5 Soft Skills You Need to Get Hired

John Krautzel
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A job description usually contains a listing of specific hard skills that are necessary for anyone applying for the position. These often include industry expertise, technological capabilities and leadership experience. Soft skills don't usually appear in job postings, but they're crucial to professional success and just as important. Brush up on these soft skills to become the kind of candidate firms hope to find.

Communication

Communication is one of the most important soft skills for professionals in any industry. Modern workers use a staggering variety of channels to transfer information: email, text, instant messages, social media, project management software, video chats and phone calls, just to name a few. During the hiring process, employers look for candidates who can switch channels effortlessly, all while maintaining clarity and professionalism. Demonstrate your communication skills by ensuring that every written message is error-free and grammatically correct. Work on your phone voice to eliminate tics and filler words, and proofread your public social media profiles.

Flexibility

When you're applying for a job in a fast-paced, constantly changing industry, flexibility is crucial. Employers look for workers who can take sudden shifts, process them quickly and continue moving forward without losing productivity. The hiring process is an ideal time to show off your soft skills in flexibility and adaptability. If the employer suggests a last-minute interview, accept graciously, and show up prepared. In the interview, don't become visibly shaken by location changes, aggressive interviewers or surprise questions — simply breathe, take a moment to think, and provide a calm answer.

Self-Starting

To find self-reliant, independent candidates, hiring managers look for soft skills such as confidence and self-starting. Make yourself a more attractive prospect by showing that you don't need to be micromanaged. Anticipate the employer's needs and questions in advance so you can meet any request. Bring extra copies of your resume to the interview to pass out to unexpected guests. Identify the key claims and skills on your resume, and print out a portfolio piece or document that reinforces your point. Research the company thoroughly before an interview so you can add value to any discussion about the industry and relevant current events.

Reliability

Employers need workers who show up and meet deadlines. Start showing off your reliability from the start. Send in your materials before the application deadline. If the employer emails with a question or a request, reply immediately. Show up early for the interview. By being responsive and timely, you can immediately gain an advantage over candidates who procrastinate and make excuses.

Enthusiasm

When it comes to soft skills, enthusiasm is important but often ignored. Don't be afraid to show your passion to a potential employer — it indicates that you can maintain a positive attitude and stay motivated during difficult times. There's no need to go overboard, particularly if you're not naturally effusive. Keep it simple by explaining what you love about the work, telling an anecdote or discussing the night classes you've enrolled in to receive an industry certification.

By nature, soft skills are difficult to prove on a resume or cover letter. By embodying the most important skills during your job search, you can stand out from other applicants and boost your chances of getting hired.


Photo courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • Ron D.
    Ron D.

    What is the difference between the 87 percentile and the 93 percentile? zero, nada, nothing, zippo...Neither had human eyes review them. The cut off for human review is somewhere above the 93 percentile for internet posted positions.

  • Ron D.
    Ron D.

    There is no feedback for applcants so they have any clue of the probabilities of even getting an interview.

  • Ron D.
    Ron D.

    For those here expressing the frustration with finding work when you have been working for decades. Stop using the internet job boards except the very best fits, not the I can do that if they would just give me a chance logic at the other end of ones stack of applications.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Mark West thanks for your comments. It is true - the system is broken. The days of HR personnel looking over resumes is long gone. Most companies use ATS. If you resume doesn't make it through the criteria placed on the job position, i.e. doesn't contain the keywords, it gets round filed or put in a holding data base for a few months and then just drops out of site. Is this wrong? Probably. But the bottom line is that ATS is here to stay until something else comes along to take its place. I totally agree with your diatribe but don't really have any alternative for you. Yes the system is broken and companies are crying that they can't get qualified applicants. So try out the old way and see what happens. Send your resume and cover letter into the company through the mail. What do you have to lose? They might even appreciate that you took the time and effort to do it. Or they might just trash it. Either way, you haven't lost anything.

  • Mark West
    Mark West

    Nancy, Harlan sounds pretty frosted but he makes a great point. ATS are keeping talented people out of the organizations which use it.

