a specialization as they enter the job market. What kind of developer will they become? What languages will they need to learn or focus on? What outcomes do they hope to deliver with their work?
As web development changes so quickly, their training has to continue to keep up. While their degree prepared them to think theoretically about development, it may not have prepared them to deliver work product. This skill may need to be learned post-university.
The Self-Taught Programmer
Autodidacts have many avenues available to them to pursue learning in software and web development. Either through YouTube, Lynda.com videos, night classes, or online coursework, self-motivated individuals are able to choose exactly how they want to consolidate new skills.
The self-taught developer may even have a degree in another discipline. Our team includes a development team leader with a GED and a technical lead with a bachelor in applied design. They have both excelled as web developers by teaching themselves the right skills.
Those that pursue their own skills training will learn about the programming languages they actually plan to use. This avenue dispenses with the navel-gazing of academia in exchange for actionable working intelligence.
This type of developer has already demonstrated their desire to learn new things, which any employer hopes for in a new hire.
The Benefits of Hiring for Skill over Education
There are many benefits to hiring for skill instead of for education. Here are a few:
- A larger pool of candidates
- Ability to find great developers often looked over
- Self-taught skills illustrate dedication and a desire to learn
- Skill means action while education may just mean theory
- Less unqualified hires
How to Find Skilled Developers
Developers that are truly talented come equipped with all types of resumes. If you stop getting tripped up on the education section of a resume, you can find much more valuable indicators of skill and personal motivation.
Forgetting the degree and aiming only for those that may have the required skills allows you to pay attention to what really matters. Are they able to do the job and will they do it well?
Other questions to ask yourself:
- What technologies have they pursued?
- What personal and side projects have they done?
- What related organizations are they a part of?
- What certifications did they complete?
- What is their job history?
You can also skip the resume investigation altogether and opt for a skills assessment. For taking your long list of applicants down to just a few very talented developers, there is no better choice.
There are a number of services that offer technical skill assessments depending on the specific set of skills you are hoping for. In the WordPress realm, you can find front-end and back-end developers with VerifyWP.
Once you have effectively filtered your list to just a handful, you can just interview for soft skills and company fit. In this final step of selection, you are sure to have a good mix of educational backgrounds.
In all likelihood, your next hire won’t have a computer science degree!