Focus on technical and soft skills

Being successful in the technology sector isn't just about having the right technical or hard skills like coding or software fluency.

Many of the most in-demand tech jobs require both technical and soft skills.

According to our annual Hays Salary Guide, employers consider soft skills to be either more or equally important to a candidate’s hard skills.

You can't only focus on acquiring and developing technical skills if you want to advance your tech career.

There's a wide assortment of key soft skills you can learn and practice to develop yourself as a well-rounded tech professional.

Here we'll look at some of the top soft skills tech employers look for when hiring new talent.

1. Problem solving
2. Communication
3. Teamwork
4. Adaptability
5. Critical thinking
6. Work ethic
7. Attention to detail

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What's the difference between soft skills and technical skills?

Technical or hard skills are the abilities and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks. They are the technical and quantifiable learned abilities required to perform a job well.

In contrast, soft skills are the personality traits, social skills and interpersonal abilities that allow you to work efficiently and interact effectively with others. They are personal strengths that help you maintain positive working relationships. Without them, you’ll find it difficult to succeed at work.  While soft skills do not come naturally to everyone, they are also skills you can learn.

Soft skills include your ability to communicate, collaborate, think critically and solve problems. Many of these skills are also essential in leadership roles.

Why are strong soft skills important for tech professionals?

While hard skills allow you to carry out specific duties, your soft skills ensure you perform them professionally. Soft skills set you apart from others and aid your career progression.

For example, being able to communicate complex technical concepts to a non-technical audience is a highly valued soft skill in the tech industry. Many tech workers are required to interface with people from other departments who don't have the same level of technical expertise.

If you can break down complex ideas and present them in a way that's easy for others to understand, you'll be an invaluable asset to your team.

Other important soft skills include collaborating effectively, thinking creatively, and solving problems quickly. As the technology sector evolves and becomes more complex, employers increasingly place a premium on workers who have more soft skills.

7 essential soft skills for tech professionals

According to the Hays Salary Guide, employers prioritise the following soft skills when hiring permanent staff:​​​​​ 

1. Problem solving

The ability to identify and quickly solve problems is one of the most important soft skills in any tech-related role. In a fast-paced and ever-changing industry, employers need workers who can adapt quickly and develop creative solutions on the fly.

Developing effective IT problem solving skills requires a mix of analytical thinking, creative thinking and critical thinking. By learning how to think flexibly and approach problems from different angles, you'll be better equipped to find innovative solutions that other people might not think of.

Explore problem solving skills courses with Hays Learning.

2. Communication

When working with technology, communication skills are essential. The technology sector is full of highly technical jargon and concepts that can be difficult for non-technical people to understand. In tech and IT, communication skills are needed to communicate highly technical information clearly and concisely to stakeholders from other departments.

Strong communication involves more than explaining complex ideas in layman's terms though. Good communicators are also active listeners, empathetic, understand non-verbal communication cues and are aware of the impact of their tone of voice.

Explore communication skills courses with Hays Learning.

3. Teamwork

Many tech specialists work in team-based environments, so the ability to achieve common goals together is just as important as completing your own individual work. Teamwork involves more than getting along – it also requires you to take direction from others, give constructive feedback, understand your individual responsibilities, remain positive and keep the team’s objectives in mind.

Teamwork skills overlap with the leadership abilities you will need to take on project management responsibilities. No matter how technically skilled you are, you can't do everything yourself, so being able to work effectively with others is paramount.

Explore teamwork skills courses with Hays Learning.

4. Adaptability

In the tech industry, change is constant. New technologies and trends are continually emerging, so employers need workers who can adapt quickly and absorb new technical knowledge with ease.

This means being comfortable with change, open to new ideas and willing to experiment. It also means learning new things quickly, whether it's picking up a new coding language or trying out a new software application.

Explore adaptability skills courses with Hays Learning.

5. Critical thinking

Critical thinking is an important skill for tech employees. After all, you're often required to make decisions that could impact your company's bottom line.

This requires you to make sound business decisions based on the rational analysis of information. In the tech industry, things can change rapidly and unexpectedly, so employers need workers who are good at thinking on their feet and reaching a sensible, measured solution backed up by evidence.

Explore critical thinking skills courses with Hays Learning.

6. Work ethic

A strong work ethic is a great soft skill for any tech professional who wants to succeed in their career. This industry is fast-paced and competitive, so employers need workers willing to put in the extra effort to get ahead.

Having a strong work ethic doesn't just mean working long hours – it also means being proactive, taking the initiative, and doing what you say you will in the timeframes required. It's about having a positive attitude and being someone that other people can rely on.

Explore work ethic skills courses with Hays Learning.

7. Attention to detail

Being detail-oriented is a must for most tech jobs. One small mistake can have big consequences, so it's important to pay attention to detail and double-check your work before passing it on.

This means taking the time to understand the requirements of a task before starting it, proofreading your work for errors and ensuring that all instructions are followed correctly. Attention to detail also requires good organisational skills, so you can keep track of all the different moving parts in a project and make sure nothing is forgotten.

Explore attention to detail skills courses with Hays Learning.

Get job-ready by developing the right soft skills

Tech professionals can get ahead of others during the interview and selection process by demonstrating their relevant soft skills. Plenty of people are tech-savvy, but not everyone supplements their hard skills with those required to work effectively with and around others.

When looking for a new technology job, soft skills will separate you from other job candidates. And since soft skills are transferrable between jobs, they'll help to future proof you for the rest of your career.

Tech soft skills development: How to improve soft skills in IT

Once you're aware of the top soft skills needed for your career, create a plan for learning and developing them. Start with self-reflection and acknowledging the areas where you need the most improvement.

Next, determine how you’ll upskill. There are many ways to do this, such as attending workshops and courses, reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, or even just practising in your everyday life.

Working with a mentor is also a great way to develop your soft skills. A trusted mentor can provide the honest feedback you need to improve, while also helping you recognise your strengths and boosting your confidence.

Of course, it's impossible to truly develop your soft skills without practising them in the real world. Look for opportunities to demonstrate what you've learned and gauge how effective you were.

For example, practise stakeholder engagement by explaining to a client your recent deliverable. Or flex your adaptability by learning a new piece of software that can help with your role.

Lastly, regularly request feedback from your boss or a trusted colleague to assess your progress. Don't be discouraged if you're not making progress as quickly as you would like - soft skills take time to develop, but once you have them, they'll always benefit you.

Once you feel like you've significantly developed a soft skill, update your CV, LinkedIn profile and cover letter. When you go to job interviews, discuss how you developed your soft skills and provide specific examples of when they came in handy.

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