You might not think it, but even Developers need so-called “soft skills” to be truly successful (in fact they’re so essential, we use “non-technical” rather than the term “soft”).
For both office and remote roles, how you do your work and what you are like to work with are huge differentiators and key to success. This is backed up by primary and secondary feedback from across the globe.
Let’s look at key areas where non-technical skills can help you succeed as a developer:
Competitive advantage at interview
If a recruiter is faced with 2 developers of similar experience, the next filtering criteria will be their non-technical skills and character.
How well will he fit the team? How personable is he? How good is he at thinking outside the box and critical thinking? How good are they at conveying ideas to a team and translating user requirements to technical specifications?
Non-technical skills help separate the adequate from perfect candidates.
So whereas your technical skills indicate what you do… Non-technical skills relate to how you will do your role — what you will be like to work with.
Many of the leading tech companies we deal with put more emphasis on a candidate’s approach to tasks, than their technical knowledge, with many wanting and willing to train on the job for their company/sector- specific platform/fork.
Competitive advantage on the job
Beyond helping you land the job, non-technical skills are actually essential to your success and advancement, once actually on the job.
This is reinforced by research by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation, which found that “75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge.”
Consider the following points and whether they are key to top-tier performance as a developer:
- Delivering high-level work on time, consistently
- Collaborating on projects that require technical compromises to make deadlines
- Presenting to directors and colleagues
- Persuading colleagues to consider different (technical) points of view
- Appreciating the end-user’s perspective from a UX and/or design standpoint
- Coaching and being coached on (non) technical matters
- Working productively with a variety of managers, each with their own unique style
- Being flexible enough to handle rapidly changing design requirements, and still hit deadlines
- Assisting team members that are struggling
- Taking over a project before you’re told it’s in trouble
It’s not difficult to see why managers and company leaders would value the above.
Strengths or weaknesses in these non-technical skills can mean the difference between project/team/company success or failure, and/or mean the difference between rapid promotion, stagnation or redundancy.
So how can your boost your chances?
- A personal website is an excellent way to showcase your personality, skills and achievements prior to interview.
- Outline your non-technical skills on your CV — and highlight how these translated to success (provide some metrics).
- Preparation: examine the points we provided above, and where applicable try to provide examples of when you demonstrated these skills. If asked to give an example of good communication, provide an example of a time you successfully pitched an idea internally. For adaptability you could perhaps discuss times you’ve delivered on projects despite difficult team members.
- Commit to continuous self development and be honest with yourself. Do not try to fake it. You will get found out on the job anyway. Instead, make note of the areas you lack and make a determined effort to improve them!
- It is important to note that companies/sectors will differ, and can value a different mix of non-technical skills to others. The key is to work on being as well rounded as possible, and know your sector.