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Soft Skills – Hiring Managers Say Are Key Differentiator: Are You Prepared? [AOTJ]

Here at Ivy Exec, we believe that knowledge is a crucial component of a successful job search.

The more you understand about the process and what hiring managers are looking for, the better prepared you will be.

To that end, we recently conducted a survey of over 250 Human Resource Professionals from 17 industries. Our goal was to use the information provided to paint the most complete picture possible of the hiring landscape in 2018.

While the final report offers many interesting insights, one point in particular really stands out. When asked to identify the additional soft or technical skills they desire most among candidates, the hiring managers overwhelmingly cited soft skills.

Why is this surprising? Well, in today’s tech-focused business world, you might be inclined to think hard skills would reign supreme. But, in reality, the less tangible soft skills are actually deemed much more important, especially for more senior roles.

This is likely the case for a variety of reasons. First, soft skills are harder to teach. Yes, they can be learned. But if someone doesn’t have the aptitude already, it can take a great deal of time and coaching to bring them up to speed. Technical skills, on the other hand, involve a fairly straightforward training process that can be quick for a tech savvy individual to learn.

Secondly, it’s these soft skills that really transform an average employee into an outstanding one. Even those who have mastered the technical components of a role still need soft skills to be a truly effective part of the team. These are the skills that help us build relationships, both internally and externally—a key requirement for nearly any employee.

Also read: Human Skills at the Center of Technology

Which Soft Skills Matter Most?

So, if soft skills are so important, it makes sense to break that down a bit and define which soft skills are most important. According to our survey, the following rank at the very top of the list:

  • Communication: The ability to exchange ideas and information with others both verbally and in writing. This may include public speaking, mediating conflict, negotiation, etc.
  • Emotional Intelligence: The ability to understand your own emotions and manage them appropriately, as well as the ability to understand the emotions of others and to use that to effectively navigate relationships.
  • Critical Thinking: The ability to think deeply about complicated topics, evaluate arguments, make logical connections, and solve problems.
  • Customer Service: The ability to provide exceptional service to internal and external customers alike, and build lasting, productive relationships.
  • Team Work: The ability to collaborate and achieve results with a diverse group of colleagues.

How to Cultivate Soft Skills

As mentioned earlier, soft skills can, indeed, be learned. However, it’s not necessarily fast or easy. It takes a great deal of self-awareness and practice. It’s not as simple as learning a linear process, where you first do step A, then step B, and then step C. Soft skills are more nuanced and thus require a more thoughtful approach.

If you feel you could use improvement in any of the 5 soft skills listed above (or any others), here are some steps to consider:

  • Read books on the topic; Most will include a lot of stories about what these skills look like in real life. This helps make the topic more relatable and the strategies offered more applicable.
  • Work with a mentor who can provide you with honest feedback and guide you in making behavior modifications where needed.
  • Ask for regular feedback from your boss and peers. These are the people who work with you the most so they should have the most direct experience to draw from.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for “mistakes.” Recognize that every misstep is an opportunity to learn what you should do differently next time.
  • Practice the art of self-reflection. Try to be an observer and watch how your behavior looks to others. Remember that your intentions aren’t visible; only your actions are. Ask yourself: Are my actions helping or hurting my ability to accomplish my goals?

If you’re in the market for a new job this year, don’t underestimate the value of soft skills. Invest some time in elevating your abilities and you may find more opportunities open up to you.

Need Help Refining Your Soft Skills?
Try Working With a Mentor Via Our Mentor Program

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker who believes work can be a nourishing part of the life experience. Her website, Eat Your Career, is devoted to this mission. Chrissy is currently a contributing career expert for U.S. News & World Report and the author of the book, The Proactive Professional: How to Stop Playing Catch Up and Start Getting Ahead at Work (and in Life!), available on Amazon.