Technical Skills VS Soft Skills: Which Are More Important?

Technical Skills VS Soft Skills: Which Are More Important?

Let’s imagine the situation of a sincere job interview for a second. It would be something like this:

– Why do you want to work for us?

– Well, I’m very passionate about not starving to death.

You probably saw dozens of similar memes that ridicule the hiring processes in the modern age. No doubt about it, job hunting often feels like a job itself as you have to be at the top of your game, mingle around and network, and try your best to leave a good impression. All of this can make you feel a bit anxious.

Grabbing hiring officers’ attention is the first big challenge. Once you get their attention – you are granted a chance to be heard.

However, before actually hitting the interview, you need to pin down your strengths, outline your technical and soft skills, and define what makes you a desirable candidate. In the sea of other people aiming for the same position as you, why should you be granted employment?

The competition is harsh, especially because knowledge is more accessible than ever before – all thanks to the internet. The digital age contributed to democratizing education. With online courses and a handful of quality articles, you can learn something new every day and therefore avoid falling into a skill rot. The resources are there, but it’s up to you what you will do with them.

Technical skills are perhaps more tangible, easier to learn and simpler to test, but what about soft skills? Could it be that they are at least equally important? Should you even perceive the two through binary categories?

Gaining a Fuller Understanding of Technical Skills

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while pursuing your career is to think your learning stops once you hang your diploma on the wall. With this kind of attitude, you might as well throw it into the trash.

Let’s talk about technical skills.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while pursuing your career is to think your learning stops once you hang your diploma on the wall.

Technical skills revolve around your professional knowledge and abilities which are specific to your industry. They are concrete and obtained not just through formal education, but through work experience, various types of training, self-learning, informal education, internships, observing, and listening. Once listed in a CV – technical skills serve as an indicator of your expertise.

In addition to the exact job-related skills, other skills that can be classified as technical (or hard) are, for example – the knowledge of foreign languages or useful tools.

Are Technical Skills Enough?

Not really, no.

Technical skills are perhaps more tangible, easier to learn, and simpler to test, but did you know that soft skills are promoted as the more relevant ones in the job market?

Yes, you read that right the first time. Modern employers cite teamwork, effective communication, leadership, time management, and flexibility as the most important skills a candidate should possess in order to land a job. 

Any job, for that matter. So don’t think the IT industry is exempt from this. In fact, Steve Jobs himself emphasized that technology alone is not enough. During the hiring process, he favored passion over experience as he believed that a passionate employee can manage themselves, understand the mission of his company and work towards the set goal.

Google, as well, promotes soft over technical skills, and they even have the research to back this claim. A study they conducted with their own employees showed that the most important qualities at Google include good coaching, communication, insightfulness, empathy, and critical thinking. Their best and most productive teams exhibit equality, curiosity toward the ideas of teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence.

Today, in order to carry out successful research, the process has to be highly interactive. It is not just about spending a lot of alone time in a lab or in front of the computer screen, gaining an understanding of the problem that requires a solution. It rather takes interaction with peers, subordinates, and superiors. 

The truth of the matter is – technology has left the back office and has taken the center stage, which is why communication through the organization is inevitable. 

Don’t get us wrong, technical skills will remain important but will have to be accompanied by with a pool of soft ones that will determine just how far the hard skills will get you. It is not uncommon for an employee with high IQ and rich experience to turn out to bee a poor employee because of the incapability to work in a team or just not being able to fit in with the company culture.

“Soft skills are clearly more valued now than they were, say, 15 years ago. The days of working on a research project in your office and throwing the result “over a wall’ are long gone.”

Brent Hailpern, head of computer science for IBM Research and IEEE Fellow

Actually, apart from situations where companies seek precisely highly-qualified experts for executive positions (usually seniors), your technical skills don’t necessarily have to be at the highest level. However, it is essential to showcase your experience and what skills you are currently working on perfecting. This signals recruiters that you are indeed an ambitious candidate who invests in personal and professional development, and therefore – someone who earns extra points for his career efforts. As a matter of fact, nurturing that thirst for new knowledge reveals a character of someone who’s committed to lifelong learning. Companies love that type of fresh-thinkers as they can benefit from them. A lot.  

