8 Important Soft Skills for Software Developers | ITExpert

8 Soft Skills Every Software Developer Needs to Achieve for Career Growth

ITExpert team 11.01.2023
ITExpert Blog HR
8 Soft Skills Every Software Developer Needs to Achieve for Career Growth

Google experts have found that developed soft skills are directly related to the IT team’s productivity. Therefore, candidates with advanced soft skills are more in demand—everyone interacts with colleagues, management, or customers: whether you are a project manager, designer, or DevOps Engineer.

Deloitte Access Economics predicts that by 2030, professions that require a high level of soft skills from an employee will make up two-thirds of all jobs. We’ve shared useful insights on what soft skills a software developer should boost to be in demand in the IT market. 

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that influence teamwork and self-organization. Whereas hard skills are professional competencies—for example, knowledge of JavaScript or Python.

The importance of soft skills was discussed in 1959 in the US military for the first time. The commanders noticed that the success of soldiers primarily depended on who and how they are led, but not on how they used military equipment or weapons.

Anti-example of Soft Skills in Software Development

Three developers of different levels—Junior, Middle, and Senior—organized an online meeting. The goal is to allocate roles, set a deadline, and discuss the specifics of performing work on a new task. The task needs to be closed ASAP, while the developers are already busy with other projects in the company.

The Junior software developer doesn’t know how to set deadlines so he could meet them and wants to make a good impression. He takes on too much work and sets an overly ambitious deadline. Also, he quickly accepts the tasks without specifying the details.

The Middle developer had already burned out a little during the last sprint, as he worked overtime at night. He joined the meeting angry, cynical, and picky. He responds aggressively and is not ready to perceive other points of view and constructive criticism.

The senior developer is triggered by disrespect from the middle software developer, they have a conflict. In the end, they finally managed to deliver some tasks. After the meeting, the senior developer did not write a detailed TA, as he is busy with other tasks. Therefore, everyone had his own idea of what To Do.

The result is that the work is done incorrectly, everything needs to be redone at an additional iteration, and the deadlines have already been missed, although each participant was in his way competent in development issues. All of that is due to the lack of advanced soft skills needed for the IT sector.

The Main Skills All Programmers Need to Have

Everyone should boost soft skills regardless of the profession to work effectively and remain in demand in the labor market. A study by the World Economic Forum, based on the forecasts of the leaders of more than 300 global companies, as well as data from LinkedIn, FutureFit.AI, and the ADP Research Institute, identified the top 10 skills that will be in demand until 2025.

Hard skills related to technology and programming occupy only two positions in the ranking. The rest are soft skills for IT and other areas that dominate the labor market.

Analytical thinking and innovation

Analytical thinking is the ability to process data. It helps to correctly understand, evaluate, systematize and structure information, find correlations and draw conclusions. 

A person with developed analytical thinking:

  • quickly breaks large problems into small ones;
  • can collect reliable information and evaluate it correctly;
  • won’t lose in a large data stream;
  • easily finds suitable solutions and alternatives;
  • builds thoughts consistently and logically;
  • easily notices the correlations between phenomena.

Top books for developing analytical thinking: 

  • “The Decision Book: 50 Models for Strategic Thinking” by Mikael Krogerus, and Roman Tschäppeler;
  • “Analytic Culture” by Karl Anderson.

An active and strategic approach to learning

As president, Barack Obama read for an hour a day. One of the most prominent investors in history Warren Buffett spent 80% of his time reading. And Bill Gates reads one book a week and takes two weeks off every year just to read.

The modern world changes at an incredible speed, skills become obsolete, as well as new tools and professions appear every year. Therefore, it is critically important to learn and constantly keep your knowledge relevant. For example, nowadays, you can increasingly meet in IT vacancies the requirements for knowledge of microservices and experience with Highload.

A comprehensive approach to problem-solving

The ability to overcome complex challenges as well as the ability to deal with unexpected situations are critical soft skills for an IT developer. They are as important as knowledge of programming languages and software development skills. 

For example, while working in a startup, you may encounter frequent changes in requirements. Imagine that a product release is in a month, the PM joins the call and suddenly says: now the product should focus on a completely different target audience. Your task is not to panic, but to evaluate what is already done, what needs to be analyzed and changed, and what needs to be created from scratch. After that, the team can analyze the possible timing and contact the client with several solutions.

Critical thinking and analytical skills

Unexpected problems may arise during the project’s course. For example, a client can be sure that it is better to use a certain technology for development. At the same time, he doesn’t take into account the scaling product strategy and does not want to spend time on discussions. In this case, it is important to assess the situation and constructively convey arguments, which is only possible with advanced critical thinking.

A Hart Research Associates report found that 93% of employers even rate a candidate’s critical thinking as more important than a bachelor’s degree.

Top books for boosting critical thinking:

  • “Behave: The Biology of Good and Evil” by Robert Sapolsky;
  • “Critical Thinking: analyze, doubt, form your opinion” by Tom Chatfield;
  • “Think Slow, Decide Fast” by Daniel Kahneman.

