What are soft skills and why do you need them?
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At KLC Recruitment, we've learned firsthand how important soft skills are to potential employers. In order to catch a hiring manager's eye, it's important that you don't just match the technical abilities they require, but have the people skills they are looking for as well.
So what exactly are soft skills, and why do they matter to your job hunt?
What are soft skills?
Technical, or hard, skills are easy to define and measure. They are specific and teachable abilities, such as math, software development or knowing how to drive. Soft skills, on the other hand, aren't so simple to describe.
Generally, they are considered talents that are based on personal attributes. Unlike hard skills, which you can test to see what level of expertise someone possesses, measuring how strong someone is in a particular soft skill isn't so simple. Usually soft skills are gauged through how you interact with people and scenarios.
A few examples of soft skills include:
- Creative thinking.
- Conflict resolution.
Soft skills are much more akin to emotions than hard skills which relate more to logical processes. This can make them more difficult to learn as well, and are often accumulated through experience rather than traditional learning methods.
Teamwork is an important soft skill for many organisations.
Why do soft skills matter so much?
Of 900 executives, 92 per cent said soft skills were equally, or more, important than technical skills a Wall Street Journal survey revealed. Yet 89 per cent of them also said that they were having difficulties finding candidates that matched their requirements.
Soft skills are clearly valued by organisations. Yet why is this? Two of Google's projects, Aristotle and Oxygen may give some insight into why businesses are recognising the benefits of having employees with strong soft skills on board.
Project Aristotle sought to figure out how to build a perfect team, whereas Oxygen focused on whether managers were needed, and if so what skills helped them perform more effectively. Both came back to show that technical skills of team members or managers didn't have as much of an impact on performance as soft skills. For example, what made a team perform well was a strong sense of psychological safety, which related to confidence that a team would give space for each member to speak up. In order for this to happen, individuals were skilled at picking up how others were feeling based on a variety of factors.
Hard skills are an important part of the equation. However, a business needs more from their employees than just technical performance. Consider a medical doctor, for instance. Clearly they require a mastery of all the required technical skills, but in order for their patients to trust them and return to them again they also need to demonstrate empathy, compassion and excellent communication skills.
The top soft skills to develop for your resume
The soft skills your potential employer is looking for are likely to differ depending on what industry or position you're applying for. In general, though, there are some common skills that are useful no matter what role you're in. These include soft skills such as:
- Time management.
- Problem solving.
- Active listening.
- Conflict resolution.
Developing your soft skills benefits both your personal and professional life.
How you can develop and demonstrate your soft skills
1. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Consider your interpersonal skills. As with anything, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is key to capitalising on the positives and working around negatives. It's not always simple, figuring out what people skills you have, so try these options if you're struggling:
- What feedback have you received from previous employers or managers? If you've continuously been complimented on how well you work within a team or that you're always positive, it's a good indication that these are your soft skill strengths.
- Use a personality profiling tool - Through a series of questions, these impartial tests can help you identify strong personality tests and corresponding soft skills that you have.
- Evaluate past successes or failures - For instance, if you've consistently done well with exceeding performance targets and completing work ahead of schedule you're likely strong in motivation and time management skills.
2. Enhance vital soft skills
Think about the career you want, and what soft skills you'll find most essential for it. Focus on developing your abilities in these areas. You can do this in a myriad ways, but it's important to remember that one of the most effective ways of doing so is simply by using them.
Practice your soft skills as often as possible. Say you want to become better at problem solving. Instead of approaching your manager each time an issue arises, stop and sketch out a couple of different possible solutions to present to them. This way you're still ensuring the problem gets resolved, but you're stretching your abilities and developing your skill in coming up with the resolution.
Other options for learning soft skills include:
- Taking a course based on specific soft skills.
- Volunteering within your community.
- Joining an organisation, such as a drama club.
- Taking on mentoring or coaching roles.
All of these involve situations that will allow you to build on your soft skills by observing and learning from others who are demonstrating them.
3. Demonstrate them in your resume
To effectively feature your soft skills to potential employers, it's important to show, not tell, in your resume. Don't simply list that you're a creative thinker. Talk about the innovative solutions you've come up with, and how well they worked. Give tangible results to back up your statements and demonstrate your expertise.
If you're struggling to craft a job application that shows off your soft skills, reach out to the team at KLC Recruitment today. We can help you create a powerful resume and assist you in finding your dream job.
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