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Skill development

Interpersonal skills have become essential for technical professions

eye 96 Published on 22 May. 2012
tag #Skill development #HR advice

IT developers, engineers, maintenance technicians... many technical professionals share many of the same characteristics. They are usually enthusiastic about technology and their work, and their soft skills are often underestimated by recruiters.

Does this IT developer have good relations with others? Would this engineer be able to take on management responsibilities? Recruiters rarely ask themselves these types of questions when looking for technically-skilled candidates. "We generally pay special attention to hard skills, but we often forget to look at their interpersonal skills," says Patrick Leguide, founder of Central Test. "Today, it's in a company's best interest to think broadly, to anticipate future needs, and to recruit people who will likely be able to handle more responsibility later on."

Changing expectations

Since the 1990s, technical jobs have largely evolved. Technical employees were once long confined to machines and programs, with no interaction with staff from other departments. Now these professionals deal with different teams and clients a little more each day. This ongoing trend is getting stronger within and outside the company. Patrick Leguide says, "It is rare nowadays that technicians only concentrate on the technical aspects of their jobs; they need to interact with their colleagues and clients as well. Strong interpersonal skills thus have become more and more essential to their duties."

Meanwhile, in software and computing services, a person's logical thinking is still considered to be the decisive factor during the recruitment process. However,while logic is important, it does not help a recruiter form a complete picture of a candidate's personality. "By using a personality test and emotional intelligence test, a recruiter can evaluate how well an applicant will interact, communicate, and assert him or herself when dealing with a client or coworker," says Leguide. "This last characteristic – assertiveness – is particularly important: technicians must be able to provide guidance and structure while being tactful and diplomatic at the same time"

Technical projects are getting more complex

Technological progress has also made a great impact on technical professions. To cope with constant developments, these professionals must be willing to learn new things and keep their skills up-to-date.. Training and extra-professional activities that are mentioned on resumes are good indicators. "A candidate's desire to keep learning and to motivate him or herself can also be confirmed by using a motivation test," says Leguide. 

As technology changes, technical projects are becoming increasingly complex. "This means that technicians must ask themselves the right questions and be inventive, curious and analytical," says the founder of Central Test.

A reasoning test would gauge how well a person can distance themselves from and analyse a situation. "This assessment requires a lot of finesse. It's also useful to study these skills during simulation exercises that include hands-on work."

Management potential

"Technical professionals are often relatively introverted and do not have strong communication skills," says Leguide. If a technical employee is being groomed to take on managerial responsibilities one day, it would be imperative to gauge his or her ability to lead a team. "A comprehensive interview based on the outcome of a personality test would help a recruiter evaluate a candidate's management potential." 

Today, in light of changing technology and working methods, technical professionals must possess multiple skills. To identify and assess these individuals, recruiters can combine interviews, tests, and simulation exercises to obtain greater insights into their technical and interpersonal skills.

Sandrine Guinot
NaO Presse

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