The Top Soft Skills That Employers Look for in Job Applicants
Soft skills are the reason candidates go through the job interview processes. If employers were not looking for soft skills — also known as the immeasurable traits that make job applicants unique as professionals and individuals — then people would solely be hired based on their resumes or Linkedin profiles. Instead, businesses require applicants to go through comprehensive interview processes so that they can determine how this employee might benefit the business in distinctive ways and where they would fit into the culture of the team.
In this guide, we will share some of the most essential soft skills that employers value in candidates and future employees.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are personality traits and interpersonal strengths that make us who we are and relate to how we work and interact with our colleagues. These are non-technical, behavioral skills that can’t be learned but are developed throughout one's life. Employers highly value soft skills because they enable people to be more adept professionals and better teammates, which can greatly affect the culture and success of a team.
Soft skills versus hard skills
In contrast, hard skills are technical skills that are learned through formal education, training or hands-on practice. They are tangible, measurable, easily transferable and clearly convey to employers that a person has the ability to perform specific tasks. Some of these skills can be:
- Speaking more than one language
- Web development
- Graphic design
- Data and analytics
- Full cycle recruitment
- Proficiency with tools such as Microsoft Office, Hubspot, content management systems (CMS), Salesforce
- Programming languages such as HTML, Python, Java
Although hard skills are necessary to possess for getting the job done, there is much more to being a great employee and a successful professional than the work itself. In order to grow as a leader, foster a collaborative team and truly impact a business, professionals need to have other noncognitive skills. For example, a surgeon might have the degrees and know-how to perform surgery but they also need to possess traits like empathy and the ability to work under pressure to truly be great at their job.
Soft skills can be traits such as:
- Decision making
- Active listening
- Public speaking
While companies might be able to easily find someone with the same or even better technical skills than another employee, it is much harder to replace the work ethic, vivacity and inherent qualities that each individual uniquely brings to the table.
Popular soft skills that employers value
Great verbal and written communication skills are key to being a successful employee. Although most people would consider communication skills innate, many highly skilled and knowledgeable workers do not possess them. Learning to write and speak clearly, confidently, and with emotional intelligence improves one's professionalism and ability to get ideas across. Organizations value employees with strong communication skills because it helps their teams to be more aligned, and effectively foster partnerships with customers.
Emails, documents, managing multiple tasks at once and communicating cross-functionally are just a few of the things that can make a working professional’s day-to-day overwhelming. The only way to stay on top of your work and not get bogged down by requests is to stay organized. Employers know that work can be demanding and while one hopes to have a manageable workload, it is important to have the tools to ensure you never miss a deadline or respond to a customer. Strong organizational capabilities will look like good time-management skills, strategic planning, productivity and attention to detail.
Many employers, particularly those at startups, are looking for professionals who have an entrepreneurial spirit. There are a few different components that can contribute to having this soft skill, such as: being innovative, having a go-getter attitude, being a risk-taker, having problem-solving skills and possessing self-direction. Entrepreneurial individuals are great at taking ownership and offering creative solutions, both of which help a business to get ahead and succeed.
While it is okay to prefer to work individually, employers want to know that you will be a valuable contribution to the team and hold yourself accountable for the role you play. Teams need to be collaborative, unified and motivated if they want to achieve goals and have streamlined processes. A good team player will be dependable, attentive, transparent, helpful and respectful.
Whether you're an individual contributor or your job is in the C-suite, every employee should have leadership qualities. A successful leader should be driven, compassionate, strategic, adept at problem-solving and motivational. As a team lead or member of higher management, one should also be great at managing teams, delegating tasks, offering guidance and mentorship, decision-making and acting with integrity.
In any organization, things are always subject to change. Whether it’s the product, the team or the scope of your role that is changing, a successful employee should be flexible and have a willingness to learn. And if there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic taught businesses, it is that they need candidates that are able to roll with the punches and adapt. Professionals that are adaptable have the ability to stay on top of various moving parts, are not easily discouraged and tend to try new things and correct mistakes quickly.
Critical-thinking abilities are an important soft skill to have in order to make informed and impactful decisions. One needs to be analytical and observant in their approach to work so that they may better understand problems and develop solutions. They should possess a desire to learn and improve, think outside the box, be resourceful and be logical. Critical thinkers are highly sought-after by employers because they are able to offer new perspectives and move a business closer toward its goals.
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