Report reveals the one characteristic that every tech recruiter is looking for in new candidates

A close up of a tablet screen showing a series of headshots of potential applicants, with a finger pointing to one in the middle
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Employers in the tech industry rank experience above all else when assessing new hires according to new research, though up-to-date knowledge and fresh perspectives are still desired.

The Linux Foundation’s 2024 ‘Tech Talent’ report has pointed to the lessening value of degrees, citing the relative importance of real-world experience and, to a lesser extent, certifications.

The report, which surveyed those responsible for “hiring and training IT professionals”, found that the most crucial characteristic to a prospective employer is “hands-on experience from previous employment”.

71% of the surveyed respondents described this quality as either extremely important or very important, while the importance of “showcasing a portfolio” of previous achievements was cited by 58% in the same criteria.

By contrast, degrees came under fire in the report, with only a third (30%) of respondents describing the possession of a degree as important to a hirer and just 16% describing it as extremely important.

Certifications also ranked above university degrees in the report, with 32% describing the possession of certification as very important and 23% describing it as extremely important.

“Another important accelerating trend is the acceptance of real-life experience and certifications as proof of knowledge and skills for non-degreed candidates across the IT spectrum,” the report stated.

Although candidates without experience may “demonstrate their capabilities through university degrees or certificates, research shows that focusing on skills during hiring is five times better at predicting job performance than hiring”, the report adds.

Though the data suggests a preference for real-world, practical experience, there is a sense that this contradicts the practical reality of recruitment. The report points to the fact that 69% of computer programmer positions and 95% of mobile application developer positions still require a degree as per research from Boston Consulting Group.

Building experience as a job seeker in tech

While certifications and degrees have their pros and cons, they do offer those fresh to the industry an opportunity to gain experience and develop their skills. For those with prior experience or limited budgets, certifications could be the way to go, while those seeking a more comprehensive grounding in a particular area may wish to focus on a degree.

Degrees often offer ‘year-in-industry’ functions that allow students to put their knowledge to use in a practical IT environment, making the degree a middle ground between education and experience.

There is also the increasingly popular route of apprenticeships, which combine on-the-job training with technical learning to offer a strong mix of relevant experiences.

In the Linux Foundation’s report, other desirables are referenced that lend themselves to staff who have had the more well-rounded experience of a university degree or apprenticeship.


For example, 51% of those surveyed said that one of the key benefits of hiring technical staff was their ability to bring “fresh perspectives and innovative approaches” to a team.

These sorts of perspectives and approaches, while less readily found in an IT veteran who’s spent decades in the industry, may be much more common in the mindset of a newly graduated IT worker.

George Fitzmaurice
Staff Writer

George Fitzmaurice is a staff writer at ITPro, ChannelPro, and CloudPro, with a particular interest in AI regulation, data legislation, and market development. After graduating from the University of Oxford with a degree in English Language and Literature, he undertook an internship at the New Statesman before starting at ITPro. Outside of the office, George is both an aspiring musician and an avid reader.