What IT Soft Skills Tech Talent Scouts Look for in Job Candidates

The top soft skills that IT professionals should focus on are communication, problem-solving, and project management, according to a new study.

Nathan Eddy

April 5, 2023

4 Min Read
hand changing blocks to read "soft skills" instead of "hard skills"

In addition to having the required technical skills, IT professionals should be looking to boost their soft skills, specifically in the areas of communication, problem-solving, and project management.

This was the key takeaway from a Mason Frank study of nearly 3,600 respondents working across Salesforce, NetSuite, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Business Applications, Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Azure.

For budding technologists looking to kickstart their careers, the survey findings were a positive indicator that hiring managers looking to fill tech roles are taking a more flexible approach to sourcing new talent — one that considers transferable soft skills that can be harder to teach than technical skills.

The fact that communication, problem-solving, and project management emerged so strongly across the range of ecosystems was particularly interesting, according to Zoë Morris, president of Mason Frank International.

Morris pulled quote


"It was really the research which led us to this idea of transferability," she added. "So, whether it's AWS, Microsoft, or Salesforce, these are the soft skills that are most highly valued."
That isn't to say there aren't transferable hard skills — but the reality is that each of the ecosystems has its own technical specificities and knowledge bases, whereas these soft skills are instantly useful, whichever ecosystem you're in, she explained.

Related:5 Essential Soft Skills for DevOps Success

Why Communication Is the Top-Rated IT Soft Skill

Having communication surface as the top-rated soft skill is a vital reminder that tech is a fundamentally collaborative field, Morris said.

"There's a misconception that working in tech often involves working in a silo — writing code on your own or analyzing data in isolation," she said. "Having the technical knowledge is important, of course, but healthy communication is essential to being able to put it into practice in an actual workplace environment."

Morris said Mason Frank would probably need to conduct another piece of research to really get a sense of whether IT pros are lacking communication skills, but what matters is that it's something everyone in the sector is working to improve on an ongoing basis.

"Communication patterns aren't static, after all," she noted.

Why Businesses Seek IT Pros With Problem-Solving Skills

Because working in tech is generally a fast-paced, intense environment, when challenges arise or results aren't as expected, it's crucial that professionals can adapt to the moment and work toward solutions — this is where problem-solving skills come in.

Related:What to Do if You Get Laid Off: Tips for Tech Pros

"We sometimes think of tech innovation solely in terms of the major paradigm shifts — generative AI, for example — but it's also true that day-to-day tech work involves all kinds of lesser-seen innovation," Morris said.

Optimizing a product or implementing changes considering new analytics invariably entails navigating uncharted waters.

"In these scenarios, problem-solving is a skill tech professionals are routinely making use of," she explained.

When it comes to project management skills, Morris said steering a project means holding objectives at the center while also keeping on top of the smaller developments and goals along the way — a balance of the strategic and the tactical.

"Working in tech is extremely immersive, so the ability to hold the broader macro perspective without getting lost in the micro is highly prized," she said.

Morris pointed out that, like communication, project management is a dynamic concern.

"Project management skills necessitate the ability to facilitate conversations, delegate tasks according to a team's capacity and relative strengths, and, of course, oversee problem-solving," she said.

From her perspective, the IT space has room to grow as a sector when it comes to providing resources to help tech pros develop their soft skills.

"We're at the point where we know that soft skills are absolutely essential when it comes to working in tech, but because of the intensity of the everyday experience, it can sometimes be an area that receives less attention in terms of learning and development time," Morris said.

IT pros who make the time to reflect on the successes, failures, and challenges of a particular project will always uncover insights they can take forward — this includes which soft skills they could be honing more actively.

"This can also be especially effective as a group exercise — a debrief, as it were," she explained. "Feedback is critical when you're looking to develop your soft skills and to identify any gaps, so building processes for feedback from colleagues and managers makes a great foundation for continued learning."

There's also a good argument that workplace soft skills can be improved by extracurricular activities, Morris said.

"From reading groups or art classes to sports teams, anything that puts you in an environment in which interpersonal interaction comes into play can be a real positive and will almost always equip you with something new to take back into the workplace," she said.

About the Author(s)

Nathan Eddy

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITProToday and covers various IT trends and topics across wide variety of industries. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, he is also a documentary filmmaker specializing in architecture and urban planning. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

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