Employers cite interpersonal skills as highly prized asset among IT pros

We're at ease talking to strangers, we make friends easily, we enjoy vacationing abroad, and we can negotiate a good deal on a car, so why is it that Hollywood likes to portray us as geeks who prefer to communicate via machines than mix with people? For employers, interpersonal and technical skills go hand-in-hand.

In a recent US survey of 500 hiring managers by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), 52% of respondents ranked interpersonal skills as the non-technical skills most desired in IT pros. This preference was cited by IT and non-IT companies alike, as well as by companies of all sizes. Interpersonal skills beat out multitasking (26%), analytical skills (25%) and team building (23%) as the key soft skills hiring managers sought in IT workers.

There were slight differences in the soft skills most desired among small, midsize and large companies. Aside from interpersonal (44%) and analytical skills (30%), small companies said the most sought-after non-IT attributes in employees were multitasking skills (32%) and loyalty (26%).

Multitasking capabilities (25%) are also important to midsize companies, along with team building (22%) and oral/written communication skills (22%).

After interpersonal skills (49%), large companies look for analytical capabilities (30%) and team-building skills (28%).

Once IT pros have secured their jobs, employers are expecting them to remain in their positions longer than in previous ITAA surveys. In the ITAA survey of 2001, respondents expected workers to remain on the job for an average of 33 months. That number fell to 25 months in 2002 (anything to do with the poor economy and the specter of layoffs during that period?). This year, that average is 32 months within non-IT companies and 26 months for IT companies - or 30 months overall.

In non-IT firms, network designers, along with technical support and database development personnel are expected to remain on the payroll for longer (34 months) than any other job role. This contrasts with the expected tenure by IT firms of 29 months for network designers and database development pros, and 25 months for technical support. It's interesting to note that 27% of all respondents called less than one year of service on the job as an acceptable or worthwhile tenure for IT workers.

Before we end, let's wrap up by noting the key points of this year's ITAA survey:

  • Employers regard previous experience in a related field as a highly prized asset in job candidates.
  • Formal on-the-job training narrowly beat out certification programs as providing the best method for internal advancement.
  • IT companies appear to place higher value on certifications than non-IT firms.
  • Interpersonal skills are the most important non-IT attribute of IT workers, according to employers.
  • Bosses expect network professionals to remain on the job for an average 34 months.

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