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The Top IT Soft Skills to Seek When Hiring Tech Talent

IT soft skills

As organizations across all industries increasingly rely on technology to gain a competitive edge, IT professionals need more than just tech expertise to excel. The demand for well-rounded IT talent who can effectively communicate, collaborate, and think critically is on the rise. While technical qualifications are essential, soft skills enable IT talent to fully leverage those capabilities.

Hiring managers must prioritize evaluating soft skills alongside technical proficiency when recruiting IT professionals. These skills, including emotional intelligence, teamwork, problem-solving, and communication, are essential for building cohesive and productive IT teams. As artificial intelligence (AI) and automation continue to transform the IT space and overall business landscape, professionals with advanced soft skills are better equipped to adapt, innovate, and lead amidst rapid change.

Key IT Soft Skills

Communication skills. Strong communication is essential for IT professionals to clearly explain technical concepts, data, and processes to both technical and non-technical stakeholders. For example, an IT manager may need to present a new cybersecurity strategy to the executive team, outlining the risks and benefits in terms they can understand. Excellent written communication is also crucial for creating user-friendly documentation. IT professionals must have the ability to distill complex information into clear, concise language while maintaining accuracy and coherence, often under tight timelines.

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Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence allows workers to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses while considering others’ viewpoints. This is quite important in the tech space. For instance, if a critical system goes down, an IT professional with strong emotional intelligence capabilities can manage their own stress while empathizing with frustrated users and working collaboratively to resolve the issue. IT talent with high emotional intelligence can approach complicated, tense situations with sound judgment, leading to better decision-making. 

Collaboration skills. In today’s interconnected business environment, IT professionals must work harmoniously and forge relationships with colleagues across many functions. For instance, when implementing a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, IT must collaborate closely with sales, marketing, and customer service teams to ensure the system meets each department's needs. Key collaborative attributes include compromising, listening, providing constructive feedback, and being receptive to feedback received from others. While technical expertise drives the implementation, seamless delivery necessitates relationship-building across various departments and business units.

Critical thinking abilities. IT professionals regularly encounter complex issues requiring deep analysis to identify root causes before developing solutions. For instance, when troubleshooting a network performance issue, an IT professional must collect data, analyze potential causes, and test hypotheses to accurately identify and resolve the underlying issue. Strong critical thinking involves asking insightful questions to fully understand the problem and examining it from multiple angles. IT professionals must be adaptable and apply both rational and creative thinking to brainstorm potential fixes.

Organization and time management. Organizational and time management abilities are crucial for IT professionals to consistently meet deadlines, deliver projects, and balance competing demands. For example, when managing a software development project, an IT project manager must break down the project into manageable tasks, assign resources, and track progress to ensure timely completion. Effectively prioritizing and sequencing activities enables IT talent to make steady progress and avoid constantly operating in panic mode.

Professionalism. IT professionals who strategically apply their knowledge while building relationships, consistently meeting commitments, and proactively addressing needs demonstrate expertise beyond just technical aptitude. Aim to hire well-rounded candidates who complement their IT qualifications with interpersonal skills that drive frictionless collaboration.

Interview Questions and Techniques to Assess IT Soft Skills

  • To evaluate an IT candidate’s soft skills during the hiring process, consider asking behavioral and situational interview questions that shed light on how they have handled challenges and collaborated with others in the past. Some sample IT soft skills interview questions include:

  • Give an example of a time when you had to persuade a colleague or client to adopt a new technology or approach that they found intimidating? What strategies did you use to communicate the benefits and address any concerns?

  • Share an example of when you had to juggle multiple priorities and deadlines. What strategies did you use to stay organized and deliver on time?

  • Discuss a project where you had to work closely with colleagues from other departments. What challenges did you encounter and how did you build positive relationships?

  • Describe a time when you had to explain a complex technical issue to a non-technical leader. How did you approach the conversation to ensure understanding?

  • Describe a time when you had to guide a stressed or frustrated client through a complex technical process or solution. How did you maintain a sense of calm, communicate clearly, and ensure the client felt supported?

  • Tell me about a situation where you had a disagreement about a proposed solution with a team member. How did you handle the conflict and what was the resolution?

  • Describe a situation where you encountered an unexpected hurdle during an IT project. How did you critically analyze the issue and adapt your approach?

In addition to those targeted IT soft skill interview questions, consider the following techniques to further assess a candidate’s soft skills:

  • Ask the candidate to give a brief presentation explaining a technical concept to the interview panel, some of whom can role-play as non-technical stakeholders. This tests communication abilities.

  • Provide a hypothetical troubleshooting scenario and have the candidate walk you through their thought process and approach to diagnosing the issue. This provides insight into problem-solving skills.

  • If possible, bring the final candidates in for a longer interview and have them meet with various team members in person. Pay attention to how they communicate and collaborate during group sessions.

  • When contacting the candidate's references, ask them to comment specifically on the individual's soft skills like teamwork, communication, organization, and professionalism.

Instead of getting tunnel vision and focusing on coding capabilities or infrastructure knowledge, take a holistic view of candidates’ soft skills, too. IT professionals who communicate openly, meet deadlines reliably, and consider different perspectives get more opportunities to meaningfully impact the business. Focus on those who not only have the tech chops, but also interpersonal abilities. With a balanced blend of technical and soft skills, IT professionals can boost efficiency, innovation, and strategic objectives across the entire organization.

Searching for skilled IT professionals for full-time or freelance roles? As a leader in connecting clients with top tech talent, 24 Seven has access to a deep pool of pre-vetted talent. Contact our team today, and let us help you find the talent you need – and fast.