How to Increase Your Soft Skills to Land the Job You Want
Technical skills are great, but here are other skills employers look for.
Posted March 14, 2018
In a previous blog, I wrote about things that prospective job applicants do that sabotage their chances of being hired, along with ways to increase their employability. Naturally, factors such as having education, training and job experience (or hard skills) are at the top of the list when it comes to making a good case for why a prospective employer should hire you. However, recently, there are has been suggestions about ways to communicate your “soft skills”. Basically, soft skills have to do with how you interact with others in the workplace. Since co-authoring Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job several years ago, I’ve heard of many examples where individuals with flawed character traits basically wreak havoc in the workplace and end up sabotaging their jobs and sometimes their careers.
In a recent article by Tina Convito, she describes seventeen “soft skills” that potential employers are looking for, above and beyond training and experience. For example, job applicants who are able to relate to others, are good listeners and possess the ability to play well with others are often viewed as desirable traits by prospective employers. Similarly, applicants who are decisive, confident, reliable, and able to go with the flow are also considered to be more desirable job applicants. Similarly, traits such as tenacity, persistence and those who are able to work well under pressure without getting flustered are also considered to be attractive character traits. The soft skills described by Convito are really about particular character traits including one’s ability to get along well with others and to be a good team player.
As I was reading Convito’s article and list of “soft skills” it reminded me of the “Future Stars” research that was conducted at Bell Labs during the height of their innovative discoveries in the telecommunications field (Gertner, 2012). Given the innovations that were being developed at the Labs, being hired there was considered quite an accolade. Top graduates of the best engineering and technical universities from around the country, applied for research positions at Bell Labs. What the Future Stars study sought to accomplish was to look at why particular applicants rose to supervisory positions within the Bell Labs corporation. Since the playing field was pretty equal, in that top graduates from the top universities were being hired, the Future Stars study essentially sought to determine who excelled. What the researchers discovered was that Bell Labs staff who rose up the ranks had possessed good people skills (or soft skills) which allowed them to rise up the corporate ladder. Basically, they were good team players who were quite adept at working cooperatively with others. Keep in mind that the Future Stars research also resembles the work done on emotional intelligence and how that often can be a key role in workplace success (Wall, 2008).
So now the question is how can job applicants convey those desirable soft skills to prospective employers. It seems that while the resume or CV would list one’s training and experience, that the cover letter and hopefully a phone or better yet, a face-to-face interview would be an opportunity to be able to communicate soft skills to prospective employers. In a cover letter, an applicant might describe their ability to work well with others, that they can work independently and are very receptive to feedback and direction. In an interview, it would be easier to describe these soft skill characteristics while also being prepared to provide examples. Many human resource professionals and search committees are becoming more sensitized to weeding out potential toxic employees who may end up costing the organization millions while ruining morale along with the way.
Convito, Tina (2017). It’s not all about technical skills anymore. These are the 17 “Soft Skills” employers are looking for. Readers Digest, https://www.rd.com/advice/work-career/soft-skills/9/
Gertner, J. (2012). The idea factory: Bell Labs and the great age of American innovation. New York: Penguin Press
Wall, B. (2008). Working relationships: Using emotional intelligence to enhance your effectiveness with others (Revised edition). Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing.