Soft Skills, Strong Developers
There is no lack of companies recruiting remote software developers; in fact, by 2020, the job growth rate for software engineers will increase 17%. This surplus of talent can make finding the right software engineer for your team a complicated process. Desirable technical skill sets and impressive lists of experience aside, there are many indicators of hardworking, talented IT professionals, if recruiters know what to look for in their candidates.
When hiring remote developers, managers should consider evaluating a candidate’s soft skills, which are characteristics related more to personality than skill. Developers with strong soft skills tend to be fast learners, self-motivators, skilled communicators, pre-planners, etc. Soft skills are no less valuable to recruiters as research shows that 66% of respondents believe that self-motivation is an essential soft skill among candidates, making it a top trait to look for when hiring.
When assessing candidates with relatively similar technical ability, their soft skills can provide a tie-breaker. Here are five valuable soft skills along with five tips on how to identify them in remote software developers.
1. They don’t use jargon
Effective communication skills are essential for remote developers who frequently need to share complex information online through Slack, email, or Jira. With good communicators scheduling mishaps, project errors, and messy rapport are all decreased. One key to finding a good communicator is their lack of casual jargon. Studies show that high-performing organizations (compared to average ones) are twice as likely to keep language simple and jargon-free because it eliminates the chance of confusion that could result in errors later on.
To assess an applicant’s communication skills, including whether they refrain from incorporating casual jargon into a conversation, evaluate your digital correspondence. Note how much they paid attention to the focal points of the discussion and if they provide informative, well thought-out answers. Be aware of any use of the textbook names of businesses and processes rather than merely describing them and avoiding the proper names. These word choices can help indicate whether they communicate in a professional style and refrain from including any jargon.
2. They aren’t above Googling it
Skilled developers can be an arrogant group, prone to advertising their level of technical expertise over being practical and efficient. When it comes to problem-solving, many developers try to “reinvent the wheel” rather than using a simpler method. These developers may claim that resources like Google can’t be guaranteed to provide the most reliable sources. However, sometimes the answer can be retrieved from just Googling, saving time and effort. r/DotNet and StackOverflow, for example, are reliable online communities where professional developers can trade questions and offer answers to others in the community.
To evaluate your candidates on their problem-solving skills, ask about a significant obstacle from a previous job and how they found the solution. Follow that up by asking them what are their preferred resources when they need tips. The answers to these questions will offer a good spectrum of their level of resourcefulness.
3. They are vocal when necessary
It can be uncomfortable for any team member to bring attention to weak areas in the workflow without feeling they are pointing fingers or placing blame. Additionally, being the new addition to a new team dynamic lends remote workers towards being more polite and less vocal than they might normally be. However, this quiet politeness is a terrible quality for a developer who has promised to offer their expertise to disrupt and optimize a team’s software development.
Silencing themselves rather than stressing important notes or any future problems can result in the issue getting resolved days, rather than hours, later. This problem is worse when remote developers are working with a team in a different time zone. In the end, developers should be unafraid to vocalize their critiques and ideas. This way the team can leverage their expertise.
To evaluate a vocal developer, provide a test for them with an error included just for the test. Share this content with them and ask for their professional assessment. Ask their opinion to see if they spot the error, and furthermore to see if they correct it or provide possible solutions.
4. They communicate
This soft skill may seem like a repetition of the third skill but developers that vocalize problems aren’t necessarily prone to communicate and give proper updates while working on a project.
While it may sound like an annoying characteristic, we can all agree that a lot of information can get lost in Slack chats or email. Unfortunately, these channels are often the best ways for teams to communicate with remote developers. Communicating is an asset because it provides transparency between the team and the developer’s processes. Communicators share updates about every stage of development and even offer commentary on areas that don’t directly include them. Communicating in this way creates a level of greater understanding of a developer’s method and better collaboration with the team, not to mention it displays a commitment to the project.
5. They know why their software solutions worked
When a project is successful, it’s all too common to be satisfied with the results, even when the reason for its success isn’t completely understood. Ignoring the opportunity to learn why it works is a sign that a developer lacks curiosity and proper investment in their work. It reveals that their goal is about finishing the development and nothing more. What they end up missing out on is the knowledge they could glean from a little investigative work.
To learn why technology is operating well results in the developer retaining that knowledge to be able to recreate it or optimize it in the future. Ultimately, if a candidate isn’t curious to understand the mechanics of their work, their expertise will be considerably lacking.
To identify this curiosity in candidates, review their previous projects and inquire about which projects were successful. Have them expand on a few and walk you through the process. This simple discussion will provide insight into the candidate’s knowledge, their attention to detail, and their level of commitment.
Soft Skills in Remote Developers
Ultimately, identifying these soft skills in candidates can improve the results of your recruitment process. Before the vetting process begins, however, recruiters need to know where to look.
Most online sources that provide the contact information of remote developers do so without any preliminary vetting. These online sources leave companies open to an exhaustive recruiting process. Instead, carefully select an organization that employs a rigorous vetting process before providing any contact information for developers to the companies searching to outsource.