I ran across an interesting article in Philly.com that really got me thinking -- "Employers: Entry-Level Applicants Are Just About Useless." It highlighted the results of a new study about the gap between employers’ perceptions and the perceptions of the 18- to 34-year-old crowd.
To me, this first statistic falls under the category of a “no-brainer”: 93% of U.S. employers say soft skills are "weighed more heavily" when vetting job candidates than a candidate's college academic credentials.
But this next statistic, on the other hand, is rather startling: Only 16% of the 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed see those same soft skills as necessary for career advancement. In other words, 84% percent of these potential employees don’t value the skills that 93% of employers want!
These stats come to us courtesy of a survey done by Wakefield Research and a corresponding analysis by Bryant & Stratton College.
So, let’s talk soft skills. What are they. exactly? Why are they so underrated by employees, yet so highly desired by employers?
And most importantly, what can employers do if the candidates for their need-to-fill positions are turning up without the soft skills they need?
Wikipedia says soft skills are: "a sociological term relating to a person's 'EQ' (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills -- which are the occupational requirements of a job.”
Here are seven examples of the kinds of soft skills employers value:
- Good work ethic
- Creative problem solving/initiative
- Positive attitude and self confidence
- Knowing how to be a team player
- Good time management skills/ability to meet deadlines
- Good communication skills
A friend recently underwent a long string of interviews for a highly coveted six-figure position with an international corporation. Although her experience alone should have been enough to win her the position, it wasn’t. The interviewing process also consisted of a questionnaire sent to the references she provided. (Yes, many employers do check references!)
The questionnaire asked questions like:
- How does the candidate respond under pressure?
- How much supervision does the candidate need? Can she work independently?
- Is the candidate willing to ask for help if she needs it?
- What are the candidate's strengths and weaknesses when it comes to solving problems, both interpersonal and business-related?
In other words, they wanted to know about her soft skills. Was she a communicator? A negotiator? An innovator? A leader?
Fortunately, this friend had strong soft and hard skills, and is now enjoying her new six-figure position with major perks.
A person with strong soft skills can be invaluable to a company.
If you are finding job candidates with the right backgrounds, the right hard skills, and the right degrees -- but without these critical soft skills -- why don’t you add soft skills training to your new hire/onboarding process?
That way, you get what you need -- and new hires get what they need to move ahead and become the kind of superstar employees you dream of! It’s most definitely win-win.