Whether you’re a developer or a designer, a programmer or an engineer, one of the most noticeable problems in applying for tech jobs is the list of required tech skills. We’ve all noticed that tech job descriptions often have a list of required technical proficiencies a mile long. It seems that every type of technology in the industry is listed. As any technician knows, few people are proficient in all of them. They can’t all be absolute requirements.
How do you know which ones are required for the job and which ones are just considered “nice to haves” buy each employer? How much experience and skill do you need to apply, or is a passing familiarity enough? Do you need to know all the technical skills off the bat or is an aptitude for learning quickly enough for some?
Most technicians are highly proficient in two to six specific technologies with a passing familiarity in a dozen or more. In this light, it can be difficult to know which job listings are really your dream job opportunity and which ones truly require a set of proficiencies you can’t offer.
Most Jobs List Extra Technical Skills
To answer your most pressing question: “No, you don’t need to have every single skill”.
If a technical job description lists more than about five technologies or tech skills, then there’s a good chance that you don’t need to know 100% of what is listed. Particularly if you’re a fast learner. In every job, there are skills you need to have from day-one and skills you can learn along the way. The trick is knowing which is which on the required experience list.
Most hiring managers add technical skills that they’d like to have on the team in addition to skills that are absolutely necessary. So in addition to skills you can take time to learn are skills that are wishful extensions of the job. Just in case. This means that you don’t need to have mastered all listed technologies, but it’s a good idea to have a passing familiarity with them.
If you can determine the core skills required, a few nights of research can often prepare you to quickly understand and learn the rest.
(Read The Anatomy of an IT Job Search)
The Order of the Listed Skills Matters
The most useful thing to note is that the order of the listed skills is usually the most relevant information. The technical skills and proficiencies listed first are the ones that pop immediately to mind when the hiring manager was writing the job description. These are most likely the skills that are used every day and that new team members will need to know right off the bat. If the hiring manager had to pick just five skills, the top five would be them because everything else is secondary. This rule works for most job listings.
Further down the list will be the “nice to haves”. These skills are things your manager would like to see on the team but it’s not top-of-the-list. Lower-list skills are often what the team wishes they had but don’t use every day. It’s a good idea to know what these technologies are, what they are used for, and do a little preliminary research about them in case they come up in the interview.
Some Job Listings are Written with “Tech Buzzwords” Posing as Requirements
One rather alarming fact is that not all job descriptions are reliable. There are certain practices that alter job descriptions to include technologies that have nothing to do with the job. Why? Because SEO and buzzwords. Someone marketing resumes was being clever and added a list of “tech buzzwords” in an attempt to appear on more job searches for high-demand technicians.
While this might be a neat SEO trick, it’s a terrible idea for the actual job market. This kind of buzzword stuffing only serves to confuse tech professionals looking for the right role. It violates the polite tradition applying for jobs you can do. So if there seems to be a few completely unconnected skills listed without awareness that they have nothing to do with the job, there’s a chance of interference from an amateur or freelance job-marketer.
Fill In the Knowledge Gap
Looking at the list of skills, you know how far your experience and knowledge will go. But skills you don’t have yet don’t have to remain a mystery. Do a few layers of research on each new concept and tool. Learn what it does, consider why the business might need that skill, and consider how long it would take you to learn it.
In other words, fill in your gaps in knowledge. Having done research and considered each skill, you’ll have something positive and accurate to say should the topic come up in an interview. Being able to confidently say you don’t know something can be impressive. And it’s much better than drawing a blank.
Best Practices for Applying to Tech Jobs with a Laundry-List of Skills
Tech job descriptions are not always accurate in their list of required skills. There are at least two phases where padding that list is a common occurrence, but you only need to have the core skills and job understanding to reasonably apply. So if you find yourself wanting to apply for a tech job but you don’t have a deep understanding of every technology listed, that’s okay. Compare your skills to the top five along with any that are listed in the job description paragraph.
From there, brush up on all the other technologies. While you don’t have to learn every skill, it will help if you know what the secondary tech skills and technologies are, what they do, and how quickly you could learn. Consider the possibility that you will learn every skill on that list that you don’t have in the next few years. In fact, we encourage you lean into the idea. If you arrive informed, eager to learn and build your tech career, that will do a lot to support your core matching skills.
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