Soft skills are the behaviours, personality traits and qualities that we use to communicate and interact with other people. These skills are highly valued in the workplace and can mark the difference between a good employee and an outstanding one.In fact, soft skills are so highly regarded that a 2019 LinkedIn study
found that 89% of talent professionals and hiring managers associate ‘bad hires’ with poor soft skills.
Jobseekers who have had their education or workplace experience negatively impacted by the pandemic can focus on developing their soft skills to compensate. Remote working has highlighted the need for connection and relationships between colleagues, which relies entirely on soft skills.
Employers are looking for well-rounded characters who can fit in with the team, so a candidate who can demonstrate excellent soft skills will almost certainly gain the edge over their competition.
Soft skills vs qualifications and experience
When applying for new jobs, soft skills can be just as valuable as qualifications and work history. From an employer’s perspective, as long as an applicant has the minimum qualifications and experience to demonstrate capability, they can learn the rest on the job.
Most employers cannot, or will not, invest in developing someone’s soft skills when there are other candidates who don’t require that level of input. If you can be that person who demonstrates the desired personal qualities, you have a head start against your competitors, even if their qualifications and experience match yours.
How do soft skills compare to hard skills?
Hard skills are the skills we develop through learning, practising and refining. They include practical tasks, like using machinery, making calculations, following systems and implementing processes.
Whereas hard skills can be taught, soft skills are shaped by our nature, personality and background. An employer can hire someone with the desired soft skills and teach them the hard skills they need to do their job, but this is much harder to do in reverse.
Why do employers value soft skills?
People with well-developed soft skills bring positivity to the workplace; they communicate well with others, show empathy and understanding, avoid and diffuse conflicts, and help build team spirit. These traits all contribute to building a happy, cohesive team. Happy employees are usually productive employees, so the employer benefits as much as the individual team members.
Employees with good soft skills also make great candidates for leadership roles, so companies are always looking for promising individuals who show a high level of both hard and soft skills.
5 soft skills that are in demand
Creative employees challenge existing processes and are open to seeing things from different perspectives. Even in corporate roles and task-based jobs, there are always ways to improve efficiency and productivity with a little imagination. If you’re not naturally creative, work on developing your creativity
by asking questions and being open to new ideas. Some workplaces have a culture of nurturing creativity by encouraging staff at all levels to make suggestions and share ideas.
are vital for every sector, every company, and every job. Even someone who works alone from home needs to converse with managers, colleagues or clients from time to time. Someone who has excellent communication skills can resolve conflicts in the team, explain concepts clearly and express their thoughts in a constructive way. Communication skills can develop over time, and most people become better at communicating as they progress through life and gain exposure to different situations.
A team player is encouraging, supportive, and easy to get along with, sharing the successes and the failures with their teammates. The self-serving attitude of someone who isn’t a good team player can cause resentment and division in a group, increase staff turnover and reduce productivity. Companies want to avoid this at all costs, so they often include group interviews in their recruitment process to observe candidates in a team situation.
is the ability to recognise and regulate your own emotions and read the emotions of the people around you. People with high emotional intelligence manage their emotions well and show patience and empathy to others. In contrast, people lacking in emotional intelligence can be reactive, aggressive and insensitive – and they often don’t have the self-awareness to recognise these traits in themself.
Leadership skills are an extremely valuable skill set, highly sought after by employers. If we think about the qualities of a good leader, they are typically a combination of the soft skills we talk about here. Good leaders are respectful, encouraging, confident and assertive. They are emotionally intelligent and show empathy, inspiring their team to do better and reach higher. A good leader finds creative solutions to challenges and is not afraid to take risks.
As well as working on your soft skills, there are plenty of other ways you can stand out to potential employers. Check out our Ultimate Jobseeker Guide for seven steps to improve your chances of landing that dream job.