“Soft skills...are far harder to teach, which is why, in a low unemployment market, companies should be looking to hire for soft skills and train for technical skills,” one hiring expert told Fast Company. The Wall Street Journal surveyed 900 executives to find out that 92% said soft skills were “equally important or more important” than technical skills. Unfortunately, 89% of those same executives reported having a “very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes.”
It’s not enough for a developer to be technically talented; they must possess other skills to succeed at a company in the long run. Here are the skills outside of coding that a recruiter will look for when assessing a developer.
“Suggesting new ideas is much easier when there is an understanding between members of a team that there won’t be any negative feedback or mockery, no matter how someone feels about an idea,” writes Hackernoon. The next big innovative idea or solution to a thorny coding problem can only come if the environment fosters openness, empathy, and the ability to understand where your colleagues are coming from.
Great developers are also able to empathize with their end-user or client. Engineers and coders are experts in IT; but the average individual isn’t as well-versed in technology. As a result, the impetus is on the IT professional to put themselves in the shoes of the average person to build a product they can understand and use. Empathy goes a long way toward building a company’s reputation – and profit.
Great communication skills go hand-in-hand with empathy. Communicate your ideas in ways that stakeholders outside your cohort can understand. Developers must be able to break down complex concepts in a way that a person from marketing or sales can also understand.
Communication is equally about listening. “A recent study conducted at George Washington University showed that listening could influence up to 40% of a developer’s job performance,” reports one expert. Passivity – taking a moment to listen to others before making your opinion heard – is a sign of strength, not weakness. Be open to new opinions, feedback, and suggestions. Break the stereotype of the aggressive and arrogant developer; great communication can serve any professional well throughout their career.
Often, it’s easy for developers to become siloed, as many tasks are independent and require head-down focus. However, says Level Up Coding, “Developers sometimes forget that software development is a team sport, and a project is a mutual task for a group of people who have to work side by side, support each other, and move towards a single goal.”
How can you show you’re a team player? Keep in touch with colleagues regularly. If you work remotely, check-in on tools like Slack and Trello. Make it a priority to share what you’re working on and keep up-to-date with the latest projects. Think about how your role can better interface with teams outside the IT department. What can you do to make everyone’s job run more smoothly?
Flexibility, or adaptability, is critical for developers. 49% of recruiters are looking for candidates who are adaptable, especially in entry-level positions. Flexibility is particularly important for developers who don’t have a traditional background – meaning they’re self-taught or didn’t come from a computer science degree. Flexibility shows you can handle any changes that come your way, and as a freelancer, there’s nothing more valuable than someone who can roll with the punches and acclimate to a new project quickly.
The tools of the trade evolve quickly, and developers can use their hard skills to convey adaptability and flexibility. Show that you can learn quickly by asking for a skills test in a new programming language or adding experience in Java frameworks to your resume. There are some smart ways to convey your soft skills through your hard skill abilities.
“Not everyone understands how difficult programming is, or how long code takes to write. They may ask you to do something without realizing the scope of what they’re asking. This can lead to frustration,” writes Hackernoon. Yes, questions from non-tech coworkers and clients can be frustrating; but so can the actual tasks that you may find on your to-do list each day. Bugs, errors in coding, or slow connection speeds can all irritate the best coders; patience is a key skill to develop for longevity in this industry.