    Like Harlan, I also work in a highly technical field. The people in HR who look over stacks of resumes have backgrounds in Marketing or Psychology. They couldn't possibly hope to understand what is on my resume. I can mirror the JD on my resume, but unless I copy it outright, there will be a mismatch. Sadly these folks are too ignorant to be the ones who decide who gets an interview and who doesn't.

    I've submitted resumes to BAE for example and never heard anything back. With years of experience, sharp intellect, and uber talent I can solve problems before most people even grasp there is a problem there to solve! Yet the people with their fat crayons and coloring books make the decision not to call or even acknowledge my submission. FYI, that's not just me sounding off. I used to work with an Engineer who's wife was an Engineer at BAE and she also says the system is broken.

    I don't know if you realize it but the system is broken and American companies are paying the price for their hubris. On one hand they scream and cry about not having the talent they so desperately need. On the other hand they have former cheerleaders making decisions on which resumes look the prettiest!

    You can say that this insanity is the new norm and we have to work with it. In rebuttal, I'd like to point out another time in history as food for thought. Once upon a time, there were universities in Europe called "Scholastic". Scholastic schools taught the earth was the center of the universe and Aristotle was the zenith of scientific thought. The medieval Europeans also though this system was normal because they had been indoctrinated by it.

    Although Europe eventually moved beyond such nonsense, we Americans have embraced it for some odd reason. We attend school not to learn but to obtain a credit. We aren't expected to discover any new truths, only regurgitate the stale ones from yesterday.

    Then when we enter the business world, we have to endure such lunacy? Maybe if the HR person is happy they kept their crayon within the lines, maybe we might get an interview. After all that rigamarole, we have to endure inane questions such as "what is your greatest weakness?"

    The system is broken. Harland knows it, I know it, you know it, hiring managers know it. Hell even former HR person Liz Ryan KNOWS IT. This absurd system has crippled American private enterprise by weeding out anyone who doesn't conform, who BTW are your most innovative personalities. As far as I'm concerned, any company buying into this idiocy deserves to wallow in its own mediocrity...and doesn't deserve me.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Clark Shaffer thanks for your comments. So very true that critical thinking, problem solving, team work and communications are all very important traits for a job seeker to have - for any employee to have. The problem with these terms is that they have been so overused that many employers just discard a resume when they see team building skills or great communication skills because everyone includes those on their resumes today. It is so very true that most of have several different versions of our resume today. I, too, remember the days when one resume is all that was needed. It didn't matter if it was 2 or even 3 pages long and most of them followed a standard chronological order wherein all employment was included - not just the last ten years or not just the most critical. So sad that times have changed so drastically that we have to hack our resumes and not show who we really are.

  • Clark Shaffer
    Clark Shaffer

    Didn't mean to post that so quickly! Enthusiasm is not a skill. Enthusiasm is characteristic or behavior...but not a skill. Not only are the skills dynamic, they are not the same across every type of industry/occupation. While Critical Thinking is absolutely essential to most any in the technology fields, it's not so critical in retail or general labor..though it certainly helps and can help separate the "average worker from the above average worker." To Harlan's contribution a few days ago, there is no "spin" but more specifically the realization that your resume is targeted to the specific job you're applying for. Gone are the days where (1) resume will suffice for every job opportunity. Most people I work with, including myself, developed more than 20 different resumes which targeted exactly what the employer was looking for and the skills I/we have that answer those needs. The issue here, just as with the resume, implies that one set of soft skills are all that anyone need focus on. Unfortunately, that's categorically incorrect, self-limiting and potentially harmful in the job seeking process. Every industry tends to have a list of skills/strengths associated with, as in the technology field, which an applicant needs to understand and highlight on their resume.

  • Clark Shaffer
    Clark Shaffer

    While this is a very good article, soft skills tend to have their own dynamics relative to which one's are "needed" and/or are "critical." Fortunately having just completed a 4 month research project on soft skills in the workplace, their significance is neither static or consistent. Across the board today employers are looking for soft skill capability in Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Communication/Collaboration, and Team Work.

  • LETTY H.
    LETTY H.

    Thank you for the tips, great insight and useful information! I printed out a copy so I could have at my fingertips prior to my next interview!

