Interpersonal and communication skills the deciding factors in most IT job interviews?

By Jason W. Eckert

Having taught IT at triOS College for 10 years now, I am used to the school/job cycle. Each time a large number of students graduate from my program and enter the IT work force, I find myself busy that month responding to reference requests from employers over the telephone. Over the past few years, I have noticed two emerging trends when responding to reference requests:

  1. The person who calls for the reference is typically an IT manager rather than a HR manager.
  2. Companies are more concerned about the candidate’s interpersonal and communication skills rather than their technical ability.

In this past month alone, I have responded to over a dozen reference calls.

During the last reference call, the IT manager explained to me that they need someone who is not only able to manage the corporate servers but willing to work with end users when they have mail or print problems without them getting frustrated. This IT manager told me that they have had IT administrators in the past who have been rude to employee concerns and gave the IT department a bad internal image as a result. Moreover, this same IT manager also stressed that it is critical that the job candidate be able to communicate changes regarding the IT infrastructure to others who are not IT-literate within the organization.

These interpersonal and communication skill requirements were echoed in nearly all of the reference calls that I have responded to this month.

Five years ago, interpersonal and communication skills were rarely mentioned, or mentioned only at the end of the reference call once I answered questions regarding the technical skills of the job candidate.

I have always been of the opinion that it is easy to teach someone how to use a technology but very difficult to teach someone how to play well with others. Perhaps IT employers have found the same to be true in their own experience and are stressing interpersonal and communication skills as a result.

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