Kevin and Bob’s developer chops are important, of course. Friendly won’t get the job done without the accompanying skill. But the industry’s wide acceptance of a collaborative, iterative Agile approach to project management means that we require more of Bob and Kevin than just proof of their technical pedigree and how many programming languages they know.
That is where soft skills come in. You probably associate soft skills with attributes like “good communicator”, “team player”, or “personable”. And indeed, they are important interpersonal qualities that are essential to a productive work environment. If you’ve ever had the experience of dealing with a colleague who is devoid of them, you understand just how crucial they are. It’s nice to be nice.
However, soft skills reach far beyond basic interpersonal aptitude. They include things like creativity, professionalism, the ability to prioritize, adaptability, and problem-solving. Further, they are more directly related to your technical responsibilities than you might imagine. In fact, your ability to effectively communicate how these kinds of qualities make you a better developer, tester, architect, or scrum master to a prospective employer could mean the difference between having your resume lost on the hiring manager’s desk and getting your dream job offer or promotion.
Unlike “hard” skills, which are limited to your direct education and prior experience, many soft skills can be applied to any position. It’s hard to imagine an organization that wouldn’t value an employee with excellent problem-solving or time management skills. A tester who has their eye on a management position, for example, will almost certainly be more successful communicating their suitability for promotion by demonstrating some key soft skills along with their technical expertise. A great tester doesn’t necessarily make a good manager. But a great tester with a demonstrated track record of good decision-making, the ability to prioritize, and effective leadership very likely does.
Be aware that just making statements like “I’m a great communicator” or “I’m highly creative” is not what I mean by effectively communicating your soft skill prowess. Even the least creative person can say “I’m creative” – and they might even believe it, but the proof is in the pudding. You can only “prove” what you can demonstrate. Before you go into an interview, think of specific examples in which your creativity (or adaptability, etc.) added significant value to a project.
At Solü Technology Partners, we seek candidates with strong technical and soft skills. We understand that the most successful placements occur when we can fill needs beyond just the client’s technology requirements.