Hiring managers and recruiters call them “soft skills”—but they’re hard won. According to the Wall Street Journal, a recent survey of executives revealed that, “92 percent said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89 percent said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes.”
Why is everyone looking for soft skills then? More importantly… what are they?
We asked Aerotek recruiter Amy Hargrove to shed some light on the subject.Soft skills 101
You’ll see the difference between hard skills and soft skills in job listings. A hard skill is something you can prove, like a certification or degree, or proficiency in a program, tool or area of expertise. Soft skills are things like “attention to detail,” “problem-solving” or “self-motivation.”
Hargrove says, “I would explain soft skills as personality traits that many people forget to market as their most valuable skills. Some examples of soft skills would be creativity, empathy, or the ability to coach or mentor.”
You can’t prove them with numbers or a list of bullet points. Instead, you have to demonstrate them using examples.Identifying your soft skills
How do you identify the soft skills you bring to the table?
Consider what aspects of your personality are most immediately apparent and think about these traits as skills. Are you a strong communicator or team player? Or maybe you tend to be more observant or a fast learner.
“I ask candidates to think of their experience in terms of soft skills, and I encourage them to think about how their specific soft skills could benefit a future employer,” Hargrove explains.
Once you’ve figured out how to explain your personality in terms of a soft skill, try working backwards from your experiences of handling particular situations—in work, or in life—and looking for ways they demonstrate that skill.How will this help me?
Think of the job search process as a marketing pitch for you, the employee. Anything you do to show employers that you’re the right choice will help you; that includes the way you carry yourself.
Hargrove says, “Candidates who know how to market their personal soft skills tend to interview better. They seem to carry themselves with more confidence.”
If you walk into an interview believing that basic aspects of your personality help distinguish you as uniquely qualified for the position, you’re probably going to feel pretty good about yourself. Another benefit: The more adept you are at marketing your soft skills, the more likely you are to find a job that’s the right fit.Packaging your soft skills
Once you’ve identified your soft skills, worked out how they apply to the situations you’ll face in a job environment and put yourself in a self-marketing mindset, it’s time to incorporate soft skills into your job search plan.
On application materials such as a resume or cover letter, emphasize your soft skills by providing specific examples of how they came into play. Show up for the interview with the confidence that comes from knowing that who you are makes you unique from a soft skills standpoint.
Hargrove also recommends, “Make sure to discuss soft skills with your references, and ask about what areas of strength your references would feel comfortable speaking to on your behalf.” That way, everything a potential employer sees will all be aligned to showcase what makes you the right person for the job.
Could you use a little help identifying and showcasing your soft skills?
Talk with an Aerotek recruiter like Amy Hargrove to learn more. And if you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. You can create a free career account today to customize your search.