By Zachary Paruch February 13, 2019

Top 7 Soft Skills for Developers in 2019

Whether you’re still seeking that perfect job or simply wanting to bring your stint of unemployment to a timely end, soft skills are the tool to realize your goals.

Specifically, soft skills are individual personality traits that determine whether you will work well with your colleagues and be a good fit at a company. These are intangible but extremely important for almost every kind of position.

Soft skills include things like good communication, honesty, teamwork, punctuality, integrity, and organization.

Hard skills are concrete things you’ve learned or mastered. For example, JavaScript, CSS, and HTML are all hard skills. In the non-dev world, driving is another example of one.

While hard and soft skills may be different, they both play a key role in getting you a job (and keeping you there). And though hard skills are undoubtedly vital to whether you are qualified for work as a software developer, it’s your soft skills that will ultimately determine your level of success.

In this article, we are going to explore seven soft skills that companies are looking for in 2019 and share some tips on how you can showcase them on your resume—after all, there’s no point in having a marketable skill if you don’t advertise it.

1. Work Ethic: Your Ability to Buckle Down

Remaining motivated can sometimes be challenging—especially when you’re working on a project that doesn’t inspire you. Humans are admittedly not hard-wired to work for eight hours a day, so being able to work efficiently is vital if you want to impress your boss and not let down your team by creating unnecessary delays.

Work ethic is essential, because it’s the difference between a great idea and a great product. If only 99 percent of your code is written, your website won’t work. To get to 100 percent completion, you need a good work ethic. So, for hiring managers, work ethic is an indispensable quality for new hires.

But how do you prove your work ethic with only a resume?

Unfortunately, “work ethic” is one phrase that raises the ire of many HR bosses. Instead of simply listing “work ethic” among your skills, use your work experience section to flesh out your claim.

You can do this by mentioning a time you worked hard to meet a tough deadline, for example. You’ll look even better if you can clarify how often you meet deadlines:

“Oversaw full life cycle of software development for nine projects with 100 percent on-time delivery while staying 5 percent under budget.”

In this example, the candidate’s work ethic shines through because we see that they oversaw the full life cycles of nine projects, meeting the deadlines in all nine cases.

2. Adaptability: Your Willingness to Adjust

Adaptability has long topped lists outlining the key soft skills for a resume, and unsurprisingly, hiring managers continue to regard it as essential because it shows them that you can handle any changes in the development environment—regardless of your initial background.

As a tech industry worker, you know that software and hardware evolve at an unflagging rate. Many of the tools you used when you started out in the industry may have lost favor.

Whether it’s new programming languages or Java frameworks, hiring managers need employees who can adapt to the latest technological developments.

But how do you convey this adaptability on a resume?

There are several strategies you can use to convey your adaptability and versatility.

Prove Your Adaptability Through Your Hard Skills

It may sound counterintuitive, but certain hard skills—even technical skills firmly rooted in software—can help reflect your ability in various soft-skill areas.

Let’s say you’ve just learned a new computing language. Although you don’t think it’s a useful language right now, you still took a class because you found it interesting.

You might not even think that it’s necessary in your particular industry, so you decide not to put it on your resume. That may be a mistake.

Although the particular language you studied may be novel and unpopular for the time being, the fact that you’ve learned it when it’s practically fresh-out-of-the-box proves that you are adaptable and flexible.

Even if the hiring manager has to Google it, there’s a good chance they’ll be impressed with your willingness to learn a new language.

Plus, many job seekers would never go to all that trouble, so it makes you appear more driven than the average applicant.

Add Data to Your Work Experience

As well as listing a couple of new languages or frameworks to hint at your adaptability, you can prove your adaptability in your work experience section by using key statistics to back up your claims.

For instance, a hiring manager probably sees something like this on a resume quite often:

“Overcame PHP performance wall by using Crystal.”

The problem is that this claim is out of context and vague. You can prove your adaptability by quantifying that experience to show exactly how you handled a difficult situation.

“Overcame PHP performance wall by using Crystal, leading to a 4.7 percent increase in efficiency.”

By adding statistics to your resume, you make it clear that regardless of the problems you face as a developer, you can adapt to them and triumph.

3. Teamwork: How Well You Work With Others

Although developers spend a sizable part of the day working independently, collaborating as part of a team is still vital, as it’s often the best way to create a coherent product.

Developers should remain conscious of team goals and interface with colleagues regularly. However, such interactions don’t necessarily have to be in person. Online collaboration tools, including Slack, G Suite, and Trello, are fantastic ways to keep in touch and up to date on the latest projects.

You can exhibit your dedication to your team in several ways. One example is by taking new hires under your wing; this is something that can be mentioned on your resume:

“Trained over 50 staff members in internal web functions, including how to independently make updates and changes.”

You should add this whether or not your boss formally asked you to show these new hires the ropes—after all, the fact that you’ve taken the initiative to step in and mentor someone reflects well on you either way.

4. Ability to Take Criticism: Your Willingness to Grow

No one enjoys being criticized, but it’s an inevitability for all of us. Being able to accept constructive criticism is a character facet that goes a long way in an industry like software development, where a broad and deep knowledge is required.