Outside-of-the-box thinking, originality, and initiative

Creativity is one of the most important soft skills for a programmer. Indeed, while working on a project, significant changes are made, and you need to respond quickly and originally. Plus, IT specialists often have to work in conditions with limited resources.

“This (creativity—Ed.) is a unique human trait that no algorithm can replace, claims Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence. In his opinion, creativity should be developed by everyone, regardless of profession or role. “AI can handle a growing number of non-personal, non-creative, routine tasks,” But Lee says the skills that make us uniquely human are ones that no machine can replicate. The jobs of the future will require creative, compassionate, and empathetic leaders who know how to create trust, build teams, inspire service, and communicate effectively.

Top books for boosting creativity:

  • “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young;
  • “Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work” by Michael Michalko;
  • “Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and into the World” by Tina Seelig;
  • “Find an idea. Introduction to TRIZ — the theory of inventive problem solving” by Heinrich Altshuller.


  • Creative thinking — how to get out of the box and generate ideas: Giovanni Corazza (TED).

Leadership and social influence

Analysts at the World Economic Forum noted that not a single computer has yet been able to take on the tasks of a leader—to inspire and lead a team. The culture of the team, the general mood, and the atmosphere depend on a leader. The main task is to rally people. Moreover, successful leaders spend twice as much time building a team than ordinary leaders, and the final result is worth it.

What to read for boosting leadership skills: “The Emotionally Intelligent Leader” by Daniel Goleman. 

Resilience and flexibility

All developer jobs are highly stressful: the code doesn’t work correctly for no apparent reason, colleagues do not always understand what you want from them, and customers demand the impossible. It is important to remain calm and flexible in any situation. A good developer knows how to give feedback, and doesn’t get personal or show aggression—even if you have to repeat the same comments several times a day to Junior developers or clients who don’t know much about programming.

Argumentation, problem-solving, and idea-generation skills

Linkedin CEO Jeff Weiner, citing research, claimed that of all soft skills, developers have the least developed communication and argumentation skills. It is often difficult for developers to build communication and convey their thoughts, especially if the conversation needs to be conducted with a person not from the IT sector.

At the same time, in modern companies, programmers have to communicate a lot with colleagues, managers, and customers. For example, a developer may be invited as an expert to a presentation with a customer.

Argumentation skills will also help in everyday work: when choosing a technology, agreeing on a pool of tasks, and evaluating results. The developer should always be able to defend his point of view.

Top books for boosting argumentation skills:

  • “Everything can be negotiated! How to get the most out of any negotiation” by Gavin Kennedy; 
  • “The Shy Child: Overcoming and Preventing Shyness from Infancy to Adulthood” by Philip G Zimbardo and Shirley L. Radl; 
  • “How to Speak So People Really Listen: The Straight-Talking Guide to Communicating with Influence and Impact” by Paul McGee; 
  • “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.
How many hard skills were included in the top 10 skills according to the study by the World Economic Forum?
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How Recruiters Assess Soft Skills in Software Developer Interviews

Recruiters know the techniques that help to increase the effectiveness of interviews and test soft skills: projective questions, STAR, PARLA, case method, and others. We’ve shared the most popular of them:

Projective questions

They help to get the necessary information without the distortions inherent in socially expected answers. The recruiter can ask the candidate to give their opinion on a certain situation, for example: “What reasons motivate people to quit?” or “What will make them work with full dedication?”. When answering such questions, the candidate transfers the situation to his experience but doesn’t answer about himself directly, so the answer is more honest.

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PARLA method

This is a direct conversation with an IT candidate about his skills when the recruiter analyzes various situations that have happened in the past. In each case, the dialogue is built according to the structure: the main problem (Problem), specialist actions taken to solve it (Action), what came of it (Result), what the candidate has learned (Learned), and how he applied knowledge/skills in practice (Applied). The information obtained is compared with the requirements of the company.

STAR method

The most valid candidate assessment tool is the STAR (Situation–Task–Action–Result) competency interview. The recruiter finds examples of skills and experience that are relevant to the position in the answers to STAR questions. For example:

STell me about a situation when you…
TWhat was your task?
A What were your actions?
RWhat was your role in the decision and the result?

Case method (situational interview)

The case method allows you to evaluate soft skills in IT, a person’s potential, and a way of thinking. The recruiter asks the candidate to analyze the proposed case, look over the possible options for solving it, and choose the most suitable one in the current conditions.

An example of a goal-oriented and result-oriented test: ask the candidate to name as many ways as possible of non-standard use of a rain umbrella in two minutes. It’s important to motivate the specialist to continue generating ideas. Has the applicant named all possible ways? How will the expert behave? Will he give up or keep looking for a solution?

What interviewing method is used in the question: “Why do some people become demotivated at work over time?”
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Everyone has his own soft skills starter pack. These are skills that are part of our personality. Unlike professional skills, which are acquired through training and work, soft skills are more challenging to develop. But you need to work with them if you want to find a common language with people easily, feel confident, and increase work efficiency. Keep in mind that hard and soft skills in IT are equally important, and their combination will help you in your daily work as well as in career building.

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