7 must-have characteristics of IT talent

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As the IT industry faces increasingly complex skills gaps and talent shortages in a digital era, CIOs are struggling just to find candidates with the right technical expertise to meet their evolving needs. Finding someone who can both handle technological aspects of the job, and also collaborate effectively with others in the business can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

At SunTrust, we've developed a framework for the perfect IT candidate. We don't make any hiring decisions until we've evaluated each of the following seven characteristics.

1. Business & Partnership Focused: These are people who think about our company purpose of lighting the way to financial well-being first and foremost in everything they do. They are ever-curious about how they can better serve our clients and improve the value of our team. People who can think more broadly about their role and how they fit into the bigger picture are more likely to be enlightened, creative, and innovative in the work they do.

2. Builders & Change Agents: Builders are dissatisfied with the status-quo. These people spend time trying to understand what's going on in the larger industry. They pay attention to what our competitors are doing, and they use it as fuel to think about where we must go and how we should evolve. They are not only passionate about driving change, but they feel an urgency to make it happen.

3. End-to-End Thinkers: In understanding the full scope of what needs to be done, end-to-end thinkers understand the implications of their work on others in the business. This enables them to put aside egos, know their limitations, and collaborate with others to get the job done more effectively.

4. Accountable: People who are accountable are outcome oriented. They claim responsibility for their work – good or bad. When mistakes are made, they don't seek someone to blame. They own it and then present a solution to fix it.

5. Transparent Communicators: In line with being accountable, those who are open ramp up their communications, in particular, when things go wrong. They aggressively strive to understand the cause of the problem, not just patch the symptoms, and this often requires they admit to their faults and missteps in an easy to follow, easy to remediate fashion.  

6. Performance Minded: These people understand that metrics are not just anecdotes. Neither are they self-serving and one-sided. The metrics that matter are business focused, and these metrics alone drive their work.

7. Talent Attractors: Finally, we look for people who have a network of like-minded peers. By building a team of individuals who meet all of the above characteristics, our population then become our biggest talent attractors. We invest in our people and develop high performers because they are our best asset.

We believe in these seven characteristics so much that our entire interview process is based on finding the people who demonstrate these traits. When we talk about talent management, when we talk about promotions, we're not just talking about performance or competencies. We are discussing how our team is stacked regarding these characteristics. It is a large part of how we calibrate our success.

I urge you to look beyond the resume and take these characteristics into account next time you have a role to fill. They will enable you to build a well-rounded team that is capable of achieving the innovation that businesses demand in the digital age.

Download “IT Talent Crisis: Proven Advice from CIOs and HR Leaders” to learn the unique ways CIOs, including Cheriyan, and industry experts are navigating their own talent management struggles, and 12 actionable tips for surviving the IT talent crisis.

Anil Cheriyan
Anil Cheriyan is Cognizant’s Executive Vice President, Strategy and Technology. Overseeing all aspects of Corporate Strategy, Global IT and Global Security, Anil is responsible for Cognizant’s strategy, alliances and business development, and for strengthening the company’s global IT and security capabilities.