Lots of materials online focus on the technical skills you need to succeed in a technology role—which makes total sense, because without those skills, you can’t do the job. However, “non-technical” skills such as communication are considered equally important, especially if you’re working on big teams tackling complicated projects. But which of these non-technical skills are employers actually looking for?
Fortunately, we have Burning Glass—which regularly analyzes millions of job postings from across the country—to tell us which ones employers want the most. Here’s the list for the period covering July through September, along with the number of information-technology job postings in which these specific non-technical skills surfaced:
As we’ve highlighted before, communication skills are key. Technologists must often explain complicated concepts to teammates and stakeholders who have trouble simply updating their phones; unless you can explain those concepts clearly—and keep smiling in the face of some teammates’ continued confusion—you’ll never get the buy-in you need for new projects or initiatives. In worst-case scenarios, poor communication skills can lead to outright disaster and/or security breaches.
Communication goes hand-in-hand with teamwork and collaboration, of course, so it’s no wonder that the latter placed second on this list. Not only is teamwork invaluable to getting things done; it also helps teams reduce their level of internal strife. That’s a key reason why companies such as Microsoft have begun to abandon practices such as stack ranking that set employees at each other’s throats in the name of productivity.
Problem-solving goes without saying, too. Over the past few years, employers have been putting greater emphasis on candidates’ logic and ability to puzzle through challenges, regardless of their particular tech skills. In HackerRank’s 2018 Skills Report, for example, some 94.9 percent of respondents said that employers and recruiters valued problem-solving skills; that’s well ahead of programming language efficiency (56.6 percent), debugging (47.1 percent), and system design (40.3 percent).
“Demonstrating computational thinking or the ability to break down large, complex problems is just as valuable (if not more so) than the baseline technical skills required for a job,” HackerRank stated at the time. No wonder more employers are testing candidates for things such as puzzling through abstract concepts.
Troubleshooting is a similar type of “soft skill” that comes with a lot of technical elements. For positions such as cybersecurity, customer support, and the help desk, a good sense of how to work through problems is essential, which is why so many job postings ask for it.
Whenever you go into a job interview, you should always be prepared to discuss your technical qualifications, complete with examples from your previous projects. But it’s also likely that the job interviewer will ask questions in order to determine your grasp of these soft skills. With that in mind, prep examples of your best “soft skills” moments, such as when you used your communication abilities to see a project through to the proverbial finish line. It will only boost your chances of landing the gig.