Hiring managers and recruiters bemoan a soft skills gap in IT, and recent data backs up the sentiment. A LinkedIn report conducted with consulting firm Capgemini found that more employers say their organization lacks soft skills (nearly 60 percent) than hard digital skills (51 percent). \n\nSome firms, such as Vodafone and Citi, find soft skills important enough that they\u2019re using surveys and AI in their interview process to assess communication skills, according to this year\u2019s Global Recruiting Trends report from LinkedIn.\n\nWe talked with experts and hiring managers to produce a list of the most sought-after soft skills in IT today. If you\u2019re a candidate with any or all of these skills, they\u2019re useful talking points in your next interview. If not, you may find some areas worth brushing up. And if you\u2019re doing the hiring, these are the skills your peers value most on their teams. \n\nSalesmanship \n\nFor those who argue that all work is essentially sales \u2014 of yourself, the company\u2019s mission or a project or product \u2014 closing is the most important soft skill of all.\n\n\u201cAt a certain level, irrespective of whatever role you might have, you\u2019re in sales,\u201d says Jay Jamison, vice president of strategy and product management at Quick Base. \u201cSelling people on your ideas or vision for the future \u2014 or whether you\u2019re carrying a quota and need to close out a month. Communication skills, self-awareness and the capacity to sell and influence are the top three soft skills I\u2019m looking for.\u201d\n\nEffective communication\n\nDave Smith, senior director of compute\/network\/storage engineering at \u200eDigitalOcean, looks for good communicators, on teams and in those leading them. \u201cFacilitating good communication patterns on a team not only gets the work done, it also ensures your team is high-performing and happy.\u201d\n\nSmith has a tip for assessing a job candidate\u2019s communication skills: Ask them to walk you through the highlights of their career progression.\n\n\u201cThis introduces a storytelling aspect to the interview because they are now sharing the \u2018story\u2019 of their professional experience,\u201d Smith says. \u201cAt various stages, I like to ask deeper and probing questions to know them better and see how well they do when talking about a subject they know intimately.\u201d\n\nThe ability to translate tech jargon\n\nJames Stanger, chief technology evangelist at CompTIA, prizes the ability to convert tech jargon into language both business people and consumers can understand.\n\n\u201cI have two valued co-workers who have the uncanny way of boiling things down to a perfect, pithy statement,\u201d Stanger says. \u201cNever mind that sometimes they can get a bit snarky \u2014 it\u2019s all in good fun, and their approach has a real use. It really helps everyone level set and move on to discuss both technical and business requirements. You can\u2019t move forward with only one \u2014 business lingo \u2014 or the other \u2014 geek speak.\u201d\n\nA collaborative mindset\n\nDistributed teams in IT are on the rise and collaboration takes extra effort when coworkers are spread out and social cues you\u2019d catch in the office can\u2019t be seen on Slack, email or conference calls. \n\n\u201cThe majority of developers work in teams, so good communication is crucial to effectively collaborate and execute,\u201d says \u200eDigitalOcean\u2019s Smith. \u201cAdditionally, many engineers and developers work remotely, so it\u2019s vital that they can understand, communicate and empathize with their team members, even if they only see them in-person once every few months.\u201d\n\nEmpathy\n\nTechnical teams are increasingly expected to address design teams, executives, and marketers at all levels of an organization, says Jeremy Auger, chief strategy officer of cloud-based learning company D2L.\n\n\u201cThese employees need the skills to be able to pitch their ideas, manage expectations, and collaborate with stakeholders with different views around what should be possible,\u201d Auger says. \u201cEmpathy for users is a critical skill, which more often than not separates successful technology from the unsuccessful. While this has traditionally been thought of as skills for the UX team, engineers increase their value when they bring this thinking to the table.\u201d\n\nThe ability to put things in context\n\nKaren Hebert-Maccaro, chief content officer at O\u2019Reilly, highlights the importance of technical and nontechnical teams trying to understand each other\u2019s challenges.\n\n\u201cIn my experience, it\u2019s the deeply technical individuals who value the soft skill sets of their leaders more than is necessarily seen in individuals working in less technical functions,\u201d she says. \u201cA lot of technical career paths are not clear inside organizations. As a result, mentorship, a strong leader to inspire and the ability to coach are very valued. The important thing is that technical and nontechnical leaders alike understand the context in which their teams work, the individuals on those teams, and the challenges and motivators of those individuals. The context will be different, but the need to inspire, build trust, instill passion for the work and be a change agent is important regardless of function.\u201d\n\nCustomer service \u2014 even with colleagues\n\nIT managers are looking for staff who can respond to the needs of their business-side and other nontechnical colleagues, says Adrienne McNally, director of experiential education at New York Institute of Technology.\n\n\u201cThey\u2019re essentially their clients,\u201d McNally says. \u201cThis means appreciating different personality types and respecting their client\u2019s time. Additionally, IT workers need to think creatively about how to solve unique problems they will encounter on the job.\u201d\n\nThe ability to ask the right questions\n\nThere\u2019s an often-heard complaint in the IT world: The business people don\u2019t know what they want. And whether it\u2019s true or not, the disconnect has led to more than one smoldering pile of technology.