Top Six Critical Soft Skills of Successful Job Seekers

It’s a typical story for many job seekers. You apply for a bunch of jobs. You get some interviews, but can’t understand why you aren’t hearing back from so many of these companies. Whether it’s to actually get a job interview or to be called back for a second interview, oftentimes, you may come to the conclusion that you just aren’t as qualified as many of the others.

Other times you know you are qualified, so what gives? While there are many factors that come into play here, it is a fact that some less qualified candidates are chosen over more qualified candidates simply because they have stronger soft skills than their more qualified counterparts.

Your soft skills, which are  a combination of your personality, attitude, and social skills, do weigh heavily in an employer’s decision to consider you as a candidate. Many employers believe that most people can be trained in the hard skills required for a job much more easily than they can be trained on the soft skills. If you are a job seeker, you should do a self check on how you present both to prospective employers.

Millions of companies out there have some ultra highly skilled employees.  These are employees who may have advanced degrees, various certifications, lengthy relevant experience, and sound knowledge of their job responsibilities. Despite that, their managers are desperate to toss them out. How do things go so wrong with such skilled employees? Aren’t highly skilled employees the object of an employer’s search for a new team member?

Despite their sound skills and knowledge, some of these highly skilled employees turn out to be an employer’s biggest nightmare. Perhaps they are argumentative, self-serving, unmotivated, dishonest, or just have terrible attitudes.  Maybe they have all those traits or just a few. Regardless, they lack some critical soft skills that are not easy (and oftentimes, impossible) to train. As a result, more and more employers are willing to train less qualified candidates when they find ones with outstanding soft skills.

While hard skills are the skills employees should have to actually do their job  (education, training, and experience) those alone simply are not enough to land jobs in many companies. Many employers assess candidates for their personality and behavior traits and consider finding the lack of strong soft skills to be deal breakers.  As a result, less qualified employees often win jobs because  employers know that hiring employees who lack strong soft skills can wreak more havoc to their bottom line than employees who are lacking some of the hard skills.

I am not going to say that people can’t learn and grow in some key soft skill areas but ask any manager if it’s easy to train an ‘attitude’.  It’s not!

The following are the critical soft skills that employers most desire in their employees:

1)   Honesty and integrity

2)   Strong work ethic

3)   Emotional intelligence

4)   Self motivated

5)   High energy/positive attitude

6)   Team player

There are employers out there who typically concentrate on qualifying candidates solely by their hard skills.  Sooner or later, though, they realize the price they will pay.  They may find some great employees but they are bound to find some bad ones and these bad ones are hard to forget! These are the employees that literally consume up to 80% of a manager’s time.  Sure, they know how to do their job, but they also can make life miserable for everyone around them in the process!

Most experienced managers have had their share of experiences with employees like this. Because of that, more and more employers are finding themselves open to considering less qualified candidates with highly impressive soft skills.

If you are a job seeker, you need to be aware of the importance of these critical soft skills and how you can use them to leverage your personal and career brand in your job search. You can intertwine them into your cover letter and also into your job interviews. Using specific examples in situation/behavior based interview questions is key. Highlighting these skills and using them as examples of how you operate, as an employee, is a great way to make up for any hard skill deficiencies that you might have.

Every day, job seekers apply to jobs they are not fully qualified to do and many do get hired! However, common sense must come into play here. Obviously, you should not apply for engineering jobs if you have no engineering experience and were an English major in college.  However, if it just comes down to types of degrees required (Bachelors vs Associates) or years and type of experience, you can and should leverage your soft skills to increase your chances of being considered for the position. If you do lack certain hard skills, you should always mention that you are a very quick learner and can easily be trained without issues.

I have overlooked many hard skill requirements to hire an honest, hardworking, positive person who was just so eager and willing to become a high-level team member.  For the most part, they work out great and become great assets to the company and the work culture. The time it takes to train some skills that may be lacking is truly nothing compared to the energy that gets zapped from an employee who lacks critical soft skills. All job seekers should make a point to highlight their soft skills because be assured, employers need and want them!

Jessica Simko is a seasoned senior level Human Resources professional with over 15 years experience in all facets of Human Resources Management. She is a Career Coach and Consultant specializing in helping all levels of professionals create, build, and sustain a strong career brand. She strives to help connect people to their passions and to leverage their brands in their job search and in their careers. Utilizing the career branding model, she offers job search and career branding articles as well as a variety of coaching services at the Career Branding Guide.  Feel free to connect with her on:

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