As someone who has somewhat of personal beef with clickbait blogs filled with lists and buzzwords, I was conflicted choosing this topic to write about. However, during my time recruiting in the IT space, I feel like the lack of emphasis put on soft skills in the technical field has become somewhat of an epidemic and should be addressed. The number of times I’ve seen qualified candidates lose out on positions they really wanted due to lack of self-awareness on their nontechnical attributes is rather alarming. In a poll I conducted with technical hiring managers throughout my own company, over ¾ of the them stated that soft skills make up between 25 and 50% of their hiring decision. Luckily, a lot of these things can not only be recognized but address and fixed before an interview.
In the same poll, a resounding number of hiring managers said that the number one soft skill that they found important was effective communication. Communication is such a broad idea that ecompasses so much, it’s no surprise that it comes in at number one. In a day and age where most initial interviews happen either over the phone or through a video chat, making sure that you can be heard clearly should be step number one. While this seems like a simple concept, the preparation for this often goes overlooked. This can reflect very poorly on the interviewee, him or her look like they can’t be bothered to find a quiet spot to talk or to check their video software beforehand to make sure there aren’t any technical issues.
While the first part of the communication topic can be easily fixed, the second part (and arguably more important) is much more difficult to address. The ability to communicate technical ideas and skills to a nontechnical person is extremely important in the interview process. In an ideal world, an interviewee could meet with his or her potential direct boss, get “in the weeds” about the technical aspects of the role to show they are capable of handling them, and accept the role over a handshake. In reality, multiple nontechnical managers are going to be a part of a hiring process, and you have to be able to demonstrate your value to them to even have a shot at receiving an offer. While this may seem daunting, it is a skill that you can work at every day of your life by making it a point to practice these soft skills. You can volunteer to give a quick presentation at your company’s next group lunch over what’s going on in the IT department or strike up a conversation at your proverbial water cooler with someone on the sales team about a technical podcast you listened to. These types of casual encounters can help you hone in on your soft skills before you get to a point when they can make or break you in your next interview.
The second most important soft skill Hiring Managers seek is essentially humility (in reality it was actually stated “don’t be an a**hole). This can be a touchy subject as even the most “holier than thou” IT professionals I’ve spoken to still feel like they are humble. On the other hand, some people have a very hard time speaking about the value they could bring to their potential employer because they are taught not to brag. I like to look at this as a spectrum on one end you have the shy accountant who couldn’t, in their wildest dreams, tell you how they stayed late last Friday to resolve an issue they didn’t have any hand in causing. On the other end, you have the notoriously loud sales rep whose high five could break every bone in your hand. The key here is to find that sweet spot on the spectrum where you show confidence in your work but do not come off cocky. It helps to treat each interviewer (and really everyone at the company) with respect throughout the process. A lot of the distinction about confidence and overconfidence can simply stem from whether or not that particular interviewer likes you.
The third soft skill hiring managers are looking for is organization/preparedness. This again is something that can be easily conveyed with some simple prep work. Just by doing research on the company beforehand and having talking points about them shows that you are passionate about working there and are the type of employee that will go the extra mile after receiving the position. You want to come prepared with questions written down and continue to take notes throughout the interview to continue to show that your organization skills are up to par. Other simple things like showing up dressed neatly and groomed well can all affect how someone perceives your organizational skills (even if your desk does look like a Chinese Bull ran across it).
So there it is – 3 skills that you can work on in your day to day life that will certainly help you receive an offer in your next six-figure job interview. You can always rely on your recruiter to give you more insight on certain aspects of a company’s culture to make sure you can shape your skills to theirs. And before you sit back and think, “I’ll just blow them away technically so they HAVE to hire me,” just remember that the last ¼ of the Hiring Managers from the aforementioned survey said that soft skills influence over 50% of their hiring decisions.