According to a 2016 Wall Street Journal survey, 92% of executives consider soft skills and technical skills to be equally important. Soft skills have been a buzzword in the tech hiring marketplace for a long time, but do they really matter when hiring a software developer for your startup or small business? The answer is yes. Studies show that skills like communication, negotiation, and teamwork lead to greater success for software teams. In this article, we’ll discuss why that is and which soft skills you should consider when hiring a developer for your startup or small business.
With Wing Assistant, you don’t have to worry about software developer soft skills when hiring. Wing provides dedicated, fully managed developers at competitive rates with no contract. Our transparent pricing model and month-to-month payment agreements make us a good fit for small businesses and startups. We also have a unique interview process that emphasizes the developer’s soft skills, pre-vetting qualified candidates so you don’t have to.
A managed solution may be a good choice for your company. Here are reasons why soft skills are so important when adding a new member to your development team.
The Importance of Soft Skills for Software Developers
The need to build and maintain soft skills has been especially acute since the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work. Remote work is highly prized in the software development workforce, with 91% of respondents in one study saying that they enjoyed working from home. But teams suffer if they can’t find a software developer who has the soft skills to thrive in this kind of environment.
Which skills are we talking about specifically? In the modern workplace, soft skills have evolved into so much more than the oft-cited “interpersonal skills.”
We’ve identified five soft skills that your new software developer should have a fluency in:
- Time management
These essential qualities complement technical know-how and make an employee a valuable asset to your team. Here’s a closer look at each of these skills in-depth, and how they can benefit your business.
Software development may be changing at a rapid pace, but good communication skills are always in demand. There’s lots of research to back up why that is. According to a 2010 study of 21 software development projects and 170 participants, task-related internal communication positively predicts performance.
It’s easy to see why communication tops our list of soft skills for software developers. Developers should be able to talk about the details of their projects with their team. This raises visibility to technical debt and other issues that may come about during the development process.
Bundled into communication, we should also include emotional intelligence. The ability to establish trust, build relationships, and foster empathy are all keys to success in a fast-moving environment. Particularly in small businesses, where teams are more tight-knit, strong bonds will set your team up for success.
Good communication should be fast and efficient. All Wing Assistant software developers speak fluent English and are available within minutes during designated working hours. You can connect with your software developer using existing apps like Slack or MS Teams, or you can download Wing’s own app for quick communication. You can also text, email, or call your software developer if that’s easier. Software problems are hard enough. Communicating them to your team shouldn’t add to the problem.
Good software developers are natural problem solvers. Whether it’s bugs, documentation, migrations, or any number of other tasks both large and small, a good developer needs to love tackling issues. But problem-solving skills should extend beyond just writing code. When hiring a senior developer, make sure they have good delegation skills too. It’s important that they understand the scope of tasks and assign the right amount of work to each team member.
In addition to a dedicated software developer that you can assign unlimited work to, Wing clients get a Customer Success Manager who can assist with onboarding, training, and performance feedback. Your Wing Customer Success Manager is the person to call if you have an issue or would like to revise your working arrangements. It’s a team approach to problem solving that you won’t find when working with a solo developer.
Many hiring managers don’t think about negotiating skills beyond the interview phase, but negotiation is a valuable asset for most software developers. You don’t want a software developer taking on more than they can handle. To add to that, stakeholders within your company may have different expectations. A developer with good negotiating skills can argue successfully for more budget dollars to devote to the project, which ultimately benefits everyone.
At Wing Assistant, we make negotiation easy for you. We have a transparent pricing model, so the price you see on your developer’s profile is the price you pay. Don’t waste valuable time haggling over rates like you would when hiring a solo practitioner.
Speaking of time, time management skills are a major asset to every software team. Once your development team takes on a project, they will need excellent time management skills because there’s a good chance that they have more than one project going at a time. After all, time is the most important asset your software team has.
All Wing Assistant employees undergo rigorous quality control measures to ensure that they are performing to the top of their abilities. Your Wing software dev shows up on day one ready to work, and there’s a free 1-week trial period to make sure that they are a good fit. In addition, devs are fully managed, so our operations team can make sure that they are working efficiently and being a productive member of the team.
At Wing, we take a team approach to providing remote support for businesses. Which brings us to our next soft skill on the list: teamwork.
If you have a small business, startup, or medium-sized enterprise, teamwork is key. Cross-functional teams need to collaborate and occasionally need to help each other out. For instance, marketing needs to know about new features coming up in the development cue and understand delays.
