The Soft Skills That All Hiring Managers Are Looking For
Listen up, job seekers! Forget your technical chops—here are the qualities you really need to succeed.
What are soft skills?
Congrats! You’ve earned your diploma and think you’re ready to land your dream job—but first, you need soft skills. Although you might have the technical know-how, or “hard skills,” to do the work, your future employer might be looking for something more. One survey showed that job candidates rated themselves higher than employers did on whether they had the skills necessary to do the job. So what are soft skills? They’re people skills like communication, leadership, and dependability. Soft skills can’t be quantified, which makes them hard to measure, hard to identify in job applicants, and even harder to teach on the job—but having them will make you stand out as an employee. LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends report found that 92 percent of hiring professionals say soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. See how you measure up and find out the ways job searching is about to change forever.
You look for innovative solutions
It’s an oft thrown-around term, but true outside-the-box thinking is a skill in itself: the ability to not be hemmed in by previous thought patterns but instead have a willingness to look beyond. A new report from LinkedIn lists creativity as the number one soft skill companies need most in 2020; a World Economic Forum report lists it as number three for 2020. The most creative workers employ “lateral thinking,” or deliberately forgo traditional notions in favor of looking at alternate options. You can also use “divergent thinking,” which is basically brainstorming many different ideas in a short period of time. A divergent thinker is always looking for more possibilities, which employers can use to problem-solve existing issues and take their company in new directions. This is the key to being a more creative person.
You follow through
It’s great to have all the biggest, most creative ideas in the world, but you also have to have the attention span and motivation to make them happen. Too often, employees are all talk, but when it comes to actually getting the job done, they falter or get distracted by their next big idea. A good worker can stay on track, balancing a sense of creativity with a sense of commitment to the current task. A valuable employee “follows up and follows through, and is reliable and trustworthy—that is someone you want on your team,” says career expert Michelle Tillis Lederman, founder of Executive Essentials and author of The Connector’s Advantage. “You can think of it as personal accountability, to do what they say they are going to do,”
You’re a critical thinker
Along with creative thinking, critical thinking and critical observation are also sorely needed by employers—and sorely lacking in today’s information-overload culture that prizes a fast pace over a deep dive. And in fact, in today’s “fake news” world, the ability to analyze information without bias to form a judgment is more important than ever. In Cengage’s survey, critical thinking came in as the number four most important skill (67 percent of employers); The World Economics Forum report listed it at number two. However, in MindEdge Learning’s State of Critical Thinking Survey, 59 percent of recent graduates said they were “very confident” in critical thinking skills; yet over half failed a nine-question quiz designed to test it. But if these 12 things apply to you, you’re probably smarter than you think.
You’re emotionally intelligent
Perhaps even more important than your IQ is your EQ, or your emotional intelligence, which includes being self-aware of your own emotions, plus having the ability to perceive others.’ “The biggest differentiator between the average performer and star performer is their EQ, not their IQ,” Lederman says. “Technical skill can be learned, but the more challenging aspects are the interpersonal skills required to navigate environments with diverse personalities, politics, and competing agendas.” Employers now realize that this sensitivity to others’ emotions is necessary among colleagues, which is why both LinkedIn and the World Economic Forum listed emotional intelligence on their top skills list for 2020. “Creating productive work relationships is critical to success, longevity, and happiness on the job,” Lederman says. Here are the things you need for emotional intelligence.
In today’s world of social media, it can be tempting to post every aspect of your life, including your unpopular opinions and all your wild and crazy times. But even if you think your privacy settings are locked up, remember that anything posted on the internet could be seen by a potential employee. A report from Pew Research Center found that nearly a third of workers ages 18 to 29 (plus 16 percent of those 30-49 and six percent of those 50-64) have discovered information on social media that lowered their opinion of a colleague.
And in the workplace, the colloquial, emoji-filled way you chat with friends on social media might also spill over into your verbal and written communications with your boss, clients, and colleagues—which, depending on workplace culture, might not be seen as desirable. “Be clear on how you want to be known, and consider your personal brand in all communications whether in person or online,” Lederman says. “Be consistent in being the person you want others to view you as.” Here’s how your employer knows everything you do online.
You have integrity
“Integrity” is one of those hard-to-define terms that is nevertheless crucial to success in the workplace, and in life. It’s about being honest, ethical, and always doing the right thing—which, in a high-stakes job, can sometimes be hard to do. Employers, though, will value integrity as another sign that they can trust you to execute the company’s goals and mission with the best of intentions, even when no one’s looking. “Infuse into your interactions the qualities about yourself you value the most,” Lederman says. “Try this: Imagine yourself in the witness box in a court of law needing to defend something you said or wrote—can you? Do you want to?” Use these rules of business etiquette that will help you get ahead at work.
You have a growth mindset
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With a fixed mindset, you believe that your abilities and talents are unchangeable; but with a growth mindset, you’re open-minded enough to embrace the challenge of getting better and branching out in new directions. A LinkedIn Learning Report noted that employee growth mindset was one of the top challenges for the company’s talent developers—so if you already have it, you’re ahead of the game. “An open-minded person leverages curiosity to explore possibility—they slow their thinking down to stay in a place of curiosity versus conclusion,” Lederman says. “Openness is the foundation for connection [with others], and to be open we must be open to being wrong. That will enable collaboration and innovation while minimizing group think.” In fact, the most important sign of a successful person isn’t your IQ—it’s your growth mindset.
You’re a quick learner
According to the World Economic Forum, five years from now over a third of skills considered important in today’s workplace will have changed, thanks to advances in areas like “smart” digital technology, machine learning, and biotechnology, which have become part of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Because of this, the ability to learn new skills has become as important as the skills themselves; Cengage included learning new skills as one of the top things employers are looking for. “Technology and automation will continue to change and replace jobs, but there are skills that cannot be automated,” Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, says. “Today’s learners and graduates must continue to hone their skills to stay ahead.”
You go for it
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Because hard skills are changing so rapidly, you don’t need to walk into an interview thinking you possess all the technical training you need. In fact, LinkedIn’s CEO, Jeff Weiner, said in today’s work environment, it matters less what degree you have—or if you even have one at all. “We’re looking for people with the dedication, with the work ethic,” Weiner said at a recent Arizona State University/Global Silicon Valley (ASU GSV) Summit, per Inc. “We want to give them a shot. And what we’re finding is, these people are incredibly talented, and they need a chance.” So if you’re holding back because you’re concerned about the school you went to—or didn’t go to—don’t, because employers are looking for hires with the passion and drive to go for what they want. These are the 10 best places to work—and they’re hiring.