Critical Soft Skills

Top 6 Critical Soft Skills For Job Seekers

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It’s a typical story for many job seekers. You apply for a bunch of jobs. You get some interviews, but can’t understand why you aren’t hearing back from so many of these companies. Whether it’s to actually get a job interview or to be called back for a second interview, oftentimes, you may come to the conclusion that you just aren’t as qualified as many of the others.

Other times you know you are qualified, so what gives? While there are many factors that come into play here, it is a fact that some less qualified candidates are chosen over more qualified candidates simply because they have stronger soft skills than their more qualified counterparts.

Soft skills for job seekers are a combination of your personality, attitude, and social skills, do weigh heavily in an employer’s decision to consider you as a candidate. Many employers believe most people can be trained in the hard skills required for a job much more easily than they can be trained on the soft skills. If you are a job seeker, you should do a self check on how you present both to prospective employers.

Millions of companies out there have some ultra highly skilled employees. These are employees who may have advanced degrees, various certifications, lengthy relevant experience, and sound knowledge of their job responsibilities. Despite that, their managers are desperate to toss them out. How do things go so wrong with such skilled employees? Aren’t highly skilled employees the object of an employer’s search for a new team member?

Despite their sound skills and knowledge, some of these highly skilled employees turn out to be an employer’s biggest nightmare. Perhaps they are argumentative, self-serving, unmotivated, dishonest, or just have terrible attitudes. Maybe they have all those traits or just a few.

Regardless, they lack some critical soft skills that are not easy (and oftentimes, impossible) to train. As a result, more and more employers are willing to train less qualified candidates when they find ones with outstanding soft skills.

While hard skills are the skills employees should have to actually do their job  (education, training, and experience) those alone simply are not enough to land jobs in many companies. Many employers assess candidates for their personality and behavior traits and consider finding the lack of strong soft skills to be deal breakers.

As a result, less qualified employees often win jobs because employers know that hiring employees who lack strong soft skills can wreak more havoc to their bottom line than employees who are lacking some of the hard skills.

I am not going to say that people can’t learn and grow in some key soft skill areas but ask any manager if it’s easy to train an “attitude.” It’s not!

The following are the critical soft skills employers most desire in their employees:

  1. Honesty and integrity
  2. Strong work ethic
  3. Emotional intelligence
  4. Self motivated
  5. High energy/positive attitude
  6. Team player

There are employers out there who typically concentrate on qualifying candidates solely by their hard skills.  Sooner or later, though, they realize the price they will pay. They may find some great employees but they are bound to find some bad ones and these bad ones are hard to forget! These are the employees that literally consume up to 80% of a manager’s time.

Sure, they know how to do their job, but they also can make life miserable for everyone around them in the process!

Most experienced managers have had their share of experiences with employees like this. Because of that, more and more employers are finding themselves open to considering less qualified candidates with highly impressive soft skills.

If you are a job seeker, you need to be aware of the importance of these critical soft skills and how you can use them to leverage your personal and career brand in your job search. You can intertwine them into your cover letter and also into your job interviews. Using specific examples in situation/behavior based interview questions is key.

Highlighting these skills and using them as examples of how you operate, as an employee, is a great way to make up for any hard skill deficiencies that you might have.

Every day, job seekers apply to jobs they are not fully qualified to do and many do get hired! However, common sense must come into play here. Obviously, you should not apply for engineering jobs if you have no engineering experience and were an English major in college.

However, if it just comes down to types of degrees required (bachelors vs. associates) or years and type of experience, you can and should leverage your soft skills to increase your chances of being considered for the position. If you do lack certain hard skills, you should always mention that you are a very quick learner and can easily be trained without issues.

I have overlooked many hard skill requirements to hire an honest, hardworking, positive person who was just so eager and willing to become a high-level team member. For the most part, they work out great and become great assets to the company and the work culture.

The time it takes to train some skills that may be lacking is truly nothing compared to the energy that gets zapped from an employee who lacks critical soft skills. All job seekers should make a point to highlight their soft skills because be assured, employers need and want them!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jessica Simko

Jessica Simko is a senior-level HR Consultant and job search/career strategist. Please feel free to download her FREE report on "The Job Interview Game."

5 comments

  1. Poor soft skills account for MANY employee issues after the fact. A company has a lot to lose by not considering this before hiring; reputation, business/customers, and good employees. Managers tend to sweep these difficult employees under the rug causing hard feelings throughout the team , workplace stress escalates, a lot of time and energy goes into documenting, mentoring, and eventually (if they are lucky), separation, and good employees will not complain-they will just walk.

    Unfortunately, soft skills are hard to determine before hiring, they can be faked. I believe this is the reason online searches have become so popular.

  2. What a bunch of hooey! If these “soft skills” aren’t part of your natural born being…shame on you!

    This article is emphasizing something I don’t find necessary to emphasize. A new employer will find out very quickly if you lack any of these “soft skills.” Please.

  3. Jessica, I believe that managers just don’t want to deal with any problems and that is why the U.S. is losing so many jobs. I have worked in major corporations where the employees are running the policies, not adhering to them. That is, the employees will gang up against new employees if they aren’t thin, are too smart, don’t fool around, make their goals, etc. When this happens, there really isn’t much that ‘honesty, integrity, hard-working, Strong work ethic, Emotional intelligence, Self motivated, High energy/positive attitude, Team player can do except not be the person they truly are before they are shown the door. In other countries, workers actually work like we did in the old days. If Managers would stand up, the U.S. would become a better country again.

  4. Great article, and I agree with soft skills being a major component that employers should consider when selecting candidates. However, soft skills cannot be gleaned from a resume, which is a candidate’s primary marketing tool and generally contains a list of “hard skills” (and accomplishments). And, those hard skills and accomplishments are what recruiters and managers look for when reviewing resumes and contacting candidates for interviews. So goes the scenario that the perhaps “lesser qualified” candidate with more of the soft skills that a manager is seeking (but not apparent “in print”), doesn’t even get a call for an interview, to exhibit or demonstrate those in demand soft skills.

  5. Hey, I love this trend! A surgeon has made a mistake – no problem he has so-nice-soft-skills… one human more one human less, soft skills are learned HARDER than anatomy, you know! He will learn anatomy some day… he is a fast learner, you see…

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