We don’t usually talk about “soft skills” here. Still, whether you’re wondering if the strengths and weaknesses for software developers match yours, or are wondering how to ace the next interview, it’s a topic worth considering.
Considering a new career? Hoping to land the ideal job? Your hard skills will have a lot of influence, but your soft skills could be the deciding factor in whether you succeed or fail.
That’s right! Even your weaknesses can help you to be a better software engineer – as long as you’re aware of them and either use them in a positive way or work to offset them.
Software Developer Strengths
Let’s forget about coding and assume that you already know where you stand when it comes to technical skills. What are the personal qualities a software developer needs?
We’re talking about the things that make you get up in the morning and tackle the job at hand – the things that drive you forward even when the going gets tough.
Apart from that, there are the skills that make you a pleasure to work with rather than just being the “person who knows how to code.” And, let’s not forget, the personal qualities that will make you an asset to your employers.
Identifying with these qualities is something we’d all like to do, but can you think of practical situations in which you either applied them or failed to? For now, you’re not talking to a recruiter.
You’re just thinking things through. How do you measure up against these software developer strengths?
The Adaptable, Flexible Software Engineer
You’ve got the brief and you’re on top of the project. But then it changes. If this infuriates you, you may not have what it takes to be a software developer. Clients change their minds.
Unforeseen obstacles leap out at you and the only way to overcome them is to change your approach. All but the simplest of projects are going to require some adaptability on your part. Can you change gears fast and dive right in?
The Creative and Curious Creator of Code
For you, there are always multiple options, and you love thinking up simple solutions to complex problems. When others think the obstacles are insurmountable, you’re already working on how you’ll get around them.
You question just about everything. You look for loopholes. You ask your colleagues to review your work as critically as possible.
You’re always asking what could go wrong or if there are better ways to do things everyone else takes for granted.
The Determined and Diligent Software Engineer
Once you’re on the project, you’re fully invested. Nothing is going to stop you from delivering. At the same time, you’re keeping stakeholders in the loop – and your determination doesn’t mean you’re stubborn either.
You aren’t focused on personal glory and accolades – what you want is satisfied customers and end-users.
Your Reliability and Ability to Work in Teams Makes Them Successful
Once you’ve committed to a task, everybody knows that you’ll deliver – and that you’ll report on any problems you’re encountering.
That’s because you’re a team player – and as a software engineer, that’s an indispensable characteristic. You’re always ready to give and receive help, constructive comments, ideas, and honest feedback.
You’re Efficient, Focused, Systematic, and Organized
“Efficient” isn’t the same as “fast.” You know that quick fixes and shortcuts may leave flaws, so you’re ready to approach your tasks in a thoughtful systematic way as you work to reach the goal you’re focused on.
And although you’re flexible, you’re also organized. You always have a plan, and nine out of ten times it’s a workable one.
You’re Honest and Open-Minded
Blindly following orders is not your style. You’re honest enough to talk about any factors you think may have been overlooked or any concerns you may have.
At the same time, you’re open-minded enough to listen to what others think and give it due consideration – even if it seems out of the ordinary.
You’re an Energetic, Enthusiastic, and Ambitious Software Engineer
A great end result is worth celebrating – but you also love the process you undertake to get there. The challenges, the successes, and the sheer beauty of well-crafted code are among the things that give you a deep sense of satisfaction.
Problems? They’re there to be solved. A perfect result? It’s what you set out to achieve!
How to Present Your Strengths to Prospective Employers
After reading through this, you’ve probably spotted some of your strengths as a software developer. But here’s the challenge. You’re in an interview with a prospective employer.
They’ve seen your impressive resume. They know what technical skills you have. They’ve seen your track record.
And then they throw you the curve ball: “What are your strengths?” they ask. Don’t be wrong-footed. Be prepared instead. This question is a huge favorite with recruiters because it gives them an insight into the skills you won’t get certifications for but that are essential to your work.
Here’s how to prepare. Identify three of your top skills. They don’t have to be on the list you just looked at. Those are just ideas. In your interview, say what they are.
Use an example drawn from experience to show how you put them to work. Then talk about the results that were achieved through your application of those skills.
In doing so, you provide recruiters with more than just a nice-sounding word or three. Anyone can say they’re awesome. Show them evidence of awesomeness!
Here’s a possible response to an interview question that’s sure to impress!
“I’m a team player. I remember when I was working on X project, my colleague looked really upset during our break. When I asked her what the problem was, I soon realized that she was struggling with Y, which is something I’ve had exposure to before.
We looked at the issue together, and I was able to help her with a solution. I felt really good about that. Later, another co-worker was able to give me a few tips on Z and those two incidents taught me that mutual support within teams is one of the best things about being a software engineer.”
Software Developer Weaknesses
Self-knowledge is important to your success. Nobody is perfect and neither are you. For personal and professional growth, recognizing your weaknesses is important.
You don’t do this so that you can beat yourself up about them. Instead, you acknowledge them so that you can mitigate them and maybe even turn them into strengths.
Of course, we’re talking about weaknesses that affect your work here. If you are overly fond of donuts and inclined to pile on the pounds, that’s a weakness, but it probably won’t affect your work. Need some examples of software developer weaknesses? Try these for size!
Your Strengths can be Weaknesses Too
As the donut-lover we used in our example knows, you can have too much of a good thing. For instance, just about anyone would say that flexibility and adaptability are good things.
But are you too much of a chameleon? Do you change your colors too easily even when sticking to the original plan might be the best solution?
Sure you’re efficient, focused, systematic, and organized, but are you so results-focused that you can’t adapt when adaptation really is the best solution?
