A Little Soft in Soft Skills

By Debra Wheatman

On December 5, 2012

In General

About careers, soft skills


This year Millennial Branding conducted a survey of 225 employers using Experience Inc.’s data pool of over 100,000 U.S. companies.  The subject was the “Student Employment Gap.” What caught my attention was the perceived deficit in soft skills for entry-level employees.   Often candidates, especially recent graduates, overlook soft skills when preparing for a career.  Education, technical ability, industry knowledge, and job skills are critical.  This survey underscores what recruiters and HR professionals already know – soft skills matter. 

Employers identified communication skills (98%), positive attitude (97%), adaptability to change (92%), teamwork skills (92%), and goal orientation (88%) as the top five skills they are seeking.   Surveyed employers stated communication skills (91%), positive attitude (85%), adaptable to change (85%), teamwork skills (82%), and strategic thinking & analytics (78%) as the five skills most difficult to find in candidates. 

You can teach an employee how to use a new software application or operate equipment.  Entry-level employees can gain industry knowledge and adapt to company procedures fairly quickly. However, soft skills are not easily gained.  Some people are natural communicators.  Others are fortunate to have had experiences in their youth that helped them develop those skills early in life.  Many are “late bloomers” when it comes to communication.  If we look further we see the next three most sought-after skills (positive attitude, adaptable to change, and teamwork skills).  These attributes are part of our personality; they are ingrained deeply. 

From an employer’s perspective, we can see that it is much easier to hire employees with these qualities than it is to develop those soft skills.  Many employers use pre-employment testing to identify these characteristics.  The gap in these skills mean employers will need to make choices and perhaps compromise.  The gap will need to be filled via employee development programs, which are costly and not effective for all employees. My focus today is helping you, the job seeker.  I see this as an opportunity for you to enhance your skills and outpace the competition in the job market! 

If I told you go out and pick up all the white shells that you can find on the beach.  You are the best beachcomber and come back with twice as many as anyone else in the group. Then you realize that although the white shells are valuable, you also need pink shells. Only the people with pink and white shells will get a prize.  You may say, “That’s unfair; you never told us that.”  That is how it is with soft skills.  Students work hard in college and trade schools building technical and job skills. They earn their degree and realize nobody told them they needed to have strong soft skills to succeed.  I am here to say, soft skills are as important as job skills.

Throughout the month of December, I will feature one soft skill every week:  Communication, Positive Attitude, Team Work, and Adaptability.  I will share tips and resources for you to develop those skills.  It is not enough to just write “Excellent communication skills” on your résumé.  Within the interview and screening process, an employer will be able to assess your skill level.  It is important that you hone those skills.  Not only will it improve your career life, it will enhance all areas of your life.  Stay tuned to this blog for more information.

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