Experience and education might get you an interview, but it’s your soft skills that get you hired.
The ability to communicate and collaborate effectively does not come with a certification and cannot always be easily quantified, which is why it’s important to consciously share your soft skills with hiring managers during the interview process, especially for technology professionals.
In a tight tech-talent market – like the one we’re in – soft skills are arguably more important now than ever before. Companies can train or provide technical refreshers, but it’s much harder to teach someone how to be objective or how to work well with others. Think of it this way:
Your hard skills are what you do. Your soft skills are how you do it.
Problem solving, adaptability and time management are a few examples of soft skills most every tech employer is looking for in their next new hire – but there are many more important soft skill qualities to be sure to get across.
The Top 5 Soft Skills Hiring Managers Want to See Most
Managers use soft skills as a category not to see if you will be able to do the job, but to see if you will be able to do the job for their company and with their people. It’s your personality and your attitude they’re assessing – and while there isn’t necessarily a right or a wrong way to go about showing off your soft skills, there are a handful of important soft skill traits to get across during the interview process.
- Interpersonal Skills: How you are able to interact with colleagues, clients and customers is important. Hiring managers are looking to see how you solve problems within your own team as well as with other teams you come into contact with. For senior tech engineers, your interaction spans across the enterprise when developing products and solutions. Hiring managers want to know you’re a good steward for the product but also for the tech team, in general. Poor communication can cause misunderstandings and delays, not to mention it either contributes, or detracts, from the overall workflow of product development.
- Self-Awareness: Hiring managers want someone who can adapt as situations evolve. They need people who are well-aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and who can delegate as needed. The ability to self-assess becomes more and more important the more senior level the role. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of self-awareness. Masking your inabilities will only create problems down the line – for you and your teammates.
- Flexibility: There are always setbacks and challenges within technology departments, and hiring managers are looking for candidates who are able to show they have been faced with new deadlines or who have had deadlines get pushed back but more work added on without getting totally flustered. Flexibility can also include creativity – in how you handle and resolve problems. Scope changes will happen and hiring managers want to know, “How will you respond?”
- Leadership: The biggest misconception when it comes to leadership is that people assume it is only a relevant soft skill when it comes to management positions – but nothing could be further from the truth. Companies need leaders at all levels. Providing examples of how you took charge of a situation and what the results were of your leadership decisions are important to include during an interview. Hiring managers want to know that you are able to lead yourself as well as others and projects. They want to know you can be left alone to resolve a problem and that you will be successful when they do.
- Negotiation: Companies need people who believe in their work and who can defend it when they need to, but they also need people who know how to reason with colleagues and cooperate with differing points of views. Having strong negotiation skills means you are able to come to sound agreements with people with opinions different from your own. It requires a balance of determination but also flexibility. Ultimately, the ability to compromise can mean increased collaboration and better dynamics within the team.
How to Share Your Soft Skills During an Interview
Prior to the interview, you can demonstrate your strongest soft skills by quantifying them along with the rest of your experience. For instance, senior tech engineers are usually dynamic – a great soft skill to have! – and are working on anywhere from 3-5 projects at any given time. Summarize these projects and completion dates so that in addition to highlighting strong technical aptitude you’re also providing examples of your ability to prioritize and multitask.
It’s also important to come prepared with examples of your soft skills to speak to in interviews. Like, the time your EQ (emotional intelligence) and ability to assess a situation diffused a disagreement between your colleagues, or when you were able to turn a project around by providing better and more consistent communication to stakeholders.
You should also know that if hiring managers reference that they’re looking for a culture fit or they want to know how you summarize your core competencies, they’re really digging into your soft skill set.
Here’s the Best Soft Skill to be Sure to Show During an Interview
Admit what you don’t know. It’s OK to say, “I don’t know” in an interview.
Senior tech engineers and other highly proficient technical professionals are specialists in what they do, which means they don’t try to know everything about everything. Even within their domain they’ll self-identify their limits. This doesn’t mean they deny something as being part of their jobs or lack ownership – tech pros are lifelong learners and know they need to be continuously learning in order to be successful – but what it does mean is they know when to go to others for answers.
Hiring managers are looking to hire people who will make their company, their product, their environment and their profile BETTER, which means the ability to strike up a conversation and productively communicate your ideas is important. And it’s especially important to show these skills throughout the interview process.