The hunt for candidates with "soft skills" is a growing trend as more companies realize they need people who fit in with others. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, published in 2018, the call for soft skills in the U.S. will increase 26 percent between 2016 and 2030. Moreover, a survey from West Monroe Partners, a consultancy in Chicago, found that nearly all (98 percent) of human resources leaders say that soft skills are important for technology hires. Two-thirds say they have held back job offers from qualified technical applicants specifically because the candidate lacked soft skills.
These are astounding insights as creativity, initiative-taking, project management, and other social and emotional skills were rarely factored into the technology sector as it was assumed all you needed was someone who was just proficient at STEM skills like science, technology, engineering, and math.
However, soft skills will become more in demand over time as companies start deploying automation, robotics, AI, advanced analytics, and other new technologies that handle more of those duties.
Why are soft skills so important? Without them:
What Skills Do Companies Look For?
So which skills are important for technical jobs and why? Are some skills more or less important for certain roles? Here are just a few examples of soft skills that can be applied to almost any role.
How Do Companies Identify Soft Skills During the Hiring Process?
How might a hiring manager identify those candidates who hit the sweet spot between technical expertise and the right amount of soft skills? It often starts with the initial screening and carries forward through the interview process and tests.
An interviewer or recruiter may take note of a person's ability to communicate clearly through their cover letter and resume. Have they done a good job in describing who they are, what they do, and how they do those things? If they can shine on paper, they are more likely to shine in person.
Next, the face-to-face interview is an opportunity for candidates to provide more information on how they might perform on a team. The interviewer will often pay attention to eye contact, facial expression, vocal tone, and body language. Does the candidate seem awkward? Aggressive? Comfortable? Helpful? All of these qualities and more may come out during the interview.
Finally, the person doing the interview will often ask questions to draw more out of the candidate than simple inquiries about their skills. Behavioral questions such as “Tell me about the last time you helped out someone with less expertise than you” or “What impressed you the most or least about your last role?” are not uncommon. The person's answer is meant to provide a better sense of how they think, whether or not they seek creative solutions to problems, or how they view their peers.
Companies seeking data scientists, IT professionals, and software programmers look for people with the best skills. At the same time, those skills will mean nothing if those candidates can’t adequately communicate, collaborate, or think critically.
Soft skills can be developed through training and development, but it’s more beneficial, for both the company and the employee, if candidates who already possess them are identified first.
Dean Madison is the president of TD Madison & Associates. The company is founded on the principle of providing a more predictable approach for evaluating the culture, strategic fit, and qualifications of potential candidates for key senior-level positions within the cable and telecom industries. Follow them on Twitter @TD_Madison.
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