Wing Assistant’s developers are each connected to trainers and supervisors who can train them on new tools and tasks. Use the Wing in-app training module to oversee training your developer on new concepts that you choose, or use the materials made available by Wing Assistant. It’s a lot easier to build camaraderie when you have simple tools to support your staff.
How to Evaluate Soft Skills in Software Developers
Hiring managers need to evaluate a candidate's soft skills during the hiring process. This is easier said than done. As you sift through the endless stream of resumes for an open position, the process of evaluating soft skills can often take hours. But it is well worth the effort if you want to hire the right candidate and avoid a costly mistake.
Here are a few tips for finding candidates with the right combination of soft skills for your development team:
- Review of resumes and cover letters for soft skills
- Conduct behavioral interviews
- Check references thoroughly
- Develop a reliable personality assessment
Reviewing the candidate’s resume and cover letter for communication skills, teamwork experience, and other soft skills is a must. You can do a quick scan for terms like “teamwork”, “communication”, and “collaboration”.
Behavioral interviews are another good option. These specialized interviews gauge a candidate's problem-solving skills and ability to work in a team right on the spot and are especially popular in the software world. There are plenty of tech blogs and YouTube channels that will teach how to do it right.
References are one of the few opportunities you get to understand what it’s like to work with someone from an outside perspective. Ask references for specific examples of the candidate's soft skills in action. You should check references for every position, but especially when vetting software developer candidates.
For an added layer of verification, consider personality assessments to get a better understanding of a candidate's strengths and weaknesses. This can be a more involved process but worth the time if you have it.
Another proven strategy for finding talent is to go with a managed solution. The robust vetting process at Wing Assistant allows hiring managers to choose from a pre-vetted list of highly qualified candidates, saving time and effort. Here’s a summary of how we do it:
- Video application
- 2 online tests customized by developer skill set
- Casual face-to-face video interview
- Technical interview
- 1-week trial phase
Only the top 1% of candidates become Wing-Certified Developers, and this is the candidate pool we present to your business.
When you’ve selected a developer you’d like to work with, they join your team for 1 week for free. Wing software developers are fully managed, which is ideal for busy entrepreneurs and small businesses. Our trouble-free contract scheme lets teams discontinue services and re-establish a month-to-month contract at any time.
Teams can use established project management software like Jira or Asana to connect with their dev, or opt for Wing’s custom task queue software. Add tasks to the easy-to-use task queue, and watch as your Wing dev takes care of them. Assign unlimited tasks to your Wing software developer and they will complete them during the agreed upon working hours.
Wing devs are available part-time or full-time, up to 40 hours a week. Want to ensure tasks get done while your team sleeps? Simply choose an 8-hour time block while your team is out of the office and you can review work when you return the next day. With a global talent pool to choose from, Wing Assistant makes options like these possible.
Soft Skills in Action for Software Developers
According to one study conducted by Cornell University, businesses are doing a good job screening for soft skills in software development, but they often fail at utilizing these skills in the role itself.
According to a 2021 study, software and IT workers with strong soft skills exhibited high levels of confluence, an ability to apply what they share and learn directly to their job. They are also more likely to embrace change.
Soft skills matter at any stage of software development. As another 2021 study notes, communication skills might be crucial during the early phases of the project management cycle, but quality concern might take more precedence in later phases.
Building these types of skills takes time however. It also requires a degree of management buy-in. According to another study, 88% of respondents reported success with supervisor/manager coaching to build soft skills. If you’re a small business, you may not have the time to invest in these initiatives. That’s where a managed solution like Wing Assistant can really make a difference.
The Bottom Line: Software Developer Soft Skills Matter
If you’re looking for a software developer for your small business, you need to evaluate soft skills during the hiring process. No software team can afford to hire a developer who is a bad communicator or who has no time management skills. In the past, it was incredibly difficult to screen for these skills in an efficient way. But Wing Assistant helps you avoid staffing mistakes and wasted time.
Get dedicated, fully-managed Silicon Valley-level talent at a fraction of the cost. Wing Assistant takes the stress and hassle out of the hiring and onboarding process, so you can focus on mission-critical work. Try us out with a 1 week trial free per developer when you sign up today. Contact a Wing Assistant Customer Success Manager today to find out how we can help your business.
Dan Eder writes frequently about digital marketing trends, SaaS, and e-commerce. He has previously worked as a content writer at an SEO agency for tech companies, an e-commerce specialist at a Fortune 500 company, and a journalist for several educational outlets. Read more from him at www.daneder.com.