Can you handle those rapid gear changes that throw your day into utter chaos?
So, you’re determined and diligent. That’s nice. But what if that determination gives you tunnel vision at times? How do you combat that? And no, this is not a rhetorical question!
How about ambition? Does it make you too competitive? While it’s wonderful to have big ideas and big dreams, they become counter-productive if you’re always trying to outshine everyone else.
Sometimes, helping other people to shine is a better solution, even when you don’t get direct credit for the work you put in.
Here’s an old joke that illustrates how strengths can be weaknesses. In an interview, an applicant is asked about his weaknesses. “I’m extremely honest, “ he says.
“That doesn’t sound like a fault to me,” says the recruiter.
“Why should I give a damn about what you think?” responds the applicant.
Jokes aside, it’s a great illustration of how a strength can be a weakness too!
Here are a few more ideas.
You Can’t Explain Your Reservations Till You’ve Tested Them Out
When you receive your instructions, you’ve got some gut-feel issues with the task. But you can’t explain the problem until you’ve done a deep dive into it. In a way, this can be a good thing.
But when people are asking “Can you do this?” they aren’t usually happy with “I’ll get back to you on that.” Ask for the information you need to prepare for meetings and take time to understand the situation so that you can have answers at your fingertips.
You’re not Great at Explaining Things
While you’re at work, you know why you’re approaching them in a certain way. If questioned, you aren’t able to explain this well in words. It can leave you looking a bit silly, even if you really are right.
But when words fail you, a picture can paint a thousand words. Can diagrams serve as aids to communication?
You Have the Urge to Know Everything About Everything
You can’t help it. Even when things “just work” you feel the need to know why they work. You’re constantly having to restrain yourself from investigating absolutely everything.
Before you know it, you’ve wasted hours. Slowly but surely, you have to teach yourself to leave well alone at times – and not to try fixing what isn’t broken.
You’re Not a Confident Learner
Some people seem to be able to understand new things at the drop of the hat. “Got it,” they say, and they’re off like sprinters off the starting blocks. Meanwhile, you’re still trying to get your head around this new information.
Could it be that you’re just more thorough than they are? Or are you really just a slow learner? Whatever the reason, you slog away until you’ve achieved mastery.
Sometimes, You Forget Things You Knew Before
Just about anyone experiences this. It’s how the brain works. If you aren’t actively using knowledge it goes into the archives of your memory where it can be difficult to find and access.
Some people just won’t admit it. Are you more forgetful than others? It doesn’t matter if you keep records of everything!
Yes, even in software development, it’s perfectly possible to think too much! “What if this – and what about that?” are among the things that sometimes take up your time when you should just be running with the idea.
But sometimes, these questions need answers too. Knowing when you’re overthinking can be a difficult call. Sometimes, just taking a break and doing something else for a while can help you to gain perspective.
You Don’t Always Take Time Frames Into Account
You know you can do it, but estimating how long it will take is not among your strengths. Unfortunately, it’s an answer everyone wants to know – your boss, your team, and ultimately the client.
A mini-project management approach might serve you well. Break up your task into bite-sized chunks and estimate the time needed for each one. And remember, it’s better to under-promise than it is to lay down a timeline you can’t possibly live up to!
You Get Frustrated When You Get Stuck
Some problems aren’t easy to solve or don’t have obvious solutions. It drives you crazy! And if you’re independent (usually, a good thing) you get stubborn and keep bashing your head against the same barrier without making much progress.
Learn when to ask for help. Know when you need a bit of downtime to let your subconscious work on the problem.
How to Talk About Your Weaknesses
You guessed it! It’s a question recruiters often ask. Did you spot your weakness here? If not, think about what they may be and how they affect your work. Are you working to tame those unfortunate little habits?
If so, what are you, or will you be, doing about them? As with your strengths, use real-life examples. Talk about what you learned from them and how you’re working to resolve them.
Example: “Sometimes, I overthink. When I was working at X company, I once spent hours just trying to figure out Y. I got very frustrated and decided to take a break and work on Z instead.
When I got back to Y, I suddenly realized that I was getting too bogged down in the details. In doing so, I’d lost sight of the one thing I needed to do to solve the whole issue.
After that, I learned that taking a step back is sometimes the best solution. Still working on it, but making progress!”
Not sure how or what to talk about when it comes to weaknesses? Here’s a naughty little trick!
Talk about something that is related to the role you’re hoping to occupy but that you don’t really need to know in order to do the job you’re being interviewed for!
Say you don’t have much experience with it and are struggling to find any motivation to learn more about it. It’s a crafty little trick, but then, so is the question your interviewer just asked!
Recruiters Aside – It’s About Being the Best You Can Be
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses isn’t just about impressing recruiters. Although you can use this self-knowledge to create a good impression, you’ll probably add a little spin to them in the process.
But just being able to look like a good candidate isn’t the real object of the exercise.
The real importance of this bit of introspection lies in your personal and professional development.
For instance, if you lack patience, you can find ways to learn patience – and if you have a strength, knowing it can help you to apply it when necessary and put the brakes on when it isn’t helpful in a current situation.
As for weaknesses, there will be times when you join the rest of the world in having days when you feel less-than-perfect. You may even experience a degree of “imposter syndrome” in which you feel that you aren’t really what everyone else seems to believe you are.
You might feel slow, even stupid. That’s OK. We all have days like that. Everyone has good qualities and bad ones. And we have good days and bad days. Work on having more good days than bad. Self-knowledge is the key to unlocking them.