How to attract and assess talents in IT?

October 11, 2017

At a seminar in Vilnius on 11 October 2017, organized by Tripod’s partner People Link, two companies will share their experiences about attracting candidates in IT sector. And Liisa Raudsepp from Tripod will talk about a thoroughly researched psychological ability underlying the potential to become great in IT and technology jobs: spatial ability.

What is spatial ability and how is it related to success in programming?

Spatial ability stands for the ability to effectively perceive and visualise spatial relations, also precision of orienteering in the physical or imagined space. It is often measured by tasks where one has to find a missing piece, rotate objects in order to decide which one is different, or has to analyse visual objects from different angles. How is it possible that this kind of tasks are able to predict one’s success in programming?

The underlying concept is mental mapping. In order to create or test a code, one has to create a mental map of the code, also about the visual side of the program. This is exactly what a spatial ability test models. In a recent study by Jones and Burnett (2008) found that in order to learn to understand an unknown code, programmers with higher spatial abilities „jumped“ more ofter between different functions, which allowed them to create a more adequate cognitive map and understand the code better.

Tripod offers a special spatial ability test RVS which has been normed among IT and technology specialists in Estonia (n=210). The test differentiates effectively between several levels of spatial abilities and is suitable for identifying talents for programming courses, also recruiting young specialists or assessing the speed and accuracy of acquiring new knowledge and skills.

Which companies have been using Tripod RVS test?

In Estonia, many well-known IT and telecommunication companies have been using RVS for recruitment: Columbus IT, Nortal AS, Telia AS, Net Group OÜ, to name a few.

Also, RVS has been succesfully used to select participants for programming courses: for example, there is a governmental project, „Choose IT!“ (Vali IT!) offering 4-month intensive courses in programming for 500 adults in 3 years. The participants come from various (non-IT) educational background and work experience, they need to have an inner motivation to participate. But how to infer about their ability to learn programming? Tripod RVS has been used for more than 140 assessments. The results from the first course are clear: participants with highest scores on the test got the best examination results at the end of the course. Also, they were among the first who were offered jobs in IT companies.

RVS has also been extensively used in Ericsson Estonia, to select both temporary and long-term employees and find an optimal level of professional training for them. RVS was considered very useful by HR specialists in Ericsson, in order to offer appropriate training and responsibility in production-related jobs.

Finally, scientists have concluded, that the relationship between spatial ability and success in IT jobs is so clearly empirically backed that no more research is needed! What is needed is applying the measurement of spatial abilities at talent search, career counselling and selecting participants to training groups.*

*Cf. Kell, H. J., & Lubinski, D. (2013). Spatial ability: A neglected talent in educational and occupational settings. Roeper Review, 35(4), 219-230.