The topic of employee “soft skills” would seem to be one worth revisiting on a periodic basis. It is an area that many Job Seekers struggle with since it does not focus on the objective items, such as your academic degree(s) or your years of experience in a role. By definition, “soft skills” are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.
Unfortunately, many Job Seekers make the critical error by inferring from the word “soft” in “soft skills” that these are attributes that are not as important. The reality is that in a job world where many candidates have similar backgrounds, a Hiring Manager increasingly looks towards the “soft skills” to determine who to hire for the open position. In fact, perhaps the term “soft skills” should be rebranded to stress its importance, such as “in demand” or “coveted”. The reason being that these attributes are not as easily obtained or applied as simply studying for a certification exam or putting the time in to get a certain level of experience.
The world constantly evolves and over time, the items that fall neatly under the term “soft skills” have consistently increased in importance. These are the areas that you should highlight in your Resume and (especially) the Cover Letter. This is because the Cover Letter gives you a better opportunity to express yourself, along with the ability to focus on a “soft skill” in written communication. The “soft skills” are also an area where you should honestly evaluate yourself to determine where you may have a noticeable weakness. This is then where you should place your focus on when determining where you can improve your candidacy.
The nice thing with “soft skills” is that once they are learned, they tend to serve you for the rest of your career. In comparison, you may learn a software program that is obsolete in five years or take my field in Human Resources. So many changes regarding HR and legislation that what you learned and mastered a year ago may not be correct today.
Let’s take a moment and briefly list some of the key “soft skills” whose importance varies, depending on the particular position.
- Communication Skills – Both oral and written communication skills are critical for many positions, and an area where the skill set is increasingly lacking. You should speak with poise, avoid slang, make eye contact, and have confidence. Your written documents should be error free, lack slang, limit acronyms, and be easily readable.
- Problem Solving/Complex Thinking – Some people see a problem and seek others to solve or they panic. While problem solvers have the ability to rally people, evaluate the situation, then fix the issue.
- People Influencers – As you probably noticed, this list is heavily slanted towards key leadership skills. Rather than just writing “leadership skills”, we have taken the approach of outlining the “soft skills” that make an outstanding leader. There are certain individuals that have the ability to connect with others and gently assure them that their path is the best one to take.
- Change Managers/Embracers – Change is inevitable in today’s work world, and those who do not accept this are either left behind or work in misery. Someone really strong in this category actually has the foresight to see change in advance and brings those ideas to the table for group consideration.
- Multi-Accomplishers – Here I am using my own term instead of multi-taskers, which focuses solely on just getting things done. Rather, this coveted “soft skill” includes tasks, but also the ability to work on different projects/initiatives at the same time.
- Team Building/Player – Regardless of whether you will be expected to work on building the team or being a solid player on it, this is a critical area to succeed in. In today’s world, very few employees work by themselves without the key interaction of others.
These are just a small sample of the type of “soft skills” that are in critical demand by employers. As you probably noticed, they have little to do with how many years of experience or what degrees or certifications you happen to possess. Rather, they focus on you and your ability to step in and add value to the organization. In a competitive marketplace where so many applicants look similar, it is up to you to determine how to highlight your “soft skills” in order to capture the attention of the Hiring Manager. Beyond just carrying yourself with the confidence of someone who possess these skills, come to the phone screen or interview with specific examples of how you have shown you possess them. Focus on accomplishments that are a result of you using these coveted skills.
As always, best of luck in your job search.
The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.
WNY Human Resources Professional
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