Over the years we talked to many candidates and we know the members of IT community is always eager to find out more and invest in their self-development. That’s why we started a new program called We asked the IT community and each month we’ll pick one of your questions and search for the answer by asking 40 representatives of the community. It can be addressed to anyone from recruiters, to developers, to managers - no rules. We’re breaking the ice with a question we thought would come in handy for you - we asked 40 hiring managers and technical leads about the soft skills they are looking for in a candidate.
Having the technical skills required by a job plays, of course, an important role in the decision to hire a software developer, but this is not the only expectation from a potential employee. The organizational culture is or at least should be a central theme of any company you’re planning to work for and interacting with others requires a different set of skills than the ones you need for performing your job. These skills are called soft skills and they contour the way you harmoniously communicate and relate to others and your attitude and approach towards work. The software industry is no longer just about writing code, it’s a business that depends on the successful interactions of teams, this is why employers always have a few essential soft skills they’re looking for in a candidate.
After reviewing the conversations we had with the 40 Hiring Managers and Technical Leads we identified a pattern in the profile they are looking for. Of course, none of us can excel in all aspects of our soft skills, and some of them may be more defined than others. But the good news is that a team requires diversity and even though you may not be the greatest communicator, adaptability, proactivity or empathy may be your stronger points. Also, there’s always a way to train your weaker soft skills, and seeing improvements in your relationships, both at work and in your personal life, will bring a great deal of satisfaction.
Ok, so shall we dive in? The following 5 soft skills were the ones most mentioned by the 40 Hiring Managers and Technical Leads we’ve been talking to.
1. Efficient communicator
Communication is essential for developers when collaborating with their team and customers. It is the key to making ideas, opinions or questions heard while maintaining a harmonious work environment. Communication is not just about talking but also about the ability to listen, to take into consideration other’s points of view, and to elaborate solutions together. You can think of communication as a three-elements concept: speak, listen, reflect. Express yourself clearly, structured and confident, ask when you need further clarifications, elaborate when others need the same from you, and share your insight or findings on different topics as it may be of use for others or in future situations. Listen without interrupting and with the intention to understand what the other person is saying rather than the intention to immediately answer. Reflect, think and speak again.
2. Eager to learn and proactive
The IT field is ever-evolving and a developer has to always keep up with the new technologies. Wanting someone to be up to date may seem like a task, but what employers are actually looking for is someone with the inner motivation and passion to see what’s of current interest on the market and learn new skills. This drive of taking initiative and investing in self-development is a common aspect of highly appreciated employees and it also motivates their employers to invest in courses and training for further development. In psychology we also refer to this desire of achieving one’s full potential as self-realization. As much as it is appreciated in your attitude towards your work and career, this soft skill is also appreciated in the way it reflects in your approach to life as a whole.
3. Adaptable and flexible
The majority of software developers change their job every 2 to 4 years. This means for each job you will face a different organizational culture, a different team composition, and different tasks or ways you are required to do your job. Well integrating into new contexts is dependent on your capacity to adapt and your openness to new experiences. This does not mean employers are looking for bland developers with no personality. It means they appreciate those who, despite having experience and expertise, are receptive to other people’s feedback and are willing to mold their approach in a way that also resonates with others.
4. Problem solver and critical thinker
Engaging in critical thinking and distancing one’s self when facing a problem is a key ability a developer should have. If we think about developers from a larger perspective, their core job is problem-solving. Each day they need to think creatively and reevaluate solutions so that they come to an understanding of the most efficient way to approach a complex issue. Although the end utopic goal is solving problems in the best way possible, it is important to understand that in 99% of cases good enough is better than perfect. Striving for perfection is more often than not time-consuming and whether we like it or not, productivity is also high in the hierarchy of priorities of a company. So critical thinking and problem-solving also mean knowing when to stop investing time in a specific issue and how to address the situation in order to move forward.
5. Team player
By now we already mentioned a few times now how as a developer you are most likely part of a team and many of the soft skills mentioned by the Hiring Managers and the Technical Leads could in fact be part of this umbrella term called ‘team player’. Working with and within a team requires efficient communication, proactivity, adaptability, and the other things we talked about, yet employers still mention regularly looking for a team player, besides the other soft skills. And why is that? Because being a team player also requires a deeper understanding of being human: kind, empathic, willing to help, open to diversity, humble, acknowledging that everyone’s work adds up for the bigger picture.
These were the 5 most mentioned soft skills we found out in our little investigation. Of course, each company has its particularities and specificities, but these are the core soft skills that describe a desirable developer for the team. Find your assets and showcase them, but also find your weak points and the resources to help you strengthen them.
What’s your curiosity for the next month’s edition of “We asked the IT community”?
We promise we’ll find 40 specialists to shape an answer.