Friday, November 20, 2009

Set Yourself Apart with Soft Skills

What are soft skills?

Employers are not only looking to hire candidates who meet their “hard skills” requirements, but who also have great “soft skills.” It’s important that job candidates understand both and their differences.

Soft skills (people skills) refer to a person’s qualities, personality traits and social skills. Examples include work ethic, attitude, time management, problem-solving, and communication. Hard skills refer to specific skills necessary to perform a particular job, such as financial analysis or proficiency with a software application(s). Hard skills can typically be measured and quantified.

Most people think to highlight their hard skills, but may overlook the value of soft skills. The best place to emphasize one’s soft skills is in an interview. In fact, some companies use psychology scoring tests to assess a potential job candidate’s soft skills; however, most use open-ended questions like these:

Give an example of a time when you had to confront problems you had with your supervisor. How did you handle this situation, and what was the outcome?

Tell me about a team experience you’ve had—what worked and what didn’t?

You’ll be in a better position to answer these questions and showcase your soft skills if you prepare. Take a soft skill that you think the employer is looking for, like team player, and make a list of team projects you’ve worked on. Practice talking about your specific contributions, as well as your ability to collaborate, and by all means be sure to share any examples of helping to resolve team conflict.

Workplace communication and leadership expert, Peggy Klaus discovered in both one-to-one and group training sessions that a significant number of people weren’t getting where they wanted to go at work. “Whether young or old, experienced or inexperienced, what struck me most about their stories of missed opportunities and derailed careers was this: Their problems rarely stemmed from a shortfall in technical or professional expertise, but rather from a shortcoming in the soft skills arena with their personal, social, communication and self-management behaviors.”

Although difficult to measure, employers understand the value in soft skills like dependability and motivation, and they have an expectation that any qualified candidate must have both hard skills and soft skills.

To hear more about soft skills, click here.

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