Most Important Soft Skills You Should Look For in a Developer

The ability to program isn't the only talent that makes an outstanding software engineer.
December 28, 2021
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Chances are pretty good you hired most of your engineers based on their ability to successfully develop the tools your business needs to function or the applications you intend to offer to customers and clients. That ability directly depends on their aptitude for specific languages and frameworks geared for the projects they were hired to work on.

However, if your hiring practices are based solely on programming skills, you’re probably missing out on some outstanding candidates. That, or you might wind up hiring someone with an amazing understanding of any given language, but who lacks in many of the other “soft” skills necessary to function within your business or on a team.

What is a “Soft” Skill?

Soft skills are often referred to as common or core skills and are personality traits and characteristics that are rooted in a person’s behavior and attitude. Although these skills aren’t nearly as quantifiable as hard skills (such as knowledge of a particular programming language), they are just as valuable and most often have a very positive impact on productivity and interaction with other team members.

Now that you know what a soft skill is, which should you be on the lookout for when hiring new software engineers? Let’s take a look at some of the most important soft skills for you to seek.

Communication

If your developers can’t communicate well, they won’t be able to function with a team, exchange ideas with stakeholders, explain problems they discover with design or within code, or be a part of bug squashing or marketing efforts for the project. The ability to communicate is absolutely essential for any team member. 

This is especially so, given how many businesses have opted for a remote work environment. Because of this, meetings are now held via Zoom (or other platforms), where team members can find themselves put on the spot to communicate problems or collaborate. With effective communication, a team member is better capable of helping to shorten a project lifecycle and make everything work more efficiently. 

Collaboration and Teamwork

It should go without saying that your developers must have these soft skills. Without the ability to effectively collaborate and work with a team, those employees will be challenged to function and help make the project come to fruition. To be a good team player, a hire needs to be able and willing to go above and beyond what’s asked of them and take whatever steps are required to help their team get the job done.

This collaboration must go beyond sharing code in GitHub and helping debug. Those team members must be capable of sharing and taking advice from those above them, below them, and on the same level. Additionally, those on a team must also respect their fellow developer’s work, ethics, and needs.

Time Management and Organization

If your developers can’t effectively handle time management, they’ll have trouble meeting deadlines. The same holds true with their organizational skills. Both of these traits can go a long way to helping developers become effective and productive team members.

When someone works with a teammate who has effective time management skills, they know they can count on them to get their part of the job done. Without those skills, fellow teammates will find themselves frustrated and constantly having to pick up the slack for those who can’t manage their time.

Emotional Intelligence

When you hire a developer with solid emotional intelligence, you’re getting someone with the ability to successfully take in and interpret not only their own emotions but the emotions of others. With this skill, a developer is more capable of handling the inevitable emotional pressure that often accompanies developers.

Deadlines will loom, pressure will build, tempers will flare. With a high level of emotional intelligence, a developer is better capable of handling anything that comes their way, without breaking down or lashing out. A big part of emotional intelligence is having strong active listening skills. A person that can actively listen to another is able to process what they experience productively and efficiently.

Culpability

Things go wrong. That’s inevitable. When something does go awry (be it a mistake in code or a missed deadline), the last thing you need to deal with is a team of developers playing the “blame game.” You need to hire developers who are willing to admit their mistakes, so the team can move forward, solve the problem, and meet the deadline.

Without culpability, you’ll find employees spending too much time pointing the finger of blame at others. Your engineers must understand it’s okay to admit mistakes and (barring extreme circumstances) they won’t lose their job for accepting responsibility.

Creative Problem solving

Some problems are pretty easily solved with logic and reason. This is especially so within the realm of software development. But every once in a while a creative solution will not only solve the problem but will give birth to an even better end result.

Creative people put out creative work. If you want a development team that is capable of pushing boundaries and thinking well outside the standard-issue box, you need to look for developers capable of creative problem-solving.

Adaptability and Versatility

If you hire someone who is rigid and incapable of adapting to different circumstances, you’ll find you’ve employed a developer who will get in the way of progress. Not everything goes as planned and Murphy’s law never fails to rear its ugly head.

When a project goes off the rails, you need developers who can roll with the changes thrown at them by shifting needs, an issue that arises within the code presented by another team member, or a problem that develops with a broken API. By hiring developers who are adaptable and versatile, you can be sure those projects will be completed, no matter what is thrown their way.

Patience

Things don’t always happen overnight. Sometimes a project will find itself in a holding pattern while waiting for the work from a team or a third party. When that happens, your developers need to show patience. Just because one team member hit the finish line way before the others, it doesn’t mean they can rush the work and expect it to be quality.

Every member of the team must understand that not all developers work at the same pace. On top of that, when the project is out of the hands of the developers and in the laps of, say, marketing or management, they’re going to have to seriously exercise patience.

This is especially so within the realm of DevOps, where more than just developers are working on a project. Those in operations might not fully comprehend a problem as quickly as a developer, so patience (as they say) will be a virtue.

Conclusion

Remember, programming isn’t the only skill your employees should have. Yes, it’s probably best to place a higher priority on the skills that will have an immediate and direct impact on a project but you should never underestimate these soft skills that can make an employee more effective, efficient, productive, and easier to work with.

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