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What’s More Important: Technical Skills or Communication Skills?

technical skills or communication skillsFinding the balance between being a technical guru and how to effectively communicate with peers.

A recruiter can usually make the distinction between the more technical candidate and the one who posses more advanced and polished oral communication skills. It’s a rare find when a candidate presents with a good combination of both, so recruiting professionals are often forced to determine what’s more important to the client– the technical skills or communication skills? The answer is, of course, it depends.

The spectrum of open IT positions is abundant with variable requisites that necessitate both skills equally. The hard-core technical engineer is an extremely valuable asset that is difficult to substitute. There is no amount of polished communication skill that can be replaced for the high-end expertise this type of individual brings to the table. Only through diligent education and extensive experience can the technical guru be born, and this individual continues to be one of the most sought-after candidates in today’s competitive market.

For positions that call for more analysis and direct contact with users and customers, communication and business acumen become top priorities. While a balance of technical proficiency is certain to enhance the marketability of the business analyst, it’s not the focal point of skill. The ability to effectively gather and communicate business requirements to the technical development team is key for any analyst within the organization.

The key is finding the balance between the technical expertise and communication, or developing the balance through education, training, and experience. If finding the right mix becomes a hindrance to filling the position, it might be best to hire the best athlete and train for the specifics. Developing crossover skills could potentially be the right answer if there is uncertainty as to which is more important:

  • Technical training for the non-technical candidate. Depending on the type of environment, a good overview of the languages, methodologies or processes used can greatly expand a non-technical candidate’s value within the organization.
  • Integration with technical staff for the non-technical candidate. Another way to glean information from IT experts is simply to spend time with them. Learning terminology and business processes from a technical mentor is another effective way to educate the non-technical professional.
  • Grammar and writing basics for the techie. For a candidate who is immersed in the languages of Java or dot Net, basic grammar and spelling skills seem unnecessary. The most effective way to polish the tech guru is to provide him or her with the tools necessary to electronically communicate effectively. From basic sentence structure, punctuation, and message cadence to political correctness, most candidates will greatly benefit from a basic grammar refresh.
  • Presentation skills for the techie. Whether a tech guru or not, most business professionals can benefit by improving their presentation skills. Coaching on the appropriate strategic delivery of a presentation, idea in a meeting, or even in a non-formal brainstorming session, eye contact, delivery, speech pacing and non-verbal communication come into play and separate the effective from the nominal.

When asking, “What is more important – technical skills or communication skills?” it’s important to recognize the specific variables of the position you are trying to fill. In any given situation, it’s the nature of the position that dictates the priority. Finding the right blend of technical expertise and proficient communication in a candidate may be a difficult task, but is one that can be accomplished if you know what to look for or how to aid in the transfer of skill.

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