Wonder why you didn’t get that last job you applied for? After all, your hard skills — degrees, training and related work experience — were a close match to those listed in the job requirements.
The fact is, although the right academic pedigree is important, a majority of employers are still looking for candidates with the right mix of “soft skills.”
What are these so-called soft skills? Those are the personal qualities, abilities and habits that enable you to interact effectively with other people. They make you a good employee with leadership potential. Together, hard skills and soft skills comprise the total package that employers are looking for in job candidates.
However, according to a recent survey from DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board, only 7 percent of hiring managers said that “nearly all” or “most” job seekers have the right combination of skills and traits that their companies need to fill open positions.
The study also revealed that managers hiring recent college graduates rated soft skills, such as high integrity, a strong work ethic, accountability, self-motivation and strong basic interpersonal ability, as the most critical attributes for successful candidates.
Maybe it’s time for you to assess whether your résumé and interview answers represent your total package. According to the survey, here are six important soft skills that every job seeker should showcase in front of a hiring manager:
1. Go beyond just speaking the language
A study from Millennial Branding showed that 98 percent of employers viewed communication skills as “important” or “very important” when hiring for entry-level positions. Good communication skills encompass much more than just speaking well.
You need to be a good listener, use appropriate body language, ask the right questions and write clearly and convincingly. Obtaining a professional internship is a great way to enhance — and highlight — your communication and interpersonal skills.
2. Deeply understand true collaboration
Teamwork and collaboration are about being able to function effectively and efficiently as a group. Remember back in school when your teachers assigned team projects? They were trying to teach you these job-critical skills.
Employers want people who can work together to accomplish a plan, since virtually every job requires some level of teamwork and collaboration, and each team member brings different capabilities to the project. Job seekers can stand out from other applicants by relating experiences that required teamwork, whether as a volunteer, during school or in previous jobs.
3. Employers prefer problem solvers
In today’s fast-paced business environment, employers want to know that you can jump in to solve problems and help your company achieve its goals. This skill is seldom listed in a job posting, but always essential once you’re on the job.
Hiring managers are looking to see how well you can draw on creativity, logic and past experiences to address a challenge and solve the problem at hand. Use personal anecdotes to show the interviewer situations where you were able to take initiative and make a positive difference.
4. Technology skills are fundamental
Technical skills are no longer a nice “add-on” for job seekers. Most jobs today require some level of computer and technical skills.
With technology changing quickly, employers are looking for tech-savvy applicants who understand basic software development and the latest database tools. Many job seekers neglect to mention these skills in their résumés and job interviews because they feel these skills are implied.
5. Work without a safety net
Are you the type of person who can do your job without being micromanaged? Employers want workers who can proactively manage their workloads and complete tasks on time, without continual direction from others. Exhibiting your past experience handling projects with minimal supervision could give you a competitive edge over other applicants in your job search.
6. To err is human
Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important for employees to speak up when they’ve made one and face the consequences — instead of directing blame at someone else or the external environment. Accepting feedback about what went wrong, and finding ways to correct the problem shows maturity and reliability.
Workplace accountability is important. In order to achieve larger company goals everyone must work together and be the best employee they can be. In an interview, be ready to share a time when you failed and be sure you show humility.
The good news is that, like any skill, soft skills can be learned. One way to improve is to take a writing or public speaking course at your local community college to boost your communication skills. Or, volunteer with a non-profit organization where you can develop team-building, decision-making and cooperative skills.
The better news? Boosting your soft skills gives you a leg up on a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.