With digital transformation a growing priority for almost all organizations, the demand for IT jobs is higher than ever. To stand out, IT pros need a combination of highly specialized technology skills and soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and empathy.
Why are soft skills important? IT leaders and their teams are being called upon to lead digital transformations across almost every function in their organization. These transformations are not only about system implementations; they are also about new ways of working and shifting critical mindsets to deliver optimal results quickly. Employers need people who can work independently and with others, drive change, own the business outcome, and grow as leaders in the organization.
Of course, technology skills like AI, machine learning, data science and analytics, data visualization, and cloud computing remain a non-negotiable baseline for IT job seekers. But candidates who can complement these tech skills with soft skills will be better prepared to meet the additional demands of complex digital transformation.
[ Want advice on virtual interviews? Read also: How to get a job during COVID-19: 9 smart tips.]
If you’re job-hunting, here are some soft skills that IT professionals need – and if you’re hiring, here’s how to sniff them out:
1. Leading change and transformation
Job seekers: Every new technology is a change driver in the organization. Highlight what you’ve done to build technology in collaboration with the business and to drive adoption of this new technology with key stakeholders. Focus on business outcomes and metrics – not just the technology you’ve implemented.
Hiring pros: What did the candidate do once the technology was built? How did they help get it over the line? Look for language that shows their involvement in driving change. Did they lead stakeholder buy-in or deliver a simplified operating model? Maybe they conducted training and translated the technology into business results, helping users understand “what’s in it for me.” If these concepts aren’t on the resume, ask about them in the interview process.
[ Do you know how to spot top digital talent? Read also: Digital transformation: 4 signs of a superstar. ]
2. Driving business outcomes in partnership with business functions
Job seekers: Highlight the business ROI and metrics that you helped to drive. To optimize technologies, it’s imperative to partner with the business.
Hiring pros: Look for candidates who present their achievements in terms of business goals – not just the technology implemented. In the interview, find out what that partnership looked like: What was the candidate’s role, and how did that help drive collaboration?
3. Navigating ambiguity
Job seekers: Think about a time when the goals and outcomes of the project were unclear. What did you do to help provide the structure and direction to move forward? If you were employed in 2020 and 2021, the pandemic likely caused uncertainty and upheaval. How can you represent the progress you made during this time despite the obstacles?
Hiring pros: Look for individuals who can quickly lead by creating a vision and a plan for a project, even if management is fuzzy about the details of what they want. Using agile methodologies, employees can make progress, get buy-in (or not), pivot, and keep going. Ask the candidate to share a specific example of how they navigated ambiguity to keep their project or team moving forward.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]
4. Being open-minded
Job seekers: Show examples of work that required new ways of thinking. For example, how did you facilitate conversations to unite the ideas of others? When have you had to adapt your thinking to achieve a better outcome for the team?
[ Read also: LinkedIn tips: 10 ways to improve your profile. ]
Hiring pros: Look for words like facilitation, think tank, brainstorming, and innovation. These words imply a level of open-mindedness and flexibility to coming up with ideas and making them happen.
5. Negotiating and pivoting quickly
Job seekers: How do you break through a wall of disagreement to reach a negotiated solution and pivot to a better outcome? Include an example of this on your resume – for example, “Shifted the requirements for XX mid-stream, working with partners to deliver an optimal solution.” Be prepared to discuss examples in an interview.
Hiring pros: In interviews, ask about challenging situations where the individual needed to pivot quickly. Listen for words and phrases like shifted, partnered, created a just-in-time task force, etc.
6. Synthesizing and summarizing
Job seekers: In today’s environment, we are all working at an unprecedented pace. The ability to connect the dots and articulate a concise outcome or question is key to demonstrating this higher-order skill. Design your resume around business outcomes and include a summary statement at the top.
Hiring pros: Look for resumes that are crisp and to the point, highlighting only the most relevant and important information. Does the resume quickly and easily ladder back up to business outcomes and how the candidate contributed to these?
7. Listening with empathy
Job seekers: Provide examples of how you listened, either one-on-one or in groups. Show how this enabled you to dig deeper and understand others’ perspectives. A good example might be “continued to evolve the interface based on users’ feedback.”
Hiring pros: Technology professionals should always be listening to make sure they are nailing business requirements and needs. Look for resume highlights that include phrases like conducted interviews or focus groups, consolidated feedback, and made recommendations to the group.
8. Managing and engaging stakeholders
Job seekers: When you manage stakeholders, you are trying to understand and meet the needs of people who have an impact on your project. Show that you have built teams – with other technology groups, as well as with business partners – and that you have worked with others to bring an idea to life.
Hiring pros: Look for candidates who have engaged stakeholders, built partnerships, and kept a big-picture perspective beyond their piece of the work.
9. Communicating, presenting, and storytelling
Job seekers: Your resume should show how you can break down complex ideas into simple language. This is a key skill for every IT professional, regardless of your audience. You must tell a relatable story that makes the technology more digestible and easier to use. And you must be able to communicate a clear point of view, connecting the dots between the business drivers and the processes and technology.
Hiring pros: Examine the candidate’s communication and storytelling skills on the resume and during the interview. Is the candidate speaking in a user-friendly tone? Can they articulate their point of view? Are the bullets on their resume crisp, clear, and concise? Do they get to the point quickly and make sure that only important facts are highlighted? In the interview, is the candidate able to relate and connect effectively?
As the demand for digital transformation expertise grows and the role of IT professionals broadens, the ability to navigate change, pivot quickly, and bring people along with you will become ever more critical. To stand out from a field of candidates with in-demand technology skills and grow your career, hone your leadership and soft skills and make sure these traits are reflected in your resume.
[ Culture change is the hardest part of digital transformation. Get the digital transformation eBook: Teaching an elephant to dance. ]