The underrated importance of soft skills

November 14, 2017 Caitlin Leishman

As technology advances and jobs become more automated, soft skills will actually become more important than ever. You’ll need both technical and soft skills, such as collaboration, communication, and time management to succeed in the workplace, but did you know that 58% of recruiters believe soft skills are more important for senior level positions?

It is important to differentiate between hard skills (technical expertise) and soft skills (the way in which you do your job). While hard skills are important in terms of getting hired, soft skills are more variable and can help you stand out when it comes to a promotion.

Soft skills are on the decline, with 97% of recruiters agreeing that children need better teaching in soft skills before they enter the workforce. Some of the more important skills that professionals value in a job candidate include problem solving, adaptability, communication, and professionalism. The soft skills you require will vary depending on your industry, position level, and company size. For instance, if you work in a managerial position in HR you will require more soft skills than someone who has an entry level job in distribution.

Recruiters commonly judge if a job candidate has the required soft skills by seeing if they show up late, dress inappropriately, check their phone, and avoid eye contact. The more competitive a field is, the more important soft skills and personality traits are. Your soft skills could also be evaluated prior to an in-person interview, either over the phone, reference checking, personality tests, and more. Many organizations are taking advantage of new technological capabilities in order to assess soft skills even more effectively. It’s more important than you think, 75% of recruiters have cut an interview short simply because they didn’t demonstrate the required soft skills.

So how can organizations hire more effectively based on soft skills? Soft skills can often be judged based on bias, and are far more ambiguous to evaluate than hard/technical skills. An easy way to get around this problem is to use behavioral competencies, which identify the observable behaviors of top performers, describing not just what these employees do but HOW they do it. By describing the “how” and presenting the information as observable behaviors, competencies give you a more accurate way to identify and develop talent. For instance, each HRSG competency covers multiple levels of proficiency, outlining the behaviors for someone at level 1 versus levels 2, 3, and more. For instance, this means you can get to the root of what makes someone exemplary at communication or problem solving, versus someone at a more basic level.

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