If You Aren’t Hiring For Soft Skills, You Just Aren’t Hiring Right

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YOU’RE NOT ALONE if you are a little fuzzy on the definition of “soft skills” in the workplace.

Here’s one that I like from a website called SearchCIO:

Soft skills is a synonym for “people skills.” The term describes those personal attributes that indicate a high level of emotional intelligence.”

Why soft skills really matter

In other words, according to Wikipedia, soft skills are “a combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes[ and emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) among others.”

This is important because The Wall Street Journal recently proclaimed that “Employers Find “Soft Skills” Like Critical Thinking in Short Supply.” Their point?

Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers.

Those traits, often called soft skills, can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by.”

A growing problem

As someone who has always had pretty good soft skills, yet was told numerous times how much more important “hard skills” — a person’s technical skill set and ability to perform specific tasks — were, this was a big surprise.

The WSJ also says that,

A recent LinkedIn survey of 291 hiring managers found 58 percent say the lack of soft skills among job candidates is limiting their company’s productivity.

In a  Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92 percent said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89 percent said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes. Many say it’s a problem spanning age groups and experience levels.”

Something you must be hiring for

My take: Soft skills simply don’t get much respect in the workplace. As one article from a few years back observed, “A lot of managers turn up their noses at the mention of “soft skills.” But they ignore that part of the supervisor’s role at their peril.”

Yes, soft skills are downplayed seemingly at every level, from recruiter to hiring manager to line manager to top-level executive. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen high level managers downplayed and pooh-pooh the need for soft skills.

But, the ability to connect with employees and get the most out of them is growing in importance, especially when it comes to the Millennial generation given how they don’t respond well to top-down edicts or command-and-control management systems.

Given the race to hire people with technical help — like engineers, who aren’t exactly known for their people skills — it’s no wonder that people with good soft skills are in short supply. They simply haven’t been valued all that much.

The ability to connect with people personally will never go out of style. If you aren’t focusing on soft skills in your recruiting and hiring, you better get to it because you’ll need them more and more as Millennials and Gen Z become the backbone of America’s workforce.

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