How to land one of those 'new collar' jobs

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IBM offers advice on getting a tech job without a four-year degree

Technology companies complain they have thousands of job openings they can't fill. There are plenty of people who have come out of college with credentials, but not the needed skills.

That's opened up a new category within the technology job market for so-called “new collar” workers. These are employees who are bright and have skills, but not a college degree. IBM has been a leader in developing this job category, and last year announced it would hire up to 25,000 people that fit into this category.

But how do you go about securing a new collar job? Hiring managers at IBM have offered some tips.

Advice from hiring managers

One hiring manager said the first thing he looks for in a candidate are skills and knowledge. It doesn't matter how they were attained. So for a number of positions, a four-year degree is no longer required to even be considered.

Sam Ladah, IBM's vice president for talent, also says he looks for signs that a job applicant wants to keep learning. Those are the kinds of people, he says, who will survive and thrive at Big Blue.

During an interview, you should expect questions that will reveal your level of critical thinking and problem-solving ability. IBM hiring managers want to see signs that an applicant will challenge the status quo.

At the same time, it's also important to show indications you value teamwork and can adapt to uncertainty and change.

The 'it' factor

There are also intangibles involved in landing one of these new collar jobs. The IBM hiring managers call it the “it” factor. Christopher Wingler, public sector infrastructure services, says three elements combine to make up that quality.

“How well someone communicates, if a person is coachable, and if an individual will work well in a team setting,” Wingler said. “Once I have those items determined, I'm then curious to know how the interviewee learns and try to understand if the person has the mindset and drive to quickly learn new skills and/or processes.”

Wingler said it's also helpful if a candidate views a problem, not as a roadblock, but as an opportunity.

IBM says new collar applicants with less than a four-year degree made up around 15% of IBM hiring in 2016. It says at some installations, more than a third of IBM employees are in new collar positions.

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