Each year, more than three million candidates apply to work for IBM. With competition that stiff, it can be difficult to stand out.
To ensure applicants are IBM-ready, the tech colossus is currently expanding its SkillsBuild platform, a website that provides free online courses for high schoolers, college students and adult learners to develop their ability in anything from artificial intelligence to management.
Through SkillsBuild, IBM also hopes to level the playing field by providing a new generation of underrepresented tech workers free access to foundational skills they can apply across a variety of industries.
BusinessBecause spoke with Kate Ross, education and skills global program manager at IBM SkillsBuild. A recruitment expert with over 20 years of experience, she revealed some of the key skills, characteristics, and values that IBM looks for in new hires.
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What skills are required for IBM jobs?
IBM is a skill-based employer, meaning recruitment managers place less emphasis on your degree and focus more on what you can actually bring to the table.
“It’s a far more equitable way of approaching the market,” Kate explains, “it also means you’re widening your talent pool.”
Data analysis, critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving are some of the key professional skills the company seeks out in candidates. It also values functional skills such as project management, agile design, and garage methodology—which allows IBM to rapidly prototype solutions for its clients.
Though these may seem like high-level skills, Kate explains they are all taught modules on SkillsBuild: “What SkillsBuild offers is a foundational understanding.”
This means that even a complete beginner can work towards obtaining a recognized digital certificate, choosing from a selection of more than 1000 modules offered in 22 different languages. The company is also working on introducing a completely new section on green tech.
For those who are further advanced, courses cover more than just the fundamentals. “You can dig deeper into certain technical areas,” Kate adds. SkillsBuild offers in-depth modules on topics such as Cloud AI and cybersecurity.
Strong abilities in these technical subjects, as well as software engineering, web design and UX design, are highly sought after by IBM, and even those with prior experience can benefit from further developing their skill set, Kate says.
What characteristics are essential for IBM careers?
As a progressive company, IBM prioritizes diversity and inclusion when hiring—but there are certain common characteristics that recruiters looks for in all applicants.
Kate describes the company culture as “diverse but like-minded”. Embracing the core values is important to reach your full potential.
“It’s the people that make IBM. You will find a real community there,” she adds.
As new technological advancements occur every day, particularly in the realm of AI, an excitement to incorporate new tools into your working practices is a crucial trait.
“First and foremost, we’re looking for people who are curious and who are continuous learners,” Kate says.
Since constant learning is encouraged, it is also measured. IBM wants employees who expect to be challenged. The ability to adapt is also highly important. As technology rapidly changes, so too can the nature of work.
“Technology is underpinning almost all of our jobs,” Kate explains.
How should you apply for a role at IBM?
The first step in applying for a job at IBM is to sign up to its recruitment website. Even if you don’t immediately see something that piques your interest, you will be made aware of more suitable roles that may come up in future, Kate says.
She also recommends networking on LinkedIn to see what IBM recruiters are talking about and to stay up-to-date on industry news.
While IBM is technology-focused, it’s not the only thing that recruiters are interested in. Kate advises professionals from a broad array of backgrounds to explore IBM careers.
“We’re looking for people who have an interest in industry as well as technology,” she adds.
When applying for a role at IBM, it’s a good idea to think of stories you can tell that demonstrate competent people skills. Kate suggests talking about a project you’ve worked on that had some sort of business component, as well as a technical component.
What IBM careers are available for b-school grads?
As one of the world’s largest employers, at any given time there are roughly 5000 job openings available at IBM.
One option for MBA graduates is joining the IBM General Management Leadership Development Program (GMLDP), which will put you on an accelerated track to leadership roles across many of IBM’s sectors—including Cloud, Watson, Digital, Offering Management, and Consulting.
If your strength lies in analytics, there are also opportunities to work as a consultant with IBM Global Business Services, where industry insight is highly valued.
Other popular MBA careers include becoming a strategy consultant, a projects manager, an account executive, an offering manager, an associate partner for tech or data strategy, a digital business consultant or a business analyst.