That explains the trend of job-hopping. This career approach wasn’t always perceived blessedly. It was interpreted as an inability to hold a job position in a certain company. But, today, it is praised as a smart strategy in a competitive market. Of course, it can be a two-edged sword for those who are not savvy enough to recognize when it is the right time to move on and when it’s wise to stay.

Job-hopping helps you earn new skills, both technical and soft. As you change your work environment, you will face new challenges – be it the type of colleagues you collaborate with, the new role you find yourself in, or the new tools you have to master.

Whereas you as an employee can take nice advantage of snooping around for new job opportunities, HR recruiters face a difficult task of retaining top talent within their company. So, as you see – the new work landscape is not easy for employers either: companies cannot afford to hold a passive position anymore.     

Soft Skills Are Gaining Momentum

Many industries will go through disruption and competition for specific roles will get more fierce as the years go by. Recruiters will also experience difficulties in this setting, mainly in means of properly filtering out candidates and acquiring top talent. Skill demands (in technical means) will continue to evolve rapidly across all sorts of industries, predominantly because of innovations in technology.

If you think about it – as technical demands are constantly evolving, the technical skills you have today might not be sufficient for the job you will be asked to do tomorrow

This is why employers started putting more weight on soft skills as new logical criteria for differentiating candidates. These can include positive traits and skills such as good assertive communication, high emotional and social intelligence, or willingness to share knowledge with others.

For example, if recruiters have two candidates for the position of a web developer and they both have pretty much the same professional experience and the set of technical skills – the thing that will help them make a decision is their characters and soft skills. That is what separates adequate candidates from the perfect ones. Recruiters need to assess how well each candidate would fit into the company culture.

Whereas you as an employee can take nice advantage of snooping around for new job opportunities, HR recruiters face a difficult task of retaining top talent within their company.

As we already pointed out, some of the soft skills that are highly appreciated include teamwork, effective communication, problem-solving, leadership, decisiveness, time management, and flexibility. As a potential employee, you need to provide some sort of proof that you will, in fact, be pleasant to work with and share the values of the company you’re looking to nest in.

So, what you can do (i.e. your expertise) is obviously important, but how you do it (e.g. your approach towards solving a task or the type of solutions you propose) and in the end – who you are should not be easily disregarded. As a matter of fact, the last two can outweigh your technical skills.

Great talent is not so easy to find, so if you show your potential, curiosity, and eagerness to learn – HR officers with a good eye might perceive you as a precious stone that just needs a bit more grinding and training. If you are indeed a rare bird that needs a chance to gain a bit of more specific experience, your technical skills (or better say – the lack of them) will fall into a shadow compared to your ideal worker profile.

What does this mean for you, as someone who is looking to rise above the noise and secure a job spot for yourself?

Reaching Out to the World

It’s crucial to understand recruiters don’t hire you just for your skills, but for you yourself, as a wholesome person. Times have changed and doing things the old way is simply not good enough. You need to be proactive in order to succeed. Sometimes, it feels excruciatingly hard to communicate your values and originality in the right way, so you don’t end up being perceived as a one-trick pony. One of the best ways to take full control of your personal brand and showcase your technical and soft skills, as well as personal traits – is to launch a personal website.

One of the best ways to take full control of your personal brand and showcase your technical and soft skills, as well as personal traits – is to launch a personal website

Let’s look at one successful example:

Mackenzie Child utilizes both his technical and soft skills to get his name out there and grow his personal brand. After obtaining hard (earned) skills in web design, Mackenzie decided to add his friendly and communicative nature to the mix. He built a personal website which he uses as a central hub for all his work. 

When he codes, he’s not alone; Mackenzie shares this moment with his community on his YouTube channel, and his followers appreciate his willingness to share the knowledge he possesses. 

And he never stops learning – if you take a look at the YouTube videos and tutorials on his website you’ll see that he continues to experiment and learn new things that will keep him at the top of his game.

What About You?

What about your personal website? What creative project do you have in mind? What are your skills, where does your uniqueness hide? Today, it’s fairly easy to make a website and you don’t even need to know how to write a single line of code. Check out our list of free website builders and start building your online presence. If you want to make it personal and catchy, there’s no better choice than .ME!


Goran Bogunovic

Now, you're probably wondering how I got here! Running a marketing agency, educating people about branding, and helping you to develop your own presence online. To understand, you’ll need to follow me @Domain.Me

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