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The Importance of People Skills

The factors that determine who gets which job are complicated in any industry and involve a wide range of factors. The IT industry is no different. There appears to be a lot of people that are forgetting to bring their people skills to their interviews and too many people that feel that all they have to do is get certified, get a CS degree or just have a lot of technical knowledge and they are guaranteed a good job. Not true at all. Your technical skill will only qualify you for a job - your people skills will get you the job. Let's look at a couple of real life examples:

1) I used to be a "Technical Lead" for a techsupport department. During my stay there, I was on the interviewing/hiring team. We would consistently turn down applicants that did not have the necessary customer service skills for the job and/or did not appear to be team/policy oriented. This includes being introverted, a know-it-all and not expressing a willingness or eagerness to learn. These things will kill you in any interview. No matter how much you know, there is always more that you don't know. Some applicants' had so much knowledge that they were overqualified for the job and it was feared that they would get bored and not remain at the company long enough to make it worthwhile to hire them.

2) I have a friend that is an MCSE and is probably one of the brightest computer professionals that I have ever met or spoken to. He has no learning curve - his mind is a computer. However, he can't get a job. What is the problem? He is stubborn, belligerent, not a team player and all around not very good with people. The problem is that he knows  how to run a network better than the people who interview him and isn't very shy about it. To him, it is all very simple and he has little tolerance for those who don't understand. On the one hand it is good to try to sell yourself in an interview, but it is another to be cocky...It's a fine line.

3) The following comments were provided by Alex:
I mainly wanted to comment on your "People Skills" paper--it's right on the money. I've been a tech writer for the past 2 years and am now making the jump over to IT. I just got a job offer (for more $ than I make now) for a computer support specialist position even though most of my technical experience is limited to what I've done at home building and maintaining PCs. I firmly believe I got the offer because of my customer service/communication/people skills. Everyone I talked to at this place seemed surprise that I was modest, friendly, and eager to learn. You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you're a pain the ass, people will figure out how to avoid you pretty quick.

4) The following comments were provided by Trevor:
I have worked in Customer Support for over four years now and can honestly say that this position is one of the most critical for any business. The customer's attitude is shaped and defined by the support they get, and this can either make or break a business in my opinion. Although I do not have a diverse technical background, my willingness to learn has helped me through my career. So, as far as I'm concerned, if I can learn the technical stuff by "hands on" experience, technical people can learn people skills by the same method. The only thing prohibiting people like this from having competent people skills is the first step of jumping right in and doing it. There are no text books that can do this for you. My advice to anyone who would like to know more about customer support is to watch others who are in this position(pick someone who is successful of course) and take notes. That's a start.

5) Here is some good advice from David.
Don't be a stiff during your interview. Always act in a proffesional manner and remain confident, but remember that a sense of humor can be a great ice-breaker and set you apart from other candidates. It is a tool that will make you memorable to the interviewers. Thanks to David for the advice.

6) I have only been in the IT industry for 2.5 years. I am almost through with my MCSE and have mainly done techsupport work thus far. Because most of the work that I have done has been phone support related, I do not have a whole lot of hands on experience, however, I just landed a very high paying job at a major corporation as a network analyst by posting my resume in an online job database similar to the one in your Career Center. Why did I get this job, when there are plenty of people more technically qualified than me? First of all, it was a good resume that got me in the door that led to interviews. Second, during the interviews, I blew them away with my customer focus(from years of experience working in restaurants), honesty, eagerness and ability to learn. We didn't even discuss my technical skills during the interviews.

Keep in mind that there are other factors to worry about too such as who you know, effort, chemistry and a lot of luck that all play a role in determining if you will get your dream job, but people skills are by far more important over the long run, not just for getting a job, but for future promotions and growth in your career. Good luck to you in your job search.