Companies are looking for top technology talent with the skillsets to drive transformative initiatives. However, the technical professional labor market has arrived at the point that the demand is substantially higher than the skilled professional supply. Gartner research underscored the market imbalance when it found 70% of tech employees have not mastered the skills they need for their current role, and 80% need to grow their skillsets for future career success. Despite the challenges of finding fully qualified professionals with the right experience and skills, we are now in a candidate’s market, and companies are identifying strategies to fill the positions and move forward with candidate recruiting and hiring. Firms are willing to compromise on role profile standards and instead invest in identifying potential and helping new hires rapidly climb learning curves. The questions for candidates is how can career technology professionals best prepare to take advantage of today’s labor market opportunities?
The critical point is organizations are now looking beyond a candidate’s technology stack skillsets in a manner that goes beyond past practices. Soft skills are now emphasized in the interviewing sequence. The tech professional not only has to demonstrate their technical acumen in the languages and platforms necessary for their role and to climb the role’s learning curve, but also the drive to master more knowledge quickly, the ability to critically think to define and resolve problems, the ability to adjust with the predictable and rapid changes in modern business processes and the supportive enabling technology, and the determination and resolve to see a project through a successful completion, including the user experience objectives. Companies are showing some flexibility with experience and skills, but now emphasizing the soft skills to ensure candidates will rise to the challenge and overcome these gaps. In a world where technical professionals are in high-demand, professionals earn coveted roles by demonstrating the skills, acumen, and soft skills that will take a candidate farther faster.
Beyond the obvious technical acumen and ability and desire to climb learning curves quickly, here are five important soft skills employers are trying to identify in interviews:
- Consulting Capabilities: Technical professionals aren’t just fulfilling business needs. They must also have the ability to help set the direction and shape of thinking for future technical initiatives. They help their organization develop strategic roadmaps and influence the choices and decisions surrounding digital investments.
- IT Ambassadors Translate into Promotional Value: IT teams need to create awareness around their own department, serving as a marketing ambassador for their efforts. This starts by seeing the department leaders and end users as internal clients to serve. Promoting the amazing work accomplished by the users assisted by the enabling technology with the right effort can ensure IT is well appreciated. The IT team member who serves department leaders and end users will be appreciated, and their help driving business process transformation will be recognized.
- Presentation Skills: As IT professionals continue to play a major role in a company’s digital transformation, it is not enough to be in the meetings, but also running portions of or entire meetings. This will require enhanced communication skills and presence. IT professionals are not just behind the computer anymore. They are beginning to take center stage.
- Seeing the Big Picture: It is not enough to be laser focused on the tasks at hand. As technology is becoming a bigger role in a company’s future, it is important to see the big picture and identify opportunities to align. A technical professional who thinks about a business as a whole and how their contributions could impact the larger goals, will assist in smoother, more successful IT efforts.
- End-User Empathy: Understanding what a client needs and how to fulfill the needs will lead to a more successful IT professional. Empathy will encourage design thinking. It is not enough to respond to customers to answer questions, but truly understanding what customers think about the technology they use, the technology they need, and the underlying goals to push a company forward using technology as a key component. Understanding the customer experience will allow for a stronger final product and more in-tune professional.
Companies are interested in adding the top tech talent with strong potential to their ranks. In our labor market, the top talent isn’t just the professional with the laundry list of technical skills and experience. It is the individual with strength in technical acumen, a drive to learn and master skills quickly, plus the best understanding of the customer, a vision of the big picture, and willingness to stand up behind their value. This is the new wave IT professional. This is who will earn the confidence of the hiring team, and gain the career opportunity.