Soft skills – the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others – may be just as important to performing and keeping a job as the technical or job performance related skills for which people are hired.
And many employers agree. In a survey of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder in 2014, 77% of employers felt that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.
“When companies are assessing job candidates, they’re looking for the best of both worlds: someone who is not only proficient in a particular function, but also has the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.
“Along with responsibilities, it’s important to highlight soft skills that can give employers an idea of how quickly you can adapt and solve problems, whether you can be relied on to follow through, and how effectively you can lead and motivate others.”
Top 10 soft skills that employers consider when evaluating a job candidate
The top 10 most popular soft skills companies say they look for when hiring are that the candidate:
- has a strong work ethic – 73 percent
- is dependable – 73 percent
- has a positive attitude – 72 percent
- is self-motivated – 66 percent
- is team-oriented – 60 percent
- is organized, can manage multiple priorities – 57 percent
- works well under pressure – 57 percent
- is an effective communicator – 56 percent
- is flexible – 51 percent
- is confident – 46 percent
If you want to know more about the importance of soft skills, just ask Frederick H. Wentz. He’s an expert on the subject and wrote two books used for training people so that they can recognize and develop their soft skills.
Wentz became aware of the need during his years working in the restaurant industry. “I hired a lot of entry level employees, and many came from communities that lacked exposure to soft skills,” he says.
He also worked training people in reentry and noticed that people who have been out of the workforce for a long time had the same problem.
“The biggest challenges (to those in reentry) are making decisions and problem solving. When they’re incarcerated all their decisions are being made by someone else,” he says. “Communication is another difficulty for them. In prison communication is just one way.”
Wentz goes on to say that, “The behaviors that people need to survive in prison are being tough and being intimating, and these are not going to work on the job.”
Four types of soft skills
Instead they need to develop soft skills. Soft skills can be one of four different types, related to:
- Problem solving
- Interpersonal relationships
- Personal attributes
As specific examples, Wentz mentions, among other things, being:
- Able to get along with others
- Able to control emotions
- Able to follow instructions
In his book, Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment, Wentz alternates articles and stories about success with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.
Some examples of the questions from the exercises in the book:
- What do most entry-level workers lack?
- In what areas do entry-level employees need the most improvement?
- Why is it important to reach out and help others while at work?
- When you do not understand something, what are three positive consequences of asking a question?
- List five personal qualities you must display on every job.
- How did Michael Jordan visualize and how did it help him? Give an example of how it can help you.
Job developers who work with those in reentry may find this book a useful tool.
And those looking for work might want to add references to their soft skills in their resume or JIST card. Including things like “meets all deadlines,” “works well in a team environment” and “communicates effectively” will highlight your proficiency in the soft skill arena.
Because employers are convinced of the importance of these skills, make sure you let them know you have them.
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