What is the hallmark of exceptional tech talent? Is it deep proficiency with best practices like ITIL? Is it enviable Python coding prowess? Perhaps it’s something a bit harder to identify.
IT initiatives are more aligned with business strategy than ever, and IT recruiting involves far more than simply checking boxes for certifications and education. According to research from West Monroe Partners, 78 percent of recruiters already emphasize the importance of soft skills related to communicating and collaborating in their search for qualified technologists.
What are the soft skills and qualities that a top tech hire should possess? Here are four to consider and tips on how to screen for them.
1. Effective collaboration
There was a time when IT could hole up in server rooms and avoid human interaction altogether, but that time has long since passed. As digital transformation reshapes how business is being done, tech pros are interacting more frequently and directly in the line of business, and their collaboration skills—or lack thereof—can determine the success of a technology initiative. And having IT staff who are willing to partner with colleagues on troubleshooting tasks and administrative projects can have a profound influence on your IT team’s cohesion as well.
As you assess a candidate’s capacity for collaboration, ask them about a time when they navigated organizational silos to improve a technology solution or process. Note how readily they will share credit with colleagues if they describe a group effort. As Glassdoor notes, testimonials from peers, partners, customers, and direct reports can also demonstrate a proven track record of effective collaboration.
2. Emotional intelligence
If you’ve ever rushed to the aid of a distraught user whose computer has crashed, you already know that being an IT pro can sometimes mean serving as a de facto technology therapist. Tech is critical to most business operations, and a crashed device could make it difficult to answer urgent communications from a client or manager. It’s important for IT pros to be patient with others whose tech skills may not be on par with their own and to empathize with users who face challenging scenarios when the tech they depend on stops working.
To that end, look to identify tech pros who demonstrate a customer service mindset. They should be able to perform their duties and communicate the facts of the situation to a colleague calmly and effectively, even if that colleague is having a hard time.
3. Critical thinking
Tech candidates must have a knack for problem-solving, as critical thinking is vital to IT success in the information age. IT pros must be able to analyze complex situations, understand their business implications, determine the best solutions, and then clearly explain their reasoning to stakeholders and decision-makers. HR Dive advises organizations to offer current staff and new hires internal training to sharpen critical-thinking skills—whether that takes the form of online courses or specific professional growth opportunities proposed by the employees themselves.
4. Thirst for knowledge
According to the Spiceworks State of IT 2019 report, 52 percent of IT pros are looking for new jobs because they want to advance their skills. This is especially true for millennials, who know that the most lucrative and rewarding IT career paths require a broad range of sophisticated skills and subject matter expertise. Software engineers pursuing IoT careers, for example, may need to familiarize themselves with disciplines as varied as economics, cryptography, and network security.
Consider upskilling new hires and veterans—especially in commonly overlooked and shifting areas like print security. Not only will your technology staff benefit from this, but you will also stand a better chance of attracting top tech talent to new positions. As Robert Half points out, upskilling can take many forms, including lunch-and-learns, mentoring programs, and even microlearning sessions.
Re-envision top tech talent for IT success
IT recruiting for the future of business is about more than enticing tech pros with specialized backgrounds in cybersecurity or artificial intelligence. Exceptional IT staff should thrive in a collaborative environment, care about helping users succeed in their own roles, and want to find creative opportunities for professional development. By hiring IT pros with these qualities, you can equip your tech team with the skills they need to be successful.