It’s a given that a good job candidate for a college IT position needs to come to the table with the hard tech skills required for the position, like, proficiency in information security and services, administrative/enterprise IT or coding.

But many of today’s higher education institutions now have a greater, more expanded vision for the roles their IT professionals must play. They need candidates who can embrace the wider mission of an institution: to help students succeed, keep costs down, improve research and teaching, and deliver the best analytics. Colleges and universities want their IT folks to build bridges with the rest of the institution—they must be able to talk to professors, students, curriculum designers and deans. They’re looking for IT candidates who are innovators, translators, collaborators and change management wizards.

To make this vision a reality, what should CIOs at colleges and universities look for in job candidates – aside from proficiency with the technical skills? EDUCAUSE, a community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education, says you should scout out critical “soft skills” in candidates, such as initiative, grit, adaptability and emotional intelligence. These skills will help propel IT job candidates to success, according to the EDUCAUSE Top 10 IT Issues in 2015 report.

This emphasis on soft skills in IT comes as competition for qualified IT job candidates is increasing. According to research presented at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2016 by the higher education online career hub Vitae, The Chronicle, 43% of higher education professionals are actively looking for a new job, versus 30% across industries in general. In addition, nearly two out of three recruiters see the job market as being more competitive in the next year.

To add more pressure, as competition heats up in the job market, retaining current IT higher education staff is becoming a greater priority. A recent EDUCAUSE review article cited The Higher Education IT Workface Landscape, 2016 research report: Fully half of all staff in the IT workforce polled said that they might pursue employment opportunities outside their current institution over the next year. It’s more important than ever to ensure your IT job candidate is a good match for your institution at the outset—hire those with the right soft skills.

But how do you get a reliable assessment of IT job candidates’ soft skills to make the right hiring decision? After all, you can’t gather such information by looking at candidates’ resumes. Even spending time with a candidate in a job interview won’t tell you everything you want to know about their soft skills. What you can do is ask candidates’ references to assess their soft skills, based on their observations of past work performance.

SkillSurvey’s Pre-Hire 360® utilizes a unique combination of behavioral science and talent analytics to secure feedback from candidates’ references. SkillSurvey’s team of I/O psychologists have created more than 350 job-specific surveys (including dozens of IT-specific roles) that include a meaningful set of behaviors or soft skills needed for success in each job (e.g. problem solving and adaptability, personal value commitment, professionalism and interpersonal skills). References are sent a link to go online and submit confidential, detailed, and candid feedback on how a candidate demonstrated these behaviors in their previous position. The resulting data – presented in easy-to-read reports – provides CIOs with reliable, compelling behavioral insights about candidates. Online soft skills assessment is fast, too. On average, surveys are completed by a minimum of 4 references in less than 2 days.

The bottom line: Trusted, accurate data on an IT candidate’s soft skills helps you make the best hiring decision. In turn, IT is more equipped to help your institution’s higher goals.

Register for SkillSurvey’s new webinar to learn more about how you can help your college or university thrive by hiring IT professionals with the right soft skills.

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