People Skills Can Set IT Executive Job Candidates Apart

Susan Hall

I think the headline writer got it wrong in this MarketWatch piece entitled, "Tech companies are hiring more emo' guys." (News flash: At a media outlet the size of The Wall Street Journal, that person most likely wasn't writer John Shinal.)


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Shinal isn't writing about people with spikey, dyed-black hair who wear skinny jeans. Instead, he writes that headhunting firms report that tech companies increasingly are looking for executives not only with business and technical acumen, but also a high level of "people skills."


He quotes Kelly Kay, a partner with executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles, saying:

It's a different type of skill set than the traditional command-and-control personality. They're looking for a more subtle, sophisticated type, someone who is an influencer.

The reason? Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Cisco and Oracle have simply become so complex. Many now use a management structure known as a "matrix" to run their global operations. Writes Shinal:

In a traditional corporate organization, an executive in charge of a regional business unit would have control over all the resources needed to run the business. In a matrix environment, however, some of the workers and budget needed to build, distribute, sell or support a product within the executive's region are controlled by others, and important decisions are often made by committee, rather than by a single individual.

And according to Kay:

In a matrix, you have to be a team player to get anything done.

Recruiters report that executive hiring is picking up and also that top-level talent is becoming scarce again. So communication skills and a high "emotional quotient" have gained importance.


Blogger Don Tennant has written that tech folks in particular seem to have trouble with social skills and mentions from speaking with Peter Handal, chairman and CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates, that improving the interpersonal skills of IT people is big business for that company.


But companies increasingly are looking for these skills all the way down the line. A Computerworld article quotes Jerry Luftman, professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., saying:

They're looking for management skills, industry-specific skills, communications skills, marketing skills, presentation skills and negotiation skills. These are all just as important [as technical skills] as companies look to hire people.

I previously wrote about Accenture research into high-performing IT departments. It noted that the best-performing IT departments foster these skills in employees as well as managers.

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