Soft Skills: What Are They and Why They’re So Important

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Since ancient times, recruiters and hiring managers have dedicated their attention solely to candidates’ hard skills, basically ignoring soft skills. But why does this happen? Is one really more important than the other? Why do recruiters cringe at the idea of good communication skills, but love hearing about how many diplomas a person has? To go further into the subject, we need to refresh some of the basics first.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Let’s start with hard skills since they are usually the easiest ones to explain and understand. Hard skills are easily quantifiable, straight to the point, usually backed up by a certificate or diploma, they can be learned in school and from books, and they depend on your IQ. This type of skills can also be easily measured by a recruiter or hiring manager. Hard skills include, but are not limited to the following:

• Computer programming
• Typing speed
• Knowing a foreign language
• Mathematical skills
• Physics
• Ability to operate machines

On the other hand, soft skills are known to be very subjective, almost impossible to quantify, complicated to prove, and they depend on your emotional intelligence and natural talent. They are self-developed attributes that only improve or get better with time and experience; they are not taught at school and can’t be learned from a book or a course, but they can definitely be reinforced and improved with experience. Soft skills are complicated to evaluate during a job interview since the candidate has to demonstrate them on-the-job and they usually take some or even a long time to prove. These skills include, but are not limited to:

• Good communication
• Leadership
• Problem-solving
• Teamwork
• Confidence
• Work ethic

Are Soft Skills in It to Win It?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can continue with some real talk: why is it recruiters flinch at even the thought of soft skills? Besides the fact that soft skills can’t be checked during an interview, recruiters have no way of proving the job seeker actually is a good leader until they’ve checked their references (which aren’t always completely reliable) or until the employee has actually spent some time actually doing the job they’re applying for.

Job seekers have always had a “hard skills are more important” chip implanted since before they even figure out what they want to do for a living. This has made us think that it’s all or nothing when it comes to certificates in the professional world. And yes, it’s very important to be an expert in your area, but it’s equally as important that you know how to work with other people or that you’re able to communicate efficiently with both coworkers and clients.

A recent survey carried out by the Wall Street Journal indicated that out of 900 executives surveyed, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. However, 89% also said that they have a very difficult time finding people with these attributes. So, what do these numbers mean? They mean that hiring professionals are indeed looking for soft skills, but aren’t able to find them; not only because you can’t see them right away or evaluate them with a simple test, but also because everybody, both hiring pros and job seekers, is used to downplaying these assets.

In fact, more often than not, job offers are filled with soft skill requirements, but recruiters don’t really take them into account; on the other hand, candidates also include a bunch of soft skills in their résumés just to fill space when they don’t actually possess them.

Notice People Who Go the Extra Mile

Not all is lost for soft skills. Candidates have been looking for ways to demonstrate their creativity and worth to their future employers by standing out from the crowd. For example, one person pretended to be a delivery man in order to catch HR’s attention by giving out his résumé inside a box full of delicious donuts.

Another person decided to apply for a job by sending the company a “No Sleep” package including his résumé in the form of a prescription, a bottle of pills designed to keep the company’s creatives awake, and even a pillow that doubled as a business card. All of that to demonstrate his creativity and hard work to his future employers.

By going the extra mile, candidates are making recruiters’ jobs easier by letting them know their soft skills exist while showcasing them at the same time. Hard skills alone won’t ever be enough for any role, so taking into account soft skills will definitely allow hiring professionals to find the perfect match for any position.

When it comes to soft skills, they actually are a real need in the professional world, just as much as hard skills. Now it’s up to hiring professionals to take these skills into consideration when looking for the right candidates.

Vanessa Fardi
Digital Copy Editor