Getting the hard skills you need to land the right job is important, especially if you’re going into engineering, statistics, web development and other technical positions. But it may be the soft skills that lead to your next job, so you better brush up on your interpersonal communication and critical thinking if you want to be considered.
Guy Berger, Ph. D., an economist at LinkedIn, wrote an article recently, co-authored by Link Gan, economic research manager at LinkedIn, that highlighted a recent query, interviewing 291 hiring managers in the US about soft skills. According to the findings, 59 per cent of the responses stated that soft skills were “difficult” to find, while 53 per cent of responders said that hard skills were “difficult” to find, and 58 per cent stated that the lack of soft skills among candidates was “limiting their company’s productivity.”
This misalignment between soft and hard skills means that the right people are getting more difficult for companies to find. The top 10 most in-demand soft skills, according to the Master In-Demand Professional Soft Skills on Lynda.com, lists these skills:
- Always punctual
- Critical thinking
- Social skills
- Interpersonal communication
- Friendly personality
These soft skills are most common in service industry and human resources jobs, and least common in industries like design, semiconductors, media production and film. But all industries demand that employees have some of these soft skills to be able to interact within their companies.
Often, though, soft skills are underrepresented on a resume, which makes it more difficult for hiring managers to make decisions on paper. The article recommended adding some of the soft skills key words to your resume to help it stand out. More importantly, however, is obtaining and honing those skills in the first place, which are often not taught in our current educational system.
“These soft skills may just be less practiced, because of email and the volume of interactions,” said Roy Notowitz, Managing Director at Notogroup in Portland, Oregon, a company that advises top brands and helps recruit talent. He said that employees often default to the form of communication they think is quickest, which is often text or IM.
“People tend to not walk two cubicles over to talk with a co-worker. This is a generation that broke up with boyfriends and girlfriends over texts,” he continued, regarding Millennials.
Notowitz went on to say that time-crunching and efficiency expectations have made it so that workers now wear so many hats that they truly don’t have time to develop and utilize the soft skills many companies now desire. He pointed to the economic crash of 2008, when companies started cutting back on staff and then required that remaining staff do more, adding tasks that may not even fit with their specialty. Adding those extra layers means the employee is always working and not able to grow soft skills.
Globalization has made a workforce that has to be aware of work all the time so workers don’t have time to think and develop skills to help them get ahead.
Learning soft skills might seem difficult for those who have never had to address the issue before, but there are some ways to find which ones are most desired by employers, including the LinkedIn study and an article on Monster.
But how do hiring managers and potential employees match up in the future, especially as our industry veers more and more towards the digital realm?
Notowitz notes that many companies are starting to take the time to help develop talent, something his company helps companies do. Finding an employee’s strengths and weaknesses helps companies keep talent longer. But those companies must know who they are, have a strong sense of culture and be clear about their objectives.
“People are looking for genuine brands. The trick for companies is to be honest and clear about their culture,” said Notowitz, noting that those companies are able to hire a diverse range of people and have them fit in. He said companies like Nike, Patagonia and Eileen Fisher are good examples of companies with clear cultures and that are working to develop talent.
Job seekers, on the other hand, need to know what they want and be willing to take the time to learn the culture, develop their soft skills in their drive to get ahead. Getting promoted before someone is ready can often lead to disaster for the employee and the company.
“A person has to be interested in self-development,” he said.
Notowitz said that there are good people in every company, and some not quite as good. His company helps clients differentiate and find those with leadership qualities to help move companies forward.
“There are a lot of people with untapped potential at companies big and small. Not just corporations,” he said.
Emphasis on training for these skills is a priority. Educators need to go beyond teaching the technical skills of the job and expand to including soft skills. Employers should be doing the same during the training process. Shoving somebody into a job just because they are technically proficient may not be the right move. Taking the time to hone soft skills and get the employee to work in a team atmosphere successfully should be a part of the training program.
Also, vetting employees before hiring is always important, but keeping talent who possess these skills is vital as well. Webinars, manager conferences and hubs can all be helpful in keeping good employees up to date with soft skills, and can keep managers from recognizing those on the way up.