  • Lynn M.
    Lynn M.

    Thank you!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the great comments. @Harlan D it is certainly true that not all of the companies will use ATS. However, in today's world, the majority of medium size and above companies do use it. You may work in an industry that is small enough that you don't have to chase the jobs. But, for the majority, it is a reality of today's job world. @John R thanks for your advice. Happy retirement!

  • Minerva Diaz
    Minerva Diaz

    Wonderful advice

  • Harlan D.
    Harlan D.

    Some professions do not lend themselves to the basic ATS format of resumes. Depending upon who you talk to the target changes. Just saying this method of chasing work is not for me. I hope all of you have a great time and realize the desire to get along does not remove real world problems.

  • Catherine W.
    Catherine W.

    Great advice

  • John R.
    John R.

    Wow, great dialogue. I appreciate and respect both sides of this issue. Interviewers, you must respect what the job seeker has to offer. They do what many of us can't. Interviewees, you need to realize that the interviewers are providing a service that we can't or don't want to provide. I am fortunate, retired after a long time in the fire service. The last six years there I had the fortune (or misfortune) to head the department. Try balancing the needs and wants of administrative wonks with those of front line firefighters and paramedics who face ugliness on a regular basis. I believe both sides have challenges. Damnit, here I go again....trying to have everyone get along.

  • Harlan D.
    Harlan D.

    There is the option that has taken me around the world. Contact direct and skip the middle man. Thanks for the time. Red

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Kathleen Cordon we all hear you. All of us more "senior" job seekers have been there at one time or another in our careers. I agree - passion should be the number one reason. We are passionate about our work - we want to share our knowledge and gain new knowledge and skills from others. We are the doers and sooner or later that company is going to realize it. @Harlan D - whew heard you! I know it really does seem silly, in light of the job you perform, that you have to worry about whether or not to put a period at the end of a sentence. It could be very true that the hiring manager has never taken even one step in your shoes. But, the bottom line is, if you want that job, you have to suffer fools. You have to dance the dance and then play the waiting game.

  • Harlan D.
    Harlan D.

    Here is your sign. What the hell are we supposed to believe? We spend years learning how to design, construct, start-up and troubleshoot complex systems. We work in the extreme heat and cold often with less information than needed. We build plants and systems to keep the civilized world running. Then we write a resume for those that have no idea what we do or how we do it. They tell us our resume is toooo looooong. We shorten it, they tell us to include more. BS. The real problem is many of the people making decisions about which resume to pass on up the ladder have no idea what they are reading about. They don't know what it is like to work with the dangers we deal with on a daily basis. We take the risk and put our lives on the line to make the world run. And now you want me to tell the whole world what I know and relate to them in a way that shows my soft skills and do it in 3 pages or less. And my audience doesn't have a clue, but they demand that I respect them for what they do. Be sure to check if I double spaced before inserting a period. Was my answer to the HR question about what I could have done differently cute enough? Did my answer about how I handle criticism make that omniscient long distance interviewer feel like passing my resume on up the ladder. Please pass my poorly written response wrapped in your soft skills on to the rest of the hiring world. Then after the HR dept. learns what it is like to work with HP steam, High voltage, Explosive chemicals, Toxins and be good at all the skills that come with it, I may start to respect them. Why is it when there are real HR problems in the field, the spin machine is the first thing that starts up? I guess the spin is the second thing to happen right after crapping in their pants. Have a great day and practice your soft skills. Red

  • Denita Shaw
    Denita Shaw

    Great information!!!!

  • PERRY G.
    PERRY G.

    Applying this information. Thank you.

  • KEITH S.
    KEITH S.

    Good professional info! Maybe it will help me get hired.

  • Ahmad Shakib H.
    Ahmad Shakib H.

    So useful items, thanks alot!

  • DIANE D.
    DIANE D.

    Excellent list. These skills are necessary to achieve and execute our hard skills. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  • David B.
    David B.

    Thank you. This information is right on point for interview soft skills, which are not normally discussed, but clearly related to hiring manager requirements.

  • Jean Dieu M.
    Jean Dieu M.

    Thank you. I gained more information and still more in details

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