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Hiring Software Engineers? Here's How to Assess Their Soft Skills

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Hiring Software Engineers? Here's How to Assess Their Soft Skills

​Despite how they might appear to the onlooker, software engineering jobs aren’t all about cold calculations and endless number vacuums – the modern engineer utilizes a range of (for want of a better term) soft skills to flourish in tech.

Technical proficiency alone doesn’t guarantee a job. Software engineering has undergone some fundamental changes in recent years, whether that’s through the evolution of the DevOps philosophy or the widespread adoption of AI, the requirements for the ideal engineer appear to be in a constant state of flux. Strong soft skills can provide the foundations that allow for adaptability.

This raises a particular challenge for hiring managers: How do you target and assess those soft skills in potential candidates?

1. Lean on Follow-Up Questions

Nothing beats a good follow-up question. Did your candidate mention they led a project to success? Ask them how they approached managing a range of different personalities. Did they take a new app to market? Ask them how they were able to successfully collaborate across multiple functions.

How a candidate approaches the follow-up question can reveal how their interpersonal skills look in a high-pressure situation (like a job interview). It’s important to not underestimate just how nervous people get at job interviews – if you can account for that and take steps to put them at ease, you’ll get a much better understanding. After all, an interview should be about unlocking the best a candidate has to offer, not holding them back.

2. Situational Questions/High-Level Technical Conversations

Situational questions are naturally open-ended, and since there’s not (technically speaking) a yes or no answer, they can be a good tool for getting to know what your candidate’s interpersonal skills might look like in action.

It’s worth asking your candidate high-level technical questions through this lens too, as it creates an opportunity to learn more about the specific impact their projects had on the overall business goals or end-users, what they might do differently if they could go back, and how well they communicate technical concepts (giving you a chance to dig into the specs at the same time).

3. Revisit Your Job Criteria

Does your job criteria explicitly state that you’re on the lookout for soft skills? Your role specifics must align with the interview process – it not only helps attract relevant candidates, but it can also be a tool for marketing your company culture.

Speaking of culture, hiring candidates who fit the status quo (a culture fit) can be a major hurdle. Focussing on hiring for a culture add, however, is more than a semantic change, it’s a complete methodological overhaul. Culture adds (or culture contributors) represent broader organizational growth, creating space for the question: What will this candidate bring to our company culture?

In this context, the interview can become an exploration of the candidate’s potential to adapt, communicate, elevate, and lead – all crucial soft skills.

4. Pre-Screening

Pre-screening your candidates with a quick phone call is a great way to shrink the candidate pool. Asking a few high-level questions can grant you a great deal of insight into their soft skills long before you reach the interview stage.

As specialized digital tech recruiters, we can help you with this (and every other step on the list). Whether you want more tech recruitment insights or you’re hoping to hire top-tier software engineers, our community-led recruitment services have you covered. Get in touch with the team here to find out more.