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Developers are overlooking soft skills in interviews

24 June 2024 , by Josh Nel

If you want reliable community data on AI’s impact, check out the 2024 AI Skills and Impact Report. Get access to the report now.

AI has become a big part of South African tech companies' software development processes. This has shifted the focus from developers’ technical skills to their problem-solving and soft skills. However, developers are overlooking soft skills during the technical interviews. In this article, we’ll explore the data behind this divide and how a transparent hiring process can prevent it.


AI’s biggest impact on the software development landscape may be developer skills

It’s hard to overstate just how quickly AI has become a key part of South Africa’s tech ecosystem: The majority of developers are using AI APIs and code-writing assistants in their roles and personal projects.

And, these tools aren’t just gaining traction among developers. In fact, the majority of developers say their companies already allow or encourage them to use these tools. As AI tools drive customer value faster, it’s tempting to think this will be its biggest impact.

Taking a closer look at the data suggests another perspective: Its biggest impact is on the skills developers and companies need to be successful in an AI age.

AI is shifting the focus to problem-solving and soft skills

AI hasn't made solid technical abilities less important: Developers now need to master a new set of skills that allow them to use AI tools more effectively, like prompt engineering and experience with AI-specific libraries and languages.

But, the most significant shift is happening away from purely technical skills.

Across the board, both developers and managers list complex problem-solving as the most important skill developers need in the AI age:

As an engineering manager, what skills are most important to assess during the hiring process?

What do you think is most important to be assessed on  in the hiring process, in the context of AI d.png

Despite this, there’s an emerging disagreement between devs and engineering managers over what skills are most important to assess during the hiring process. Developers still place more emphasis on their technical skills but hiring managers are on the lookout for soft skills

Their biggest disagreement concerns the importance of technical skills: Developers still believe technical abilities are the most important after problem-solving.

Tech leads, on the other hand, focus on candidates' soft skills as these play a big role in how companies try to drive results. By contrast, only a fifth of developers listed soft skills as important.

As a developer, what skills are most important to test during the hiring process?

In your view, what is most important to test for in the  context of AI developments in the hiring pr.png

This difference in perspective is not just a theoretical one. It can affect how developers and hiring managers show up in interviews.

Developers, for example, might spend more time showcasing their technical abilities. While hiring managers don’t get the best picture of how someone might work as part of their team.

This makes it harder for both sides to determine if there’s a good fit. It may even lead to developers who are a possible culture fit not progressing to later stages of the hiring process.

A transparent hiring process helps address the interview blind spot

So how do you reduce the chances of this blind spot during interviews? Start by making your hiring process as transparent as possible.

The blind spot is caused by a major difference in what each side thinks is important to showcase during the hiring process. A more transparent process ensures that candidates know what is assessed at each stage of the interview process.

This way, they can prepare accordingly and hiring managers can ensure they’re getting the best possible indication of a candidate’s strengths in a particular skill like problem-solving or communication.

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For example, if a developer knows you’re interested in how they tackle problems, they may spend more time in an assessment explaining their approach rather than providing a specific technical solution.

On top of this, being transparent about your process can improve your overall candidate experience. Developers see process transparency and being briefed ahead of an interview as two of the biggest green flags.

Get reliable community data on AI's impact

If you’re looking for reliable data on AI’s impacts on the SA tech ecosystem, download the 2024 AI Skills and Impact Report. With data from the South African tech community, you'll get exclusive insights and data into:

  • How developers are freeing up capacity with AI tools
  • The AI skills developers need to drive impact
  • The growing importance of soft skills

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