If you are in job search mode or about to embark on one, you need to know that while employers continue to look for specific hard skills, they are placing more emphasis on soft skills.
In order for someone to perform optimally and position themselves for advancement, they must have just the right blend of hard and soft skills. While they are different type of skills, they do complement one another to produce a more well-rounded candidate.
What does this mean for you?
Your résumé and other career marketing collateral (Linkedin, cover letter, bio, networking doc, etc.) should not only express what your top hard skills are, they should also include some of your most desirable soft skills as long as they are relevant to the target position.
The same goes for interviews.
If the interviewer has prepared properly, they will ask a set of open-ended situational and behavioural questions that are designed to identify your hard and soft skills because that will help them determine how qualified you are for the job.
It’s great to have all of the hard skills, but if you are missing one or more of the desired soft skills that would make you successful in the job, you likely won’t get the job. If you do get the job, it’s possible that you might struggle in the position unless you improve whatever soft skill that is required.
Of course, the opposite is true – you can have all the soft skills that the employer is seeking but lack some of the desired hard skills.
All of the soft skills can’t make up for the fact that you don’t know how to perform a critical job function which could prevent you from being considered for the position.
The fact is, you have to have a blend of both hard and soft skills to get the job and excel in it.
If you have both the required hard and soft skills, you should communicate that loud and clear in your career marketing documents as well as during interviews so that the employer immediately sees that you have the required supporting qualifications.
What are hard skills?
These kinds of skills are typically teachable and tend to me more technical in nature.
Hard skills aren’t things that you were born with – you have to learn them, either on the job, or in the classroom, or by reading a book, or some other way.
Hard skills are typically easy to quantify and can be measured and proved. For instance, if you perform the skill well, you can provide evidence by pointing to your grades and degree, diploma, certification, designation or to a quantifiable business outcome that you helped to achieve by applying specific hard skills.
Some examples of hard skills are as follows:
What are soft skills?
They are much more subjective and harder to quantify than hard skills. They are personal qualities that you are born with.
Soft skills are often referred to as “people skills” or “inter-personal skills” as they tend to be more about how the individual relates to and interacts with other people as well as how they respond to situations.
Soft skills include things like:
Most people focus on hard skills
The reason most people focus (and continue to focus) on hard skills is that they are much easier to identify, articulate, and prove.
For instance, if the employer is looking for someone who knows how to create Excel spreadsheets, that’s pretty easy to prove. The candidate can show them examples of their work.
If the employer needs someone who knows a certain programming language, the candidate can share their university grade they received in programming.
Soft skills aren’t so obvious
The problem with soft skills is that they are for the most part, hard to prove. But what happens when the employer is looking to hire someone with a “hard work ethic” or “flexibility and resiliency” or “patience”?
It isn’t enough to just say that you are “patient” or a “hard worker” – you need to provide some kind of evidence that supports your claims.
Now, it’s not impossible to do this but it does take a bit more thought since you will have to come up with some specific yet short examples that demonstrate your desired qualities and include those in your résumé and other career marketing collateral.
Soft skills are becoming more desirable
Many employers will take the time to determine if the candidate has the kind of soft skills they are looking for because they tend to be harder to find and are often more difficult to see and more difficult to prove.
That might be one of the reasons that it takes 3 or 4 interviews to decide if the candidate is going to “fit” the organization or not. If the hiring decision were based just on getting the right mix of hard skills, it would likely be a shorter hiring process.
Since hard skills are teachable, employers might be willing to be more flexible on the hard skills provided the candidate has the key soft skills they are seeking.
For instance, it’s easier to teach someone how to use a certain computer software program than to teach them how to be more resilient, patient, or adaptable.
At the end of the day, hard skills are those things that can make a résumé look impressive and grab immediate attention but it’s the soft skills that might tip the scales in your favour if they are critical to the job you are targeting.
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