In IT Jobs What’s More Important – Soft Skills Or Technical Prowess?

Are You Struggling To Find The Right Staff?

When you’re hiring for IT jobs, it’s important to hire for both soft skills and technical skills. Is one more important than the other?

The Soft vs. Technical Debate

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT jobs are expected to grow 11% between 2019 to 2029. With more jobs becoming available, finding employees with the right skills is going to become even more challenging. Who you hire may come down to a hard choice between hiring for soft skills or for technical ability.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills help people to work together, communicate effectively, and solve problems. When considering soft skills, we might consider time management, listening and speaking, critical thinking, and so on.

Soft skills enable leaders to inspire and influence. They are essential in situations where negotiation or conflict resolution is needed.

What Are Technical Skills?

Technical skills are those that relate to doing the tasks required in the job role. Sometimes called ‘hard skills’, they cover qualities such as mathematical and scientific ability, use of software, coding, programming languages, project management, and so on.

Certain jobs can only be done by those with the technical skillset to do them. If you need a recruit to hit the ground running, then they must possess the technical skills needed.

Required vs. Desired Skills

Before we examine when to hire for which skills, we should define the difference between required and desired skills.

Required Skills

These are the skills without which your hire would not be able to do their job. You can’t be a taxi driver if you don’t possess a driving license.

When these skills are technical, they are often evidenced by qualifications and/or experience. Soft skills are more likely to be evidenced by experience and demonstrated in interview.

Desired Skills

These are skills that you would like your hire to possess, but which aren’t necessary from day one. You may identify that Python would be a skill that would be useful, but isn’t necessary to hit the ground running.

Desired skills can be learned when the hire is in the job, either by coaching or targeted training.

Deciding on Your Hiring Priorities: Soft or Technical Skills?

Which skillset you target depends on the type of hire you need, and what their job description will be. For example, if you need a web developer, you’ll need someone who is proficient in skills such as HTML, Java, Python, SQL, etc. You may also need your developer to present in project and management meetings, so you will need to factor this into your job description and interview process.

The skills you hire for also depend upon the expected length of hire as well as the work you need them to do.

Let’s take that web developer as an example. If you are hiring for a specific project with a set deadline, then the role is most likely to be a contract position. It’s essential that your hire has the skills you need on their resume (and that they can demonstrate them) so they can make an impact from the start.

However, if you are hiring for a full-time employee, there is likely to be less need for them to tick all the boxes under technical skills. You will be more concerned about hiring for cultural fit and the candidate’s growth potential.

Soft V Technical Skills: Negotiating the Trade-Off

As you can see, there is a trade-off between soft and technical skills. To hire the right person for the job, you must negotiate that trade-off. It is crucial to:

  • Identify the technical skills that are required
  • List the technical skills that are desired
  • Consider the soft skills needed to fit the role

What you cannot negotiate is time to hire. Even in times of high unemployment, the best candidates (whether contracting or full time) will not remain available in the job market for long. Waiting for the ‘perfect’ candidate could lead to missing out on the best candidate.

It is essential to start the hiring process with a deep understanding of your requirements and the areas in which you are willing to make compromises. This will help you to accelerate your hiring and secure the talent you need in your IT jobs when you need it.

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