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The Importance of Evaluating Non-Technical Skills in Tech Talent Hiring

Learn why skills and fit are vital to tech recruitment and how to best assess non-technical skills in your tech candidates.

It is clear that digital skills have grown in demand beyond tech companies and outside of IT functions. In the technology domain, having people that possess the needed technical skills and strategic acumen is pivotal. However, just like any other job and role, possessing non-technical skills is also important. These are skills that transcend functions, roles, and industries.

Attracting and recruiting candidates who have the right combination of technical and non-technical skills is not easy, let alone selecting the ones that fit the function and can conform to the organization’s values. According to Gartner’s IT Score for Sourcing and Procurement report, even though attracting and hiring talent is of high priority to many companies, it is still of low maturity. This means that despite the immense importance, many organizations’ talent acquisition functions are still not fully developed nor aligned with the priorities. Whether organizations are ready or not, knowing how to attract top tech talent, assess them properly and objectively, and select them is critical for success.

This is why hiring tech talent is so much more than just hard skills and acquiring talent that fits the role will make a difference.

Why Skills and Fit Are Crucial in Tech Hiring

In the world that is getting increasingly digitalized, humans are still the beating heart of everything we do. You can buy and invest in any technology you want, but a digital future depends on people and their efforts—after all, who leads digital transformation…? People! not robots.

Various talents must work together to make tech projects happen and succeed. Therefore, you need people that are not only skillful, but also collaborative, communicative, and creative. Gathering technically adept people together in one room will not work if they do not have the ability to listen to each other’s ideas nor do they share the same passion and motivation.

Gartner’s Top Priorities for IT: Leadership Vision for 2021 report mentioned that to catch up with the speed of transformation in technology, namely analytics, AI, and robotics, organizations must focus more on competencies rather than mere technical skill sets. Tech giants like Google also agree that what makes a great tech candidate is beyond hard skills, because together, technical and non-technical skills make up for a job fit.

And why is this so crucial? It is because:

1. Skills can be taught, but character cannot

You can teach someone new skills, but you cannot change who they are—not really. When you see a candidate, who has the right vision and ideal personality for the role but lacks the experience or technical background in one particular programming language, do not sort them out yet. By saying this, I do not mean to take away the importance of possessing technical skills and background, but many technical skills can be developed through on-the-job training and courses. Organizations need to take charge and act as mentors who nurture, upskill, and coach their people, no matter what their roles and functions.

2. Bad tech hires can be costly

Do not underestimate the impact of bad tech hire. Hiring the wrong person can affect not only the morale of the team, but also the organizations product roadmap. Candidates who are smart individually but cannot function in a team, cannot adapt to changes, or are unmotivated are less likely to be high performers.

3. Overall fit increases performance and productivity

When a candidate’s personality, motivation, experience, and skills fit a role, the individual will be more satisfied with the job. This will eventually lead to commitment and productivity. Think of yourself—if you are in the candidate’s position—if you are hired for a job that fits you, you will feel more motivated to do your best compared to if you are hired for a job that does not suit who you are and what you can do.

Below I will explain more about what important competencies you need to look for in your tech candidates and how to assess them.

When a candidate’s personality, motivation, experience, and skills fit a role, the individual will be more satisfied with the job.

The Essential Non-technical Skills for Tech Jobs

  1. Works to high-quality standards – This is true no matter what your tech stack is and no matter how large a QA function you might have.
  2. Maintains good working relationships – Remember, the success of a project does not depend on a single person. There are always multiple stakeholders involved in it ranging from business managers, engineers, scientists, to suppliers. The ability to listen to others, build trust with each other, and work together to achieve the common goal is the one that makes a project successful.
  3. Critically evaluates – This relates to the ability to understand issues, look at them from different angles and perspectives, and create a logical connection between different ideas.
  4. Uses time efficiently – Every job has one thing in common: deadlines. It does not matter if you work in a restaurant or a tech company, you have to deliver something within a time frame. Knowing how and what to prioritize as well as being able to work efficiently to meet deadlines is definitely a great quality for any tech hires to have, as tech jobs are often project-related.
  5. Adapts to change – Nothing goes smoothly all the time, but the ability to adjust quickly and calmly to changes is indispensable for success.
  6. Generates new ideas – Sometimes disruptions can happen when you run a tech project. Candidates who are able to think out of the box and deliver creative solutions are certainly valuable to any organization.
  7. Makes quick decisions – Even decisions involving some form of risk need to be made quickly now and then.
  8. Analyses information – Information will come from everywhere—managers, customers, data, support tickets, competitors. Knowing what key information to pay attention to, weigh up, and act upon is critical.
  9. Learns quickly – The highest performing engineering organizations do not sit still. There are new technologies, ways of working, and techniques to adapt to and adopt. Having a learning mindset is key.
  10. Strives to achieve – This includes setting demanding goals and making a determined effort to meet or exceed them.

How to Best Assess Non-technical Skills in Tech Candidates

Now that you know all the competencies crucial to tech talent recruitment, you need to know how to assess them properly. Use scientifically proven tools that provide accurate and comprehensive insights on your candidates, so you can make the best and objective decisions. Specifically, you can start with the following tips:

  • Create a set of criteria to measure against. There are so many considerations and key factors in tech recruitment which range from what makes a tech talent great to improving diversity. When you plan, think of what quality you want in candidates and what you want to achieve and list your preferences.
  • Combine technical skill assessment with non-technical skill assessment. Measuring skills in one programming language is one part, but not all of the equation when finding high performers. Conduct a multi-method assessment to better evaluate your candidates. Match up a technical skills assessment such as Coding Interview in conjunction with non-technical skills assessment such as behavioralpersonality, and job-focused assessments.

Measuring skills in one programming language is one part, but not all of the equation when finding high performers.

  • Select a platform that accommodates a wide range of assessments. Having one enterprise vendor for multiple assessments helps cut costs and increase efficiency. Moreover, it is also easier to compare data. Data is the core capability of any digital business, connecting people, processes, and technology, and having all your people data in one platform will help you make the best hiring decisions.

Hiring tech talent that possesses not only technical skills but also non-technical skills is important for success because they better determine if a candidate will be a high performer. Evaluating candidates from multiple competencies will give you the best employees. That is why organizations must implement a multi-method assessment and use the right tools that provide objective and rigorous insights.

Learn more about our Technology Hiring Solution, which helps improve your tech hiring process with our AI-powered technology and engaging candidate experience.

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Sam Whiteman

Sam Whiteman is the Head of Strategic Initiatives at SHL. He has more than ten years in advising and building solutions for CHRO’s and their organizations.

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