8 Soft Skills Tech Hiring Managers Covet
Technology is one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy. In fact, there’s a talent shortage in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, which means that of the predicted 1.4 million STEM jobs that will be available by 2020, there will be a shortage of talent for about 1 million positions — or 70%.
Millennials have proactively — and pragmatically — sought experiences that will make them leaders among their colleagues, and they’re highly proficient with technology. In fact, the younger the millennial, the stronger his or her affinity for tech. Fresh computer science graduates can look forward to earning substantially more money than do their peers with business majors, and some companies like Facebook are paying fresh graduates six-figure starting salaries.
But with the competition for employees heating up, many employers are looking outside Silicon Valley for promising talent. American job seekers aren’t just competing with those residing in major tech hubs; they’re competing against any qualified job applicant with a high-speed Internet connection who’s willing to work remotely.
Hiring managers aren’t just looking at your technical skills — and they aren’t hiring specifically for their company's niche, whether that’s ad tech or fashion. They’re looking at the characteristics and the other "soft skills" that make you who you are.
Here are eight traits that will help set you apart from your peers.
1. Self-promotion: Your chances of getting a tech job increase substantially when you can market yourself effectively. To create a solid online presence, get active on platforms like LinkedIn, GitHub and Quora, and participate in Hacker League hackathons to display your technical capabilities.
2. Networking skills: Often, it's not what you know that lands you the job — it’s who you know. Engineers who network are more likely to find more opportunities, simply because they have the connections to make it happen. To start getting a foothold in your industry, go to local Meetups and startup events to make connections with like-minded people in your field.
3. Strong communication skills: If you can’t sell yourself and your skills, you’re going to have a much harder time getting a job at a top company. Hiring managers want engineers who can lead a group, collaborate and communicate their vision. Consider taking a speech class to learn how to make presentations and improve your interview skills.
4. Resourcefulness: It’s important to know your own value in the market. Connect with a recruiter who’s an expert in your field to learn the trends, salaries and local opportunities available. Have him critique your resume. Remember: You don’t have to stick with a recruiter just because you called.
5. Coding preparation: A growing interview trend in assessing candidates’ skills is to ask them to demonstrate their coding capabilities on the fly. A problem will be posed, and you will need to solve it in real time. Practice whiteboarding — and coding with a timer — to get comfortable with this process prior to an interview.
6. Competitiveness: Tech companies want engineers with gumption. Enter local hackathons to show off your capabilities, and be sure to include your accomplishments on your professional profiles and resume.
7. Initiative: Don’t just learn one language and expect a company to mentor you. Differentiate yourself from the competition by teaching yourself new languages and skills. For example, if you’re an entry-level Ruby developer, learn to create a Ruby gem, and post it as sample work to GitHub (even if it’s basic).
It’s also a good idea to learn both front-end and back-end development. Working toward becoming a full-stack developer will increase your value to prospective employers.
8. Honesty: Always be honest with potential employers about your capabilities. There’s nothing worse for a hiring manager than bringing on a new employee and finding out that his resume was full of false information. If you’re open about your existing core skills and the skills you want to develop, you’ll receive opportunities that align with your abilities.
While the tech talent shortage will give promising young STEM professionals overwhelming power in the coming years, the competition for top positions in the best tech companies is going to be fiercer than ever. To differentiate yourself, make sure you update your online profiles and stay active on networking sites. Constantly work to build your skills as a developer and improve your soft skills, such as networking and communication.
If you’re constantly growing as a professional and becoming an active member of the tech community, both online and off, there’s no limit to the opportunities you’ll receive.