Experience v education v international experience and education

I’ve been a software engineering manager/director in over 30 countries – covering all continents.  With vast amounts of software engineering professionals in demand world wide it is important to recognize, value, and treat equally skills and experience wherever it comes from – or lose them.

How do I evaluate candidates?


Gradually over time a candidate’s experience is more relevant than a distant education.  My first scan of the resume as software engineering manager is recognizing the relevance of experience in a candidate’s resume to the job posted – or their ability to adapt. This is made easier with a well worded job description that reduces resumes received.

There are many routes into software engineering, not just universities. I first compare a candidates experience to the posted job using:

  1. Size and complexity of projects
  2. Project or product types
  3. Business types
  4. Technologies and methodologies

There are no total years of experience, nor have we got to education.  It is only do they show experience that they can do the job – regardless of place-of-origin.  If they can an interview strategy is devised to see if they can.  The focus is looking for the similarities for the posted job, and not differences in national culture or where educated.  In an inclusive and diverse society differences in culture are tolerated so its not an issue.

There are many employers that will have rejected candidates on education alone – some even stricter on country educated.  In that case not all remaining candidates will have the experience – but many that do have been excluded.  Putting experience first creates a list of only potential candidates.

Expert software engineering managers putting experience first will not have the wool pulled over their eyes – but HR selecting on education first already have. 


My second scan of the resume pile that now only contains experienced or able candidates is looking at education. If the candidate has the experience they claim they will be well educated – so I place far less importance on education than experience. I place more emphasis on education when recruiting newcomers to software engineering.

Vast majority of employers around the world accept university degree’s, college diploma’s, and high-school education on face-value regardless of place of origin especially when the candidate has actual experience.   Interviewing a candidate will test the quality of that education – but it needs an experienced software engineering manager to interview.

What about other post-secondary education or if you have doubts about university degree’s, college diploma’s, and high-school education?  Whilst walking with the candidate from reception to the interview room ask these 3 questions.

  1. Was the education fulltime or part-time?
  2. how many hours, over how many years?
  3. What were some of the items on the syllabus?  You can even prompt a few.

You now have enough information to compare their education to something you are familiar.   If you want it earlier or more information use google or phone the candidate.   There should be no need for candidates to pay $1,000’s to have education assessed for local compatibility, attend bridging courses, or re-take entire degrees.  Software engineering is an occupation that is the master of standardisation, and computers and software are the same in all countries. Interviewing a candidate about software engineering is sufficient to quantify their education and experience.

That’s how easy it is.  The real work is with experience and the software engineering teams ability to interview and assess experience through discussion with the candidate.    

Attracting International Skills

London UK where I was based has 8 million of which 60% are British and 40% foreign. Most European capitals have similar demographics – and I regularly travelled to all 27 of them from my base. The ratio of leaders I reported to and the teams I worked with in European capitals as a consultant was fairly consistent with the ratio of citizen and legal immigrants. They are also very accepting of foreign education and experience and attract talent from all over the world. Other places I have worked only allow immigrants at entry level, some even stricter after getting a local post-secondary education. It restricts immigration to those with little choice of anywhere else to go. If you want the best you have to treat them the best.


In all my years not one candidate has been so dishonest about their experience and education that I would have to fire them immediately.   An employer with doubts can offer a probationary period, and a candidate knows that if they were dishonest, they will get fired with or without a probationary period.  We are software engineers not doctors, and can take precautions.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba from Pexels

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