Whether you are a hiring authority or a job seeker, you are well aware that you need to possess certain “hard” skills for various jobs. A well-defined set of sales skills may not be the best fit for a Java Developer, and engineering skills do not, by themselves, qualify you for a CFO position. There are, however, a set of skills known as soft skills that will get you noticed (and hired) more frequently than the letters after your name.
What are Soft Skills?
Simply stated, soft skills are the personal qualities and behaviors that make people good employees, regardless of their function within a company. These are skills that can be developed over time, but not necessarily taught in a classroom. Most soft skills are innate abilities learned over time that can have tremendous impact on a person’s individual and team success. These are the skills that are often sought out when determining cultural fit.
Let’s discuss what some of these skills are.
1. Work Ethic
- Work ethic, without a doubt, can be a natural quality that some possess over others. It is developed over the course of a lifetime, and is the foundation of the best employees, regardless of title. It is often a quality that is mimicked by example, but not always. There are numerous stories that come to mind describing how two siblings are polar opposites in terms of their work ethic, even when raised in the same environment. This comes into play in many forms in the workplace, from absenteeism, to dedication and loyalty, to quality of work. Having a strong work ethic will attract and keep the attention of a potential employer far more than a certification or other credential.
2. Time Management
- This goes hand in hand with work ethic, but time management deserves its own line item. Whether an employee is delegating tasks, prioritizing projects, or simply arriving at work on time, managing time in a work day is a critical skill. If you have ever read a book on productivity, it is well known that just one minute of a needless distraction impacts the next 21 minutes of productive work. If you don’t know how to manage your time wisely, you are more likely to face repeated distractions. Before you know it, your morning (or the whole day) disappears.
3. Positive Attitude
- Attitudes are contagious, and spread like wildfire. A positive attitude can make the difference between a minor bump in the road and an astronomical problem. Every day, workers are faced with challenges, large and small. Approaching those challenges with a positive attitude can assist in making logical and methodical decisions, versus abrupt and emotional responses to issues that are faced. Employers look for positive approaches to problems and real-life examples of how past issues have been handled when they are interviewing, and will prefer candidates who demonstrate that they take viable steps to solve a problem, rather than coming up with a quick-fix solution.
4. Effective Communication Skills
- Regardless of an employee’s function within a company, success in business can still come down to interactions with one another. Being able to communicate has overwhelming ranked #1 in terms of the most important soft skill that employers seek. The ability to be clear, concise, professional, and most of all, kind can change the trajectory of even the most challenging interaction. Body language, eye contact, and a smile conveys intelligence and confidence to the individual you are interacting with. When deciding between two candidates with similar qualifications, communication skills is often a differentiating factor. Personalities are individual, but introverts and extroverts can still communicate effectively, regardless of how gregarious they are.
- This term is often used as a predictor of emotional intelligence, but it is somewhat of an all-encompassing description of a high potential employee. An individual with a high level of adaptability will be able to morph with the ever-changing landscape of a business. He or she will be able to work efficiently both independently and in a team environment, will think strategically, and will be able to accept criticism and improve upon faults or mistakes. The person will possess innovative ideas, but will also have the ability to execute. A true jack of all trades.
Education and professional certifications are very important in finding the right candidate for any position, but finding the perfect “fit” often involves a combination of educational expertise and strong soft skills necessary for exemplary performance. Some other common soft skills that made their way into the ranking were technical proficiency, attention to detail, fire, desire to continuously learn, passion, trust in their eyes, and marketing knowledge. What do you feel the most important soft skill is? I would love to hear from you!
by Natalie Lemons
Natalie Lemons is the Founder and President of Resilience Group, LLC, and The Resilient Recruiter and C0-Founder of Need a New Gig. She specializes in the area of Executive Search and services a diverse group of national and international companies, focusing on mid to upper-level management searches in a variety of industries. For more articles like this, follow her blog. Resilient Recruiter is an Amazon Associate.