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Three Soft Skills IT Professionals Need to Flourish

Candice Lawson, Director of Strategic Accounts – Los Angeles, CA

As many employers struggle to fill information technology positions, IT candidates must work equally as hard to master the ever-evolving tech skills required to stay relevant. Simultaneously, the nature of technology continues to shift, and IT candidates need to develop a healthy balance of technical competencies along with soft skills.

When information technology companies hire a candidate with the right foundational skills, they will teach candidates how to use their tools, existing code, applets, etc. Consequently, candidates need a mix of soft skills such as teamwork and interpersonal skills to be effective. For example, for data scientist jobs, a data scientist utilizes a combination of IT and mathematical skills, coupled with problem-solving skills and teamwork capabilities to provide actionable business solutions. Below are three soft skills IT candidates should focus on developing. Additionally, I’ve provided advice on how to prepare for interviews focused on evaluating these skills.

Three Highly Applicable Soft Skills for IT Roles

Communication

Communication is one of the most important soft skills needed. Strong communication skills allow data scientists and other IT professionals to be effective liaisons between technology experts and the rest of the corporation. Great candidates possess the ability to communicate their findings and solutions to the other departments in an organization. In the interview, the way in which you enter a room and carry yourself is important. Start by looking the interviewer in the eye and giving a solid handshake. Additionally, pay attention to your body language. Lean in and sit up when speaking with hiring managers. These seemingly minor elements provide hiring managers with valuable insight about your ability to communicate effectively.

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are a focus across all industries and are key to maintaining a healthy culture. Poor interpersonal skills hurt morale and productivity, therefore hiring managers test candidates to see if they deal with tough situations well and if they are respectful to coworkers. As a candidate improving your interview skills, below are a few sample questions you should ask yourself and be prepared for in the interview.

  • Describe to me a time you had a disagreement with a coworker. What happened and how did you deal with it?
  • Describe a time you had a difficult time with a customer service representative. What was the situation and how did you deal with it?

Self-Management

Hiring managers searching to fill data scientist jobs are looking for data scientist candidates who are innovative and self-motivated. A willingness to seek information on how to be better at your job and be proactive about future tasks is a quality that enables you stand out to the interviewer. The industry has crossed into a time culturally and generationally where this is not necessarily the norm. As organizations move away from micro-management, a hiring manager’s goal during interviews is to determine how you react with minimal supervision.

To determine your work ethic, hiring managers utilize behavioral questions that focus on who you are as a person. They want to determine if you are someone who attends the meeting, read the manual, gets a small amount of instruction, and figures it out on your own.

Here’s a great sample question to practice, “Describe a scenario in which you had to self-manage when a supervisor wasn’t available, and you had to make an on-the-spot decision?”

Additional Questions to Ask

Many interviewers seeking data scientist candidates want to test your thought processes, and often ask non-traditional questions to give you the ability to demonstrate your reasoning skills. There is much gray area regarding which is the “right” or “wrong” answer for these challenging questions, but if you provide an excellent explanation, then you are on the right track. Hiring managers take note of your thought process and consider how much detail you provide when answering the question. The “peanut butter and jelly sandwich question” is a good exercise: “Can you walk me through the steps you take to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” This unorthodox question tests how you handle unexpected questions and gives insight into your daily thought processes.

Personal open-ended questions are also common when hiring managers are evaluating soft skills. The goal with open-ended questions is to determine how you motivate yourself outside of work. For example, “Describe a difficult situation you’ve had in your personal life and how you handled it.” This question attempts to take you out of the work mindset and dig into who you are as a person.

Bringing it All Together

Possessing strong technical knowledge combined with excellent communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills ensures a much higher success rate when interviewing for a desired position. Whether you are already comfortable exhibiting soft skills, or you believe you may have to practice a bit, it is a worthwhile exercise to undertake and will yield positive results for you.