\n\n\u201cMy response is that the business people do their job every day \u2014 they know what they want, and need, but you\u2019re not asking them the right questions,\u201d says Hettie Tabor, of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. \u201cUnderstanding how to translate business ideas into technical design and being able to discuss this with both the IT and business people is a valuable and necessary skill.\u201d\n\nWriting well\n\nWriting is the ultimate soft skill because it\u2019s needed at every step, from a project\u2019s conception to its completion, says Matt Wilgus, practice director at Schellman & Co.\n\n\u201cGreat knowledge in a vacuum doesn\u2019t benefit an organization,\u201d says Wilgus. \u201cEvery IT project \u2014 and position \u2014 is going to conclude with a deliverable, for example a design document, presentation, attestation report or updated code base. Without the necessary soft skills, the intended message being expressed in the deliverable could be lost. Candidates that have presented at conferences, or have been published, will have a leg up on other candidates. Additionally, misspellings on a resume can quickly eliminate a candidate for consideration. If there are errors in a two-page resume, what\u2019s the likelihood this candidate can produce a formal report of more substantial length? Candidates should expect hiring organizations will ask for a writing sample."\n\nProblem solving\n\nDeveloping a problem-solving attitude toward the job is what separates the good from the great, says Vincent Tran, an adjunct faculty member in computer science at Aurora University.\n\n\u201cIf something goes wrong, which it often does in IT, we need to be able to find solutions that work for the organization,\u201d he says. \u201cThere are always unexpected challenges, and with an IT background, we're able to create tools and processes to efficiently resolve those issues. Those are the IT individuals that get noticed and become highly valued in an organization. In the same way that data analysis has become quite important for many organizations, being able to identify patterns and create intuitive solutions is just as crucial.\u201d\n\nAdaptability\n\nJon Toelke, senior manager of talent acquisition for Paycor, says organizations need staff who understand that change is essential to IT work, and who can comfortably take on challenges as they occur. \n\n\u201cMost technology organizations move relatively fast, and pivot on a moment\u2019s notice,\u201d Toelke says. \u201cWork that took a week to accomplish could potentially be scrapped when a new solution is recognized. Can the candidate move forward or backward without angst or resentment? I need the candidate to have a desire to complete work the way it\u2019s designed, and not necessarily the way they believe it should be done. Coding is often perceived as a math problem, where 2 + 2 always equals 4. In many cases this is true, but development is as much an art as it is a science.\u201d\n\nAl Smith, chief technology officer at iCIMS, notes that half of recruiters say adaptability is the most sought after soft skill.\n\n\u201cWe live in a 90-day technology innovation cycle and employees who exhibit a thirst for knowledge and learning as part of their career success are the ones who will really excel. With the speed at which technology evolves, perhaps the most valuable soft skill an IT professional can exhibit is adaptability. As different technology gains momentum, employees\u2019 projects often incur their fair share of challenges. A strong IT professional should be able to navigate their work with the focus and drive needed to overcome any setbacks they might face.\u201d\n\nThe ability to set aside ego\n\nThe ability to put aside personal preferences and work the process is key, says Toelke, who considers the skill critical to building and sustaining a culture.\n\n\u201cAn important soft skill is the ability to put aside ego,\u201d Toelke says. \u201cTechnologists can be particular, and although their input and creativity is needed to lead decisions, we need them to be united and drive outcomes, when a directive has been established. In candidate interview discussions, we talk about ego. The ability to put aside preferences and follow the process are important. It\u2019s relatively easy to determine which candidates believe they know all the answers, and which realize they can never have all the answers. We don\u2019t need or want someone who has all the answers. We look for the candidate who has the foundation of knowledge, and the ability to pivot and learn, who can realize weakness and acclimate to what\u2019s needed.\u201d\n\nEmotional intelligence\n\nEmotional intelligence \u201cdrives the ability to read people\u2019s signals and react appropriately to them,\u201d says Kong Yang, \u201chead geek\u201d at SolarWinds. He considers emotional intelligence as one of a number of soft skills that help break down silos and meet business goals. \u201cIt\u2019s integral to the success of your adaptability, communication, and collaboration.\u201d\n\nHis fellow head geek, Leon Adato, says he picked up active listening skills, a component of emotional intelligence, from his experience as a parent. And the skill translates well to the office.\n\n\u201cActive listening is the process of reflecting back not only what you hear the other person saying but also to validate and verbalize the nontechnical aspects of the conversation,\u201d Adato says. \u201cThis is one way to demonstrate emotional intelligence. Leveraging this technique gives the individual speaking the opportunity to clarify, while simultaneously demonstrating that this information matters to you personally.\u201d\n\nComfort with uncertainty\n\nThe joint LinkedIn-Capgemini digital skills report noted above also found that, along with collaboration, comfort with ambiguity was considered a critically important need in IT.\n\n\u201cThere are often generational differences that we need to be mindful of,\u201d according to the report. \u201cMillennials have a huge appetite for learning, but resiliency and working in ambiguity are often challenges for them whereas Baby Boomers may be more resistant to change and better handle ambiguity. Knowing your workforce and empowering them to learn by bringing the learning to where they are ... will be critical for future success."