If you’re planning to work in tech, you’re probably already in the process of building up your hard skills — learning how to code and diving into programming languages, libraries, frameworks, and other tools you’ll need to do the job. But what about your soft skills?
Software developers don’t work in silos. They’re part of a larger team, and your soft skills are what will allow you to work effectively with other people and manage the non-technical aspects of your role. That’s why it’s essential that you showcase these skills during the hiring process, according to Codecademy Talent Director Francesca Galbo. “Don’t underestimate how important soft skills are, because they could ultimately be what sets you apart from other competitive candidates,” she says.
Ahead, Francesca shares 5 soft skills you’ll need to launch a successful career in tech, plus tips for how to display them during the hiring process.
Communication skills are essential for every job, and tech careers are no exception. Developers and IT professionals need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with teammates, clients, and other stakeholders — whether identifying business goals or breaking down technical concepts in a way that’s easy to understand.
Your communication skills will also play a role in writing documentation and commit messages, sending emails and Slack messages, and when participating in team meetings. “I’m not saying you have to be an extrovert or have a super bubbly personality,” Francesca says. “You just need to know how to communicate respectfully with your peers.”
How to show it off: There are several ways you can show your communication skills during the hiring process. Be courteous and respectful in your emails to hiring managers. Practice active listening during your interview and provide thoughtful answers so they know you were paying attention. If you’re transitioning into tech from another career, explain how communication plays a role in your current day-to-day. Maybe you give weekly reports to managers, or you regularly help customers and/or clients identify and resolve their pain points.
2. Creative problem-solving
If you want to work in tech, you’ll need to be able to break down large and complex tasks into executable steps and figure out the best tools to get the job done. That requires a mix of creativity and critical thinking skills. “Recruiters are looking for folks who can utilize the right side of their brain just as much as the left side,” Francesca says. “It’s about so much more than whether or not someone can code.”
Creative problem-solving skills arise from knowledge and experience. If you’re looking to become a software developer, learning new languages and building unique projects can provide you with new approaches and methods to apply to your problem-solving. You can also learn from other developers by exploring their work in the Codecademy Forums and sites like GitHub. Or you could try sitting down with a more experienced programmer and asking them for help with an issue you’re facing in one of your projects. There’s a good chance they’ll be able to help you find potential solutions or workarounds, and it’ll also give you a chance to learn from their expertise.
How to show it off: Depending on the role you’re applying for, your creative problem-solving skills might be put to the test during technical interviews. But don’t stress — while you’ll be asked to solve a coding problem, your interviewers are more concerned with your ability to assess the problem than the efficacy of your solution. “We’re not always looking for the right answer,” Francesca says. “We’re looking for someone that can work through the challenge and speak to questions they might ask if this type of problem arose.” That’s why explaining your approach during technical interviews is essential.
3. Attention to detail
Regardless of the role you’re applying to, working in tech requires a keen eye for detail. Programmers need to ensure their code aligns with their company’s standards and practices, and they also need to keep an eye out for bugs and errors. Data scientists and analysts need to be detail-oriented while cleaning and formatting data and building machine learning models.
Paying attention to detail means you’re less likely to overlook a problem that impedes production, and people who are detail-oriented tend to be organized, attentive, and proactive. These qualities give managers reassurance that you can do the job and do it well.
How to show it off: To demonstrate your attention to detail, try customizing your resume and cover letter to highlight achievements relevant to the specific role you’re applying to. During your interview, use techniques like the STAR method to walk your interviewer through challenges you’ve overcome in the past, how you came up with a solution, and the results of your efforts.
And be sure to do some research on the company. Nothing undermines your claim of being detail-oriented like being ill-prepared. “Hiring managers and recruiters can definitely tell when someone has researched our brand versus when they haven’t and sort of just picked up the phone and maybe pulled up the website 30 seconds prior,” Francesca says.
4. Emotional intelligence (EQ)
Francesca explains that recruiters are also looking for candidates with “a high sense of EQ — which basically equates to empathy and introspection.”
At its core, technology provides tools that make our lives easier. But in order to develop effective solutions, you’ll need to be able to empathize with your users.
Take UX Designers as an example. UX Designers conduct surveys and interviews to learn as much as they can about their users’ tastes, preferences, goals, and obstacles to design products that suit their needs.
Introspection is important because hiring managers are looking for people who will flourish and thrive in their role — and you can’t do that without a deep understanding of your own motivations, aspirations, strengths, and areas of opportunity.
How to show it off: Francesca recommends finding opportunities to illustrate your emotional intelligence during the interview process. You can demonstrate empathy by highlighting how the company’s mission ties into your personal core values, and being transparent about the skills you’ve yet to learn (but plan to) is a great way to show introspection.
You might feel hesitant to put a spotlight on your knowledge gaps during an interview, but Francesca says that this can often work to your advantage. “Recruiters want to learn about your areas of development that you’re most interested in — what your trajectory is and where you want to grow,” she says. “That’s really going to make a difference for us because we have an idea of the role that we’re considering you for and how we want that role to expand.”
Leadership skills are a must-have for people applying to managerial roles. There’s more to leading a team than delegating tasks. As a manager, you’ll also be responsible for your team’s growth and development.
If you’re new to leadership or still fine-tuning your leadership style, Francesca recommends learning from the people around you. Think about your past managers. How did they make you feel respected and appreciated? How did they rub you the wrong way? Figure out how you can emulate the best of what they had to offer and avoid their mistakes. “I’ve had managers that I’ve learned under and studied from, and I kind of Frankenstein-meshed that into the type of manager that I want to be,” Francesca says.
Depending on where you are in your journey — whether you’re employed, a full-time student, or you are active in a community (online or IRL) — try to find leadership opportunities, even if they seem small. Volunteer to lead a project at work, organize a networking meetup in your neighborhood, or simply ask your colleagues if there are any problems they’re working on that you might be able to help them solve.
How to show it off: Find ways to show, rather than tell, what makes you a great leader. When you’re answering interview questions, sharing anecdotes from your past experiences, or writing your cover letter, don’t forget to include the details that shine a light on your leadership skills. If you’re not currently managing anyone, you can talk about how you found opportunities to nurture other people. Maybe you mentored other developers on your team or spearheaded a group project at your company (or with fellow learners at your local Codecademy community chapter).
Prepare for your tech career
Want to learn more about soft skills? We’ll show you how to showcase them on your resume.
And don’t forget about your hard skills. While soft skills are important, your technical skills are what you’ll use to get the job done. Check out our programming courses to start building your technical skills. Whether you want to become a web developer or a data scientist, we’ll guide you along every step of the way. We’ll even help you prepare for interviews, with code challenges, tips from recruiters, and other helpful resources you can find in our career center.