Soft Skills: Personal Attributes to Look for in Employees

In résumés and job interviews, often, the focus is solely on hard skills. Technical qualifications are important, but we should not forget about soft skills. Traditionally, job postings concentrate on hard skills—the ones required to perform a specific job. Hard skills are teachable and measurable. In contrast, soft skills are a candidate’s personal qualities and attitude. These skills should be considered when you review resumés and conduct interviews. The bottom line is that hard skills may get a candidate’s foot in the door, but soft skills will determine how long they stay or how well they perform in the workplace. According to Guy Berger, the chief economist at LinkedIn, “People that have the right soft skills have a leg-up in finding a job relative to their peers.” These skills are what set candidates apart from other applicants or co-workers. Mr. Berger also states that “changes in the economy—including automation and a shift of jobs from manufacturing to services—have boosted the demand for soft skills.”

There are many types of soft skills, but which do employers need to look for the most?

COMMUNICATION SKILLS—This skill comes as no surprise and is commonly listed on job postings. Employees will always need to communicate with co-workers, whether it is about a major project, a report, or the weather. Communication is also essential for interacting with clients and customers. In technical fields, employees need to communicate effectively, without technical words or jargon, and to make their language clear. Strong communication skills allow employees to actively listen to others and articulate their ideas to any audience. This soft skill is transferrable to every workplace and can be improved over time.

INTERPERSONAL SKILLS—This skill relates to how well a person gets along with others, in other words, people skills! You may think you’ve hired the perfect candidate only to realize that they do not fit with the team. They have the hard skills required (technical skills), but lack the ability to build good relationships with their co-workers and professional network. This can be a big problem, especially in jobs that require teamwork. Working with a person who lacks interpersonal skills can cause stress and ultimately make the project difficult for all involved.

ADAPTABILITY SKILLS—As the world is changing, we need to stay ahead to succeed. Charles Darwin said that the species that will survive are the ones that are adaptable to change. For example, what if an employee decided not to embrace technology? How could they succeed in the workforce, much less in your company? Technophobia is not an option today: employees need to embrace new advances to give your company a competitive edge and help it thrive in today’s market. Change can be good, and being adaptable sets employees apart.

TEAMWORK SKILLS—Being able to work effectively with co-workers creates a positive end result. When hiring, you should look for people who not only know how to work well with others, but understand that the end result was due to the team effort. When everyone in the workplace works together to accomplish goals, everyone achieves more.

ORGANIZATION SKILLS—You will notice that this skill is requested on many job postings; it is crucial to a successful career. Organization is essential in any job, as it allows employees to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines. An employee’s lack of organization will affect not only their own performance but also other operations within your organization. For example, unfocused meetings are time wasters for all who attend, and missed deadlines will affect the workload of all employees tied to a project.

Depending on your company or industry, you may wish to explore more soft skills when hiring new employees, such as leadership, problem solving, stress management, self-motivation, and customer service.

Ensure your next hire is a long-time employee and great fit in the organization by exploring methods of evaluating candidates not only on their technical skills but on their soft skills as well.


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