Por: Perry Haan, Professor of Marketing & Entrepreneurship/Writer
Job candidates with strong soft skills are in high demand for many different types of positions. Soft skills are the interpersonal attributes needed to succeed in the workplace. These are related to how people work with and relate to others. They are also referred to as “people skills”.
Regardless of the job, employers are looking for employees with the aforementioned soft skills. To succeed at work, employees must get along well with all the people with whom they interact, including managers, co-workers, clients, vendors, customers, and anyone else you communicate with while on the job. These are the types of skills all employers value. Employers want employees who are able to interact effectively with others. These skills are also very hard to teach, so employers want to know that job candidates already have the soft skills needed in order to be successful.
The following is a list of some of the most important soft skills that most employers look for. Employees need to develop these skills and emphasize them in job applications, résumés, cover letters and interviews. Showing an interviewer that a potential employee has these skills will actually help someone get hired.
Any list of problems for any company usually includes communication at or near the top. An employee who is good at communicating with colleagues, bosses, customers and others is very valuable to an organization. Speaking clearly and, more importantly, listening, are critical to success in an organization. The ability to write good memos and reports is also important in many companies. Today you may also be asked to respond to customers on blogs and social media. This is the number one skill for which most hiring agents are looking. In addition, nonverbal communication is also important. Something as simple as a smile can influence how effective communication can be. Self-awareness of one’s nonverbal reactions is difficult to monitor but important. Employees are also asked to make presentations and do public speaking. Many are afraid to speak in front of groups, but with practice anyone can overcome that fear.
The ability to analyze situations and make informed decisions is part of being a manager and a skill used in all other jobs. The ability to objectively analyze problems, evaluate alternatives and devise solutions is critical in today’s business world. Adaptability is one of the skills needed in order to be able to successfully think critically. Every situation is different and analysis skills must be adapted to any situation. Creativity contributes to critical thinking. Many believe creativity is a trait people are born with. While true that some may be born with more tendencies towards being creative, creativity can indeed be learned: the brain can be trained to look for different and unusual ways to connect different pieces of information. The expression “thinking outside the box” has become a popular cliché for trying to find new approaches to solving problems. The ability to make useful contributions to brain storming sessions is an indicator of some people’s creativity.
Not every job constitutes a managerial position, but that does not mean leadership skills are not important to those other jobs. At different points in time, employees take on informal or formal leadership roles within an organization. Employers want to know that someone has the ability to make decisions and take on leadership roles when necessary. Stepping up in a difficult situation and helping to resolve it, is something employers look for in prospective employees. In the longer run, of course, the company may be looking for hires who can take on management or other formal leadership positions. Those doing the hiring may ask about leadership positions the candidate has been in and how he or she reacted when in that situation. Often, these situations may have included conflicts where the manager wants to know if the potential employee possesses skills for conflict resolution and conflict management. These are important in all positions in any company. Leadership can also include knowing how to properly delegate work to others in the organization. This is a skill that highly valued when looking for employees to move up to management jobs. Part of the delegation process includes giving feedback to employees. Many organizations today even have policies where employees provide feedback to their superiors. More companies are implementing mentoring programs. This is where an experienced employee works to help a newer employee become oriented with the organization. Finally, employees at all levels may be called on to conduct meetings. The ability to properly carry out planning, running and follow ups, shows good organizational and soft skills.
Employers are always seeking people who bring a positive attitude to work. A positive attitude is contagious. Employees who are friendly, eager to work and considered a pleasure to work with, are highly valued in organizations. Staying positive is particularly important when working in a fast-paced, high-stress work environment. A good attitude can overcome many other short comings. Self-confidence is a trait of those who have positive attitudes. Those who feel good about themselves are more likely to be cooperative and courteous when dealing with others. Enthusiasm is another characteristic of a good attitude. Enthusiastic people are those who experience intense enjoyment, interest or approval. This word was originally used to refer to a person considered to be possessed by a god. They are known as being “high energy.” Employers are also looking for people who are honest. The more someone can trust an employee the more likely they are to be hired and promoted.
Even though most were taught this as young children, not everyone is able to work well with others. Either in team projects, attending a department meeting or just working with someone else in order to plan a party, employees need to be able to work effectively with the people around them. People need to be able to work with those they like and also with those they do not like. The reason this is important is rather simple: groups working together can accomplish more than people working by themselves. This concept is referred to as “synergy”, and it’s one of the goals of any organization. Some skills related to teamwork include the ability to negotiate with others and the ability to recognize and appreciate diversity in a team. Negotiation, starting with convincing the employer to hire them, is a skill that is used more than most realize.
One of the newer soft skills is emotional intelligence. This idea was made popular in the business world about twenty years ago by a guy named Daniel Goleman, who focused on emotional intelligence as a variety of competencies and skills that are related to job and personal performance. Goleman’s model outlines five constructs:
Self-awareness is the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and to recognize how they influence others when making decisions.
- Self-regulation involves monitoring or changing negative emotions and adjusting to changing.
Social skill deals with managing relationships in order to move people in the desired direction. It is similar to the leadership traits discussed earlier in this article.
- Empathy means considering others’ emotions, especially when making decisions.
- Motivation, which was mentioned earlier in this article, means being driven to achieve a goal.
Some companies today administer assessments in order to determine what level of emotional intelligence the applicant possesses.
Employers look for job candidates with a strong work ethic. Such people come to work on time, complete tasks in a timely manner, stay focused and stay organized. They are able to budget their time and complete their work thoroughly. They take the initiative to find new ways for contributing to the success of the company. They are self-directed. While they can work independently, people with a strong work ethic can also follow instructions. It is often very difficult to determine what kind of work ethic an employee has until she has worked for the company. Job applicants needs to emphasize their past accomplishments to try to convince the new employer that they are a hard workers. A strong work ethic is difficult to teach, so employers will also look for signs on this in the job application. Those with a strong work ethic are often very loyal to the company. They are dedicated to working hard to further both their own and the organization’s objectives.
While it’s impossible for anyone to be equally strong in all of these areas, it is important to be aware of and attempt to develop these skills. This is especially true if there are skills in which one knows is weak. These are skills that, therefore, need to be acquired. Becoming aware of which ones need work is the first step in becoming a more attractive employee or potential employee to a company.