6 Essential Software Engineer Skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 July 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software engineers develop new computer programmes, applications and games. To be successful, they must be skilled in working together to generate ideas and solve problems, identify errors within code and complete projects promptly. If you're a software engineer or interested in becoming one, you may want to learn more about the important skills they need. In this article, we explore what software engineer skills are, important skills you may need in your career and tips for improving your skills.

What are software engineer skills?

Software engineer skills are important qualities and abilities that a software engineer must have to be successful. Software engineers are professionals who develop computer programmes and systems. Because software engineers work closely with technology, many of the skills they need are computer-related. However, many software engineers work in teams, making interpersonal skills vital as well.

Related: 8 Software Engineer Interview Questions and Example Answers

6 important software engineer skills

To be successful, software engineers must be highly skilled with technology, coding, programme development and working together to generate ideas and solutions. These are some important skills for software engineers:

1. Communication

Communication is important for software engineers because many software development projects require multiple people to work together. This means that you may need to collaborate with other engineers or explain complex software information to those who may not understand it well. For example, a software engineer may work with artists to design web applications. Improving your listening and active feedback abilities can help you to improve your communication.

Related: How To Improve Your Communication Skills

2. Teamwork

Many software engineers work in teams to provide services and maintain systems. Teamwork involves discussing problems that arise with coworkers, being able to articulate the project's needs, having the ability to listen and accept criticism, and having respect for other team members. Teamwork is also important because you may need to collaborate with others during brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas. Software development is typically a solitary act, but as a software engineer, you may need to communicate and work closely with others in a team.

3. Coding and technical literacy

Coding is the process of writing a set of instructions that's executed by the computer. It's the basis of software engineering and employers always list it as one of the technical skills on a job posting. So, if you want to pursue a career as a software engineer, understanding one or more coding languages is vital to your success. Here is a list of programming languages that an employer may highlight in a software engineer job post:

  • C#

  • C++

  • HTML

  • Java

  • JavaScript

  • Perl

  • PHP

  • Python

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is an essential skill in the workplace. It means finding the source of a problem and developing an effective and efficient solution. Some tasks that use this skill include testing and debugging software. Patience, creativity, innovation and critical thinking are also used to find the cause of a problem and in developing effective solutions.

5. Multitasking

Multitasking is the ability to perform more than one task at a time. As a software engineer, your career may require you to work on multiple projects under a tight deadline while staying organised and prioritising tasks. Time management skills allow you to remain productive and efficient.

6. Attention to detail

Attention to detail is the ability to identify and recognise individual aspects of a larger project. As a software engineer, you must be thorough when creating and proofreading project materials like code and documents. You may need to analyse code and utilise a version control system to store your old work. You must also employ thorough testing protocols in your code to ensure others can read it with ease.

Related: How To Improve Your Attention to Detail

Tips for improving your skills

These are some tips you can use to improve your skills in the workplace as a software engineer:

Ask friends and colleagues for help

Depending on the skill you want to improve, you may ask your friends and colleagues for help in improving. For example, a skilled coworker could help you improve your proofreading abilities, or just offer support as you strive to improve. Working with friends and colleagues to refine your skills can also help to create an atmosphere of advancement, potentially encouraging your colleagues to improve their skills as well. This can benefit you, as it may strengthen your team and relationships.

Assess your skills and abilities

If you decide you want to improve your software engineering skills, consider assessing your current skill level. To do this, you can find online tests for code, or evaluate your teamwork or communication abilities. Keep track of successful interpersonal encounters, positive feedback from your coworkers or potential miscommunications to understand your communication and teamwork abilities.

Request constructive feedback

Once you decide to improve your skills, talk to your supervisor and colleagues to request constructive feedback from them. If you consistently make the same errors when coding, ask that your colleagues identify it for you so you can improve. Ask for feedback on your suggestions and ideas so you can adjust your presentation or direction.

Related: Positive Feedback: Why It's Important and How to Give It

Assign time for practising

The best way to improve your skills is to deliberately practice them. For hard skills like learning a new coding language or system, you can find online resources like videos and free courses to help you. For other skills, like collaboration and interaction, you can ask a friend or coworker to assist you in practising workplace circumstances.

Meet with your supervisor

Communicate with your supervisor at work that you plan to improve your skills. It's helpful to identify exactly which skills you plan to work on and your objectives for improving. For example, you can express to your team lead that you plan to improve your collaboration with your team by focusing on listening and using positive body language. Your supervisor may appreciate the initiative or offer guidance and support.

Pursue further education

Depending on your current level of education and the skills you want to improve, consider pursuing further education. This could be a refresher course on coding languages and systems, or you may pursue a higher degree. Completing free online courses or attending local sessions is a good way to improve your skills.

Where to highlight software engineer skills

If you're applying for software engineer positions, you can highlight your relevant skills and achievements to your potential employer to show them your abilities and aptitude for the position. These are some aspects of your application you can use to highlight your skills:

On your CV

Your CV is the document your potential employer uses to understand who you are and the skills and abilities you possess. It's important to highlight your relevant skills, education and achievements in your CV. Before listing your skills, review the job description to identify specific skills the employer is looking for, and consider using those to better align your qualifications with the employer's expectations. These are some examples of software engineer specific skills you may include in your CV:

  • Python

  • Time management

  • Java

  • Critical thinking

  • Effective Collaboration

In your cover letter

In a cover letter, you can expand upon your skills and achievements as a software engineer. You can describe your work experience and qualifications in terms of the skills you used and developed, such as:

Example: 'As a software engineer at Mogul Ware, I collaborated with fellow developers on several finance tracker applications for our clients. I used my knowledge of Java and Python to customise functions, troubleshoot issues and debug platforms. I typically managed diverse tasks on seven to eight projects per sprint using a calendar and time tracker to ensure I remained on schedule with my responsibilities.'

During an interview

Your potential employer may ask questions to identify your skills, such as: ' How do you stay organised during a project or sprint?' or 'What are the most important skills for a software engineer to have?' Both questions and others like them are your opportunity to show the skills you possess. Consider this response to 'Describe your process for organising a day's work as a software engineer':

Example: 'Each day, I spend the first 15 to 30 minutes checking which tasks remain in my sprint, and communicating with my supervisor and fellow software engineers to see what tasks are ready for me to start. Then, I prioritise my tasks with the project timeline in mind. Finally, I determine how long each task will take and ensure that each task can fit within my hours worked that day.'

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