As well as being reactive in terms of receiving criticism, the open-mindedness needed to grow also requires you to be proactive by seeking out advice from others and conveying whether you think their feedback is useful.

Although we are taught to use our resumes to cast ourselves in the best light and highlight our greatest work-related achievements, there’s no harm in admitting that you don’t know everything.

You can use your resume’s education or skills section to mention a new online course on computer skills you’re starting or a class you’d like to take. Doing so shows the hiring manager that you know you’re not perfect and you’re constantly striving to learn more.

5. Empathy: How Well You Put Yourself in Others’ Shoes

Empathy is typically associated with being able to put yourself in the place of someone else. For developers, empathy is about putting yourself in the place of (i) your colleagues and (ii) your clients. In 2019, this is more important than ever because the demand for developers has never been higher—meaning the likelihood of new customers is great. Empathy will help you not just deal with them but also understand them and their needs.

Empathize With Your Colleagues

Remembering how it felt to start your first job out of college is sometimes difficult. It’s only natural to roll your eyes at the latest blunder made by the office’s newest hire.

Of course, it’s not only the new kid on the block who encounters hurdles; sometimes, your supervisor might be feeling the pressure from their own boss, or team morale might have taken a hit for whatever reason.

Colleagues of all ilks appreciate a kind word. Empathy can really help a team gel. Thus, it’s among the most important soft skills; it’s even been identified as the No. 1 job soft skill.

Empathize With Your Clients

You’re an expert in IT; it’s important not to assume your clients are, too. When you program, you should cater to their needs rather than to what you think they should need. Thus, it’s vital to signal to hiring managers that you can effectively put yourself in the client’s place—from accessing your website or service initially, to making a purchase or whatever the endpoint is supposed to be.

By developing empathy, you can make sure that your product offers what your clients want. You can assess how well you’re doing here using Google Search Console. If your site has a high click-through rate, it’s evidence that you’ve effectively prioritized the needs of your visitors. In your resume, you can demonstrate your empathy by mentioning such details:

“Designed and developed a user-friendly website, including optimized check-out page that increased page clicks and subsequently customer purchases by 20 percent.”

This example shows that you’ve foreseen what your clients want from a website because the page clicks and purchases have both jumped.

6. Approachability: Your Level of Accessibility

For many, there’s nothing more enjoyable than picking out a favorite album, slipping on some headphones, and getting down to work.

Unfortunately, from an approachability point of view, this is the equivalent of your manager going into her office, closing the door, and lowering the blinds. It signals that she doesn’t want to chat; if she spends the entire day in her office like this, it basically tells everyone to stay away.

Approachability is increasingly vital in the workplace—especially for leaders—but it’s not the easiest attribute to prove on a resume.

However, some strategies can be used to signal this trait to potential employers. For example, if a colleague has ever given you feedback that inspired you to make a positive change at work, you can highlight this experience as proof of your approachability:

“Took colleague feedback to spearhead a 10 percent more efficient office expenses system.”

Although the reality may have been less glamorous (for example, your co-worker was griping at you over lunch), you can spin the situation into a positive on your resume simply by repackaging it.

7. Perseverance: Your Patience Through Obstacles

Despite improvements in technology, programming can still be a glacial process: Sometimes a bug prevents you from making progress until you deal with it, and simply tracking it down can be an arduous process.

Employers seek out workers who can overcome frustration and impatience to get things done. In fact, for many employers, perseverance is a more desirable attribute than intelligence. Showcase your perseverance on your resume, and you’ll definitely impress hiring managers:

“Hosted a weekly roundtable with colleagues until the incidence of bugs had decreased by 10 percent.”

This bullet point shows not only that you get your job done but also that you’re in it for the long haul, going back over it as many times as necessary to perfect it. Your patience and perseverance will take you far as a developer, and employers are on the lookout for such attributes in future hires.

Don’t Skimp on the Soft Skills!

Between the blockchain, progressive web apps, and on-demand software, devs have plenty to focus on in terms of hard skills in 2019.

Because the software industry emphasizes hard skills—like languages and frameworks—job seekers tend to undervalue soft skills.

But researchers have found that the demand for hard skills increases alongside that for soft skills.

While you’re focusing on the skill sets needed to meet these demands, don’t forget that soft skills are more and more crucial to your chances of landing your dream job.

They sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve, but they actually make the difference between getting a good job and a great job.

If you’re worried that your soft skills are not up to scratch, there’s no need to worry—they’re easy to improve: Because they’re based on your personality, you simply have to put yourself in situations where you can hone them.

So, take out your resume—if you don’t have one yet, there are plenty of great templates available online—and think about how you can express any of these aforementioned soft skills to hiring managers. You might just be surprised by the number of interviews you start landing in the future.

About the author

    Zachary Paruch

    Zachary Paruch is a product manager and small business expert at Termly, where he helps to develop legal policy software for small businesses. When he’s not saving SMBs from lawsuits and financial ruin, he can be found playing soccer, binging a Netflix series, or getting a beer with some good friends.