What Soft Skills Does the Software Industry *Really* Want? An Exploratory Study of Software Positions in New Zealand
Background: Soft skills of software professionals (e.g., communication, interpersonal skills) significantly contribute to project and product success.
Aims: We aim to understand (a) what are relevant soft skills in software engineering, (b) how soft skills are related to types of software engineering positions, and (c) how soft skills relate to characteristics of organizations that look for new employees. We focus on organizations in New Zealand, an example of a country with a relatively small but growing software sector characterized by a skills shortage and embedded in a bi-cultural context.
Method: We used a qualitative research method and manually analyzed 530 job adverts from New Zealand’s largest job portal for technology-related positions. We identified soft skills in adverts following an inductive approach, i.e., without a pre-defined set of soft skills.
Results: We found explicit references to soft skills in 82% of analyzed adverts. We identified 17 soft skills and proposed a contextualized software engineering description. Communication-related soft skills are most in demand, regardless of the type of position. Soft skills related to broader human or societal values (e.g., empathy or cultural awareness) or distributed development are not frequently requested. Adverts from recruitment agencies include fewer soft skills. Soft skills do not depend on company size or core business.
Conclusions: Employers explicitly ask for soft skills. Our findings support previous studies that highlight the importance of communication. Characteristics specific to New Zealand do not impact the demand for soft skills. Our findings benefit researchers in human aspects of software engineering and to those responsible for staff, curricula and professional development.
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