When hiring a new employee, employers want to find the person who is the best fit for the job. An ideal candidate typically has the right know-how, education and tangible skills to handle the position. Clearly, many employers feel it is important to look for these hard skills which are rooted in knowledge and experience, but that's not all they're looking to find.
There are other personal attributes employers look for during the hiring process. For instance, they are also looking at a candidate's soft skills. Defined, soft skills are essentially a person’s attributes that enhance his or her acquired hard skills; these are primarily associated with attitude, interpersonal abilities and a capacity to work with others. These skills are looked upon as valuable ones to possess.
Back in 2009 Kate Lorenz, in an article on AOL Jobs, told job hunters, "Companies value soft skills because research suggests and experience shows that they can be just as important an indicator of job performance as hard skills." 1 (The AOL article was updated in 2014, and the sentiment still stands, if anything it's probably become more important).
Fast-forward five years and, based on what employers are saying, soft skills are definitely high on a hiring manager's wish-list when it comes to candidates. According to a 2014 survey by CareerBuilder, 77 percent of employers said they believed soft skills were "just as important as hard skills" and 16 percent said they believed soft skills were even more important. 2
During the interviewing process, some soft skills employers look for include:
Good Communication Skills
How a person communicates is an essential attribute to consider. In today's work environments people work closely together, both in person and through text-based and web interaction. Communication skills, both spoken and written, are vital. Employers often consider an ideal candidate to be able to express themselves in a positive fashion, be articulate, clear and also able to listen to others. This social aspect of a person's individual skill-set is a valuable one to think about.
According to a 2015 survey by Burning Glass, communication ranked as the "most or second-most desired baseline skill in all industries." 3 Consider all the daily tasks that require different levels of communication including customer service, negotiations, team projects, email and social media. The modern workplace is highly interactive with clients, customers, suppliers, vendors and colleagues, so strong communication skills are a huge plus.
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Employers seek people who are able to easily communicate with others, both internal and external to the organization.
Able to Handle Responsibility
Employees that are responsible add value to the organization. During the interview getting a sense of whether or not the candidate is responsible is worth the effort. This can include attributes such as time management, meeting deadlines and the ability to be conscientious. Being dependable and a go-getter is a big plus too.
When making a hire, a person's integrity is another attribute employers seek. This soft skill is a crucial one because if a person with no moral compass is hired, this can come crashing down at a later date, even if he or she is brilliant in with his or her hard skills. In the above-mentioned survey, 73 percent of employers asked said this was one of the characteristics they looked for in a person.
Employees are often faced with difficult ethical choices, and a person's integrity can make or break a business. Consider publicized scandals of the past, such as Enron or Tyco, and keep in mind that these outrages are fundamentally rooted in the decisions that had been made by decision-making individuals.
Keeps a Positive Attitude
Employees who are able to bring a positive presence to the workplace can help shape the future of the organization. Toxic environments can be lethal to organizational morale and hiring people who are upbeat and positive can do wonders for the workplace and help avoid the organization falling into the trap of a negative environment.
Organizational studies have suggested negative attitudes in the workplace tend to be contagious in nature. However, hiring people with a positive attitude can counteract any potential for a negative, or toxic, environment developing. Managers these days tend to actively seek people who can bring a positive presence to the workplace.
Would you prefer to work with someone who views the glass half-empty or half-full? The former can lead to some slow-moving days in the workplace if it's a consistent attitude day in and day out. Positivity often leads to higher productivity - which is something most employers place a priority on.
Flexible in Nature
Dynamic organizations generally want to hire people who possess strong levels of adaptability. It is not uncommon for unusual events to occur that need immediate attention or a change in direction during the course of a workday or a project. Individuals that are adaptable in the sense that they can problem solve, be flexible and possess good time management skills will be able to effectively meet the needs of the organization when warranted. Today's world is a past-faced one and the ability to adapt to a change in plans without getting frazzled is a big plus.
Ability to Work in Teams
Employers want people who are team-oriented too. Today's business environments are highly team-dependent and it's important to be able to work well with others. Having a positive approach to working is a good attribute to have in team-centric environments.
Teamwork matters to most employers, it keeps things running smoothly and consistently. All it takes is one non-team player to upset productivity.
Other soft skills such as common sense, leadership instincts, ability to manage multiple priorities, work under pressure, good manners and levels of creativity are other potentially valuable attributes employers seek. Ability to show empathy and consideration for others are good attributes too.
While technical know-how and work experiences are essential skills to effectively handle the job, it is important to consider the fact that soft skills are important too. Especially in the modern business environment where high levels of personal interaction are occurring, compatibility with others and personal presentation are valuable considerations when making the hire.