To Make It In IT, Hard And Soft Skills Are Needed

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Impressive job candidates in information technology often have a slew of technical skills and proven experience to catch the eye of employers, but in order to support that they're the best pick for the role, something extra is needed. Specifically, more employers are recognizing the importance of soft skills in IT workers and are basing their hiring decisions off of these traits.

In a new survey by CareerBuilder and Sologig, the vast majority of IT employers - 76 percent - believe that soft skills (less tangible skills associated with one's personality, such as a positive attitude) are just as important as hard skills (skills that are learned to perform a specific job function and can be measured, such as operating a computer program). What's more, 16 percent of IT employers say soft skills are more important than hard skills when evaluating candidates for a job.

What does this mean for your job search and your career path? Read on to find out what employers are really looking for, as well as how soft skills can affect your job security in IT.

Top-rated soft skills by employers
Though it doesn't hurt, smiling in an interview isn't enough to convince a hiring manager that you possess soft skills or know how to apply them. These qualities may be more intangible, but quantifying your abilities and how you've demonstrated them is what will win an employer over. First, keep in mind what kind of soft skills employers are interested in.

The top 10 most popular soft skills IT companies say they look for when hiring include:

1) Candidate has a strong work ethic – 68 percent
2) Candidate is dependable – 68 percent
3) Candidate has a positive attitude – 63 percent
4) Candidate is self-motivated – 61 percent
5) Candidate is organized, can manage multiple priorities – 53 percent
6) Candidate is an effective communicator – 53 percent
7) Candidate works well under pressure – 52 percent
8) Candidate is team-oriented – 50 percent
9) Candidate is flexible – 47 percent
10) Candidate can learn from criticism – 41 percent

Next, look for specific examples of how you've used these soft skills to win over a client, move a project forward, solve a co-worker conflict or pick up new business. While hiring managers may be looking for soft skills that show a candidate can be a good cultural fit, the exceptional candidate will demonstrate how he used his soft skills to go beyond what was asked of him.

Soft skills and job security
IT jobs can quickly be moved offshore as more countries compete for technological roles that can be done remotely. This can be bad news for local job seekers pursuing a good job with good pay.
However, soft skills can actually provide job security in some cases, according to research in the new book "The Talent Equation" (co-authored by CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson, Lorin Hitt of the Wharton School and Prasanna Tambe of NYU), which suggests that the IT jobs least likely to be offshored are those that require frequent interpersonal interactions.

"We believe that the worker who can successfully merge right and left brain skills - the social/strategic with the technical - is the 'killer app' of the modern, knowledge-driven labor market," the authors write. "Technology professionals may find it beneficial to focus on soft skills - such as advanced communication or business management - in addition to their mastery of technical niche."

As with any other industry, job seekers in IT stand the best chances when they have an arsenal of skills, expertise and education to offer to employers. And while technical skills and abilities are an essential part of the job, possessing strong soft skills can have an influence on which candidate is chosen and which jobs are kept local - all important factors for job seekers to be aware of.

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