“Research from the National Soft Skills Association reports that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills.”
As you gain success with a company or prepare for new opportunities, it’s important to develop and maintain a set of skills that add value to your workplace persona. While skills vary depending on job experience and education, CareerBuilder reports that 77% of employers look for candidates possessing soft skills. You’ve probably noticed them popping up in job listings, paired alongside technical qualifications. If you have the soft skills employers are looking for, you have a powerful edge on the competition.
What Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are more social than technical, and reflect a person’s ability to accept feedback, maintain organization, problem solve, and collaborate with others.
While technical skills on your resume may score you an interview over the phone or in person, they’re vital to keeping the job once you’ve gotten it, and can be transferred to any other job or career. Research from the National Soft Skills Association reports that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills. Sounds like these know-how skills are pretty significant!
For a skill to be considered “soft”, it must have the following three characteristics:
- The skill is portable and valuable to future employers. Since soft skills are all about interpersonal effectiveness, inner strength, and work ethic, they’ll add value to your career as you work with a variety of people. Strong soft skills will help you move from job to job, industry to industry.
- There is no correct way to master the skill. Different from hard skills that require consistent and specific techniques, the effectiveness of a soft skill relies on your emotional state, the type of people you’re working with, and your willingness to learn and contribute.
- You will never fully master the skill. Because soft skills focus on relationships with others and self management at work, you’ll never fully master it, simply because you’re always growing. If you feel like you’ve mastered a specific soft skill, you’re due for new tasks that push you to learn more.
Remember: 16% of employers believe soft skills are more important than hard skills when screening job candidates.
Think of it this way
The difference between hard and soft skill is that: Hard skills can be taught whilst soft skills make a person who they are.
To give yourself the best shot at growth and success, both on a personal and professional level, be mindful of the top soft skills employers are looking for:
There’s a difference between being able to work in a team setting, and wanting to work with a team. If you have strong interpersonal skills, connecting with people and effectively managing success and conflict to get a job done are valuable assets to employers. Personal accomplishments look good on your resume, but showing that you can work with others is just as important.
Communicating involves more than just talking to coworkers. It involves expressing yourself clearly and appropriately often, whether you’re persuading a board of executives or taking the time to explain a task to coworkers. This soft skill also includes active listening, strong writing capabilities, and nonverbal communication.
Have you ever been asked “What is your biggest weakness” during an interview? Being able to look at yourself from the outside forces you to understand your self-perception compared to what’s really going on — and helps you fine-tune your natural instincts when reacting to a situation. If you have a habit of reacting too quickly (or waiting until the last minute to meet a deadline) accept these traits and improve yourself. Maintaining a self-aware state of mind in the workplace allows for better relations with supervisors, project managers, and colleagues, ultimately creating harmonious environments.
Steps to become more self-aware:
- Take a personality test
- Ask for feedback
- Keep a journal
- Make time to meditate
- Make goals and track your progress
Your social skills, self-management practices, and overall presence give hiring managers clues on your emotional intelligence (also known as EQ). Even though you won’t see emotional intelligence listed on job description requirements, EQ refers to someone’s ability to manage their own emotions and notice the emotions of others.
- How do you handle frustration?
- Are you able to think clearly and act accordingly in an embarrassing moment?
- How can you help a coworker who is experiencing this?
This is powerful stuff! So powerful that research has found that every point increase of EQ equals $1,300 in annual salary, and that people with high emotional intelligence make, on average, an additional $29,000 per year than people with low EQ.
If you feel rushed on a project or stressed about a deadline, are you able to take a step back and think of a clear, organized approach to finish the task? Being able to take a deep breath and maintain realistic goals for yourself are important to maintaining patience at work with your own and others’ performance. It’s also helpful in letting you see the big picture of a project, and gaining perspective on why things are taking longer than hoped.
Maintaining soft skills isn’t exclusively for new employees. In today’s technology-driven business environment, the willingness of employees to follow the latest news and adapt to the latest technology is critical for business development. In order to succeed, you’ll need to have a passion for continuous learning and make efforts to stay on top of industry news. If you have an open mind and are willing to adapt, you set your own limitations!
Staying organized and being able to effectively plan, implement, and assist with projects is a highly effective soft skill to maintain. According to Hilary Atkinson of the Project Management Office, the ability to multitask and lead a team are the most desired traits. Keep in mind that everyone who depends on you and is affected by you — such as stakeholders, clients, supervisors, and fellow team members. But no pressure!
Problem Solving Skills
In any interview you’ve experienced (and will experience) you’ll be asked how you’ve overcome a challenge in the workplace. Your answer not only makes you think about your work ethic, but also tells the interviewer what your problem solving skills are like. Can you work under pressure? Do you hesitate making decisions? Were there measurable results to learn from? Do others see you as a resource?
Teamwork and Collaboration
Employers want to hire team members who do more than just meet resume requirements — they want someone who can get along with others and fit the company’s culture. Lynne Sarikas, Director of Northeastern University’s Career Center, explains “That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with others across the organization to achieve a common goal.” If you show you want to work with others, other will want to work with you.
Research conducted with Fortune 500 CEOs by the Stanford Research Institute International and the Carnegie Melon Foundation, found that 75% of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25% on technical knowledge.
Being able to resolve conflicts through persuasion and negotiation is a skill that benefits professional and organizational relationships. Keep in mind what’s in the best interests of your company, client, and team, and use that to push through conflicts and get to the best possible outcome. Some questions you may be asked to demonstrate your experience with conflict resolution include:
Tell me about a project where you had to work with an unreliable coworker.
Explain a conflict you experienced at work, how you managed the situation, and what the end result was.
Building your soft skills
Developing your soft skills takes training, just like any technical skill. These blogs focus on developing soft skills, and are great reading for anyone interested in giving their career a boost:
- Getting Things Done – A blog about time management and becoming a more effective person, by world-famous speaker David Allen.
- Ask A Manager – One of the best! Allison Green shares workplace tips, with a focus on soft skills and great discussion in the comments section.
- Brian Tracy’s Blog – This brilliant author and speaker shares tips on building soft skills and success.
- High Performance Blog – Become a better team player, both as a team member and as its leader, with these valuable tips.
- Futility Closet – Exercise your mind and be a more interesting person with these fun puzzles and tidbits of knowledge.
Now that you’re aware of the top soft skills employers are looking for, make sure soft skill enhancement is part of you interview preparation. Check out online soft skill workshops to get yourself up to speed with what recruiters are looking for. After all, we live and work in an age of communication, so being able to confidently express what you can bring to the table as a person is just as important as highlighting the technical skills you possess.