It’s Not Luck: The Importance of Soft Skills

Mar 14, 2019

Do you ever wonder why certain people seem to get any job they apply for? What is it that they have that others don’t? It’s not (usually) that they are extra lucky! The answer could be that they have better soft skills. Companies that want the best people are realizing that they need to look for strong soft skills in their candidates. But what are soft skills? Why are they important in the workplace? And how can job seekers demonstrate them?

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are often defined as intangibles that cannot be taught and measured. These activities include time management, communication skills, problem solving, leadership potential, and collaboration. One in three recruiters believe that job candidates’ soft skills have gotten worse in the past five years. There is a growing expectation that parents and schools need to better prepare students before they enter the workforce.

Why Are Soft Skills Important in the Workplace?

Peter Schutz, former CEO of Porsche, said “Hire character, train for skill.” More and more organizations are recognizing the importance of refining employees’ social skills. The bottom line is directly impacted by factors like collaboration, adaptability, and time management.

Many of these soft skills are related, underscoring the importance of being well-rounded within the realm of soft skills. For instance, collaboration between employees is not only good practice but also indicates an employee’s emotional intelligence (EI). EI is closely tied to leadership skills, as someone with higher EI is more likely to resolve conflicts and solve problems between colleagues.

Hiring people who have the potential to grow with your company saves time and money in having to replace them or fill a position if they cannot grow into it. People who show good handling of past failures or missteps not only show problem solving skills, but leadership ability. If a candidate can show that they can problem solve and think for themselves when issues arise, they show that they can take on the responsibility of a larger role.

How Can I Demonstrate My Soft Skills in a Job Interview?

It isn’t easy to test candidates’ soft skills. Employers are using technology like video screening—whether by Skype or more advanced video interview platforms—to check job seekers’ communication skills.

Some employers also require interviewees to take part in job simulations that show how they would perform job duties. In a job simulation, a company can create scenarios that the candidate might face on the job. The candidate completes each scenario and the employer can check how well he or she performed. These simulations show whether a candidate can translate his or her personality traits to fit the job’s demands.

Companies are including behavioral interview questions as part of the interview process more often than ever. With any behavioral interview question, you want to be sure to provide enough detail that the interviewer can determine your skill level. Some examples of these types of questions are:

  • Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult colleague. (Collaboration and Emotional Intelligence)
  • Describe an instance when something didn’t go according to plan at work. What was your resolution process and what was the outcome? (Adaptability and Leadership)
  • Give me an example of when you had to handle several projects at the same time. How did you stay organized? Were all deadlines met? (Prioritization and Time Management)
  • Recall a time a manager rejected one of your ideas. How did you react to his or her feedback? (Humility and Ability to Take Criticism)

As human resources and management focus more and more on soft skills, job seekers must find ways to show them. Although technical skills are critical to getting the job done, communication, adaptability, and working well with others will always be important. Don’t rely on luck—develop your soft skills and watch the job offers come in.

Written by: Sarah Perlman

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