Hard skills vs. soft skills: What is more important now in the labor market?

September 9, 2022

Maria Nikolaeva, CMO of Usetech, discusses the importance of hard and soft skills in IT. From the article, you will learn what is in demand from specialists now, how interviews are held at Usetech and what awaits IT in the future.

The advantage towards one of the skills largely depends on the industry and specialization of the employee. At the same time, the best employee is the one whose skills complement each other or are distributed in more or less equal proportion.

Let’s look at examples of the importance of soft and hard skills in several industries.

For example, a promoter, waiter, sales manager needs communication skills to a greater extent, and a researcher, engineer or physicist needs tough, technical skills.

Even within the same profession, there may be a skew in skills. Let’s analyze the profession of analyst, with two specializations: business and system. The balance of skills is significant for business analytics, since this profession implies not only close work with the customer, work in a team and with potential clients, but also knowledge and methodologies, as well as the ability to simulate processes. But system analytics is more important than hard skills, since most of its work involves analyzing the customer’s requirements, working with documents, setting up a TA, etc. That is, communication for the most part within the team.

Research at Harvard University has shown that for a successful career and work, the required ratio of soft and tough skills is 3 to 1, that is, 85% success in the professional field depends on soft skills.

Don’t forget that soft skills are laid in childhood and develop throughout life under the influence of certain situations. While tough can be obtained in a certain period of time, having completed vocational training. Any skill can be developed if you make efforts and understand the “problem areas,” only their development period is different. For example, our employees have an individual development plan (DPI), which may include points on the development of soft or tough skills: take any course or training on the development of soft skills or undergo professional training to obtain hard skills.

I want to share my experience in recruiting employees in our company. All our applicants first undergo an HR interview to check that the vacancy and soft skills match, and only at the 2nd stage there is a meeting with a technical interviewer to analyze and assess hard skills.

At the same time, we are still talking about a more or less equal ratio of skills, or a slight superiority of the tough ones. This proportion allows a successful career to be built because an IT professional can be with the highest emotional intelligence Daniel Goleman wrote about in his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”, but write terrible code and vice versa: it is bad to communicate with the team and potential customers, but at the same time have almost perfect code.

Both options drag a bunch of problems that could lead to a breakdown in the working relationship. By the way, this is why the IT industry is one of the main consumers of courses and trainings on the development of soft and tough skills.

As a result, in the IT industry, we see a slight bias towards tough skills, but even within one specialization, their proportions change.

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