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11 September 2018
Good grades can open doors, but it’s soft skills that will determine your success in the tech industry

Why businesses like Google are looking beyond a candidate's exam results

For working professionals, the end of August marked the last bank holiday of the year and the start of a long-stretch of standard working weeks. For students across the country, however, the final few weeks of the month meant only one thing: exam results. Whether GCSEs or A Levels, thousands of nervous students eagerly awaited their grades in order to determine the next educational and vocational steps in their career.

Of course, the significance of these exam results goes without saying – after all, qualifications symbolise a commitment to self-improvement and academic achievement. However, while good grades may put school leavers in line for an unconditional offer from their university of choice, they aren’t the only skills that dictate professional success.

In the tech industry, employers increasingly seek candidates who not only boast knowledge in their chosen specialism, but those who are able to communicate their expertise to a non-technical audience. As well as digital skills, they want creative problem solvers who can use their knowledge to the company’s advantage.

This was confirmed by findings from a recent study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Google for Education, in which 79% of educators said that soft skills must be developed alongside foundational knowledge. In fact, Google themselves have stated their hiring process centres around evidence of “intellectual curiosity” and “emergent leadership”, as these are the traits that they believe provide a clearer indication of whether or not an individual will thrive in a role.

Communication

Equipped with a set of good grades and textbook knowledge in programming, you may think your CV is a golden ticket into the job of your choice. However, if a candidate does not demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively they are unlikely to be considered for the role.

Due to the often-complex nature of their work, professionals in the tech sphere need to be great translators for clients and colleagues who don’t share their background in IT. Should any issues arise, tech professionals must be able to relay back to the business the impact and potential consequences without a string of IT jargon they’re unlikely to understand.

Empathy

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the details of a technical project and lose sight of how what we’re building will help the end user. Lost in lines of code, we forget to see our work from the customer’s perspective. Having empathy allows an IT expert to put themselves in the shoes of those they are trying to help in order to determine the best way to solve a particular challenge.

Beyond external communication, the best developers, engineers and IT operations professionals are those who are able to understand the challenges of others by adopting an empathetic approach in the workplace. Rather than focusing solely on the task at hand, they are open to the ideas of others and always keep an eye on the bigger picture. As the key ingredient of effective collaboration, a degree of compassion and empathy will help tech professionals work better with their colleagues.

Curiosity

The fast-paced nature of the tech industry means companies in this sector need individuals who are prepared to think outside the box to solve technical challenges. While a candidate’s CV may have all the right keywords, tech employers generally want to see a desire to learn more; they seek candidates who have a natural interest in pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo. These are the individuals who will help organisations to innovate their products and in turn, future-proof their business amidst rapid technological advancement.