Gone are the days when you could say, “I’m just not a people person,” and rest on solid technical skills to build your IT career. As hiring efforts rebound, there is a greater pool of talent looking to make their mark in the industry.
But what sets you apart from the competition? Core skills – also known as soft skills – like communication, collaboration, organization, and critical thinking are quickly rising to the top of the list for recruiters in 2021.
Hard skills are important for sure, and employers should focus on these more than on formal education and pedigree, especially for tech and IT roles. However, core skills are transferable across roles and even industries.
To stand out from the crowd, in addition to touting and demonstrating your expansive technical skills, it’s important to strengthen the following soft skills ahead of your next interview. It could be the deciding factor when going head-to-head with another candidate with evenly matched technical skills.
[ Want more IT career advice? Read IT careers: 10 critical skills to master in 2021. ]
A 2019 study by Adobe reported that 71 percent of job applications listed communication as a necessary skill but found that far fewer candidates included the skill on their resumes. As teams transition to hybrid models, hiring managers must ensure that their candidates can succeed in a remote environment. They are testing your ability to understand and effectively relay complex concepts to gauge how you will fit into the team they are hiring for. Furthermore, how well do you communicate your knowledge to a non-technical audience? Both are needed to be an IT pro.
Once you have been hired, clear and consistent communication builds trust between you and your team. Do you accomplish what you say you will on time, or do you fail to let your team know what you are working on? Without a clear understanding of who is responsible for each part of the work, you risk wasting time, losing money, or falling short of your goal.
Whether you are a junior developer or a CIO, strong communication is the linchpin of your success.
As you explore job opportunities, consider what type of employee you strive to be. You show your character by acting with integrity, having respect for your team and the work you are doing, and acting ethically.
Each day, you contribute to the culture of your organization through the way that you respond to emails, present yourself on a video call, interact with clients, and even respond to criticism. It is the responsibility of the hiring manager to bring on individuals who exhibit a team-forward, positive attitude. When you find a way for your stellar character to shine through in the interview process, you set yourself apart from other candidates.
Though it’s rarely listed in the job description, strong listening skills are vital to land that first job. We’ve all been in a situation where we are talking with a friend or colleague and notice that they’ve stopped listening. Whether they are thinking about what they will say in response or have simply lost interest in the conversation, we don’t feel heard, and it is frustrating.
The same applies to clients, team leaders, and coworkers. We all want to feel understood, respected, and valued in our roles. Though an interview can be nerve-wracking, especially in the final rounds, challenge yourself to be an active listener. Engage with your interviewer and follow up with questions that let them know you understand what they are asking.
Listening is a skill that even some C-suite executives struggle to master, but it’s worth investing the time to improve it.
How to show core skills in an interview
Unlike hard skills, core skills generally aren’t obvious on your resume. Use the interview process as an opportunity to showcase your character, communication, and listening skills.
Out of respect for your hiring manager, follow up before your interview to confirm the date and time of your meeting and show up promptly. Take time to research the organization beforehand and show up with thoughtful questions. When you are asked to explain your previous experience, talk through your thought process. How did you come to your conclusion, and who on your team helped you get there?
You will likely work on a team for the rest of your career, so acknowledge the work of others where appropriate. Listen intently to the insights your recruiter offers you about the role and use follow-up questions to let them know how you will add value to the team.
A toolkit of core skills allows you to look at your role holistically. How are you contributing to your team beyond the tasks you complete? As you earn certifications and add to your technical resume, aim to strengthen your soft skills just as often. As you grow in your career, they will continue to set you apart.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]