• Carol Ann Wentworth

"Soft" skills are as critical to success as your college degree.

Updated: Jul 7, 2019

People like to hire people they like.

Your resume may get you the interview, but your social skills will get you the job.

It’s been our experience that qualified potential employees most often get “voted off the island” because of the poor people skills they exhibit during interviews. What recruiters hear from their clients is that “we didn’t feel the job candidate fits our culture.”

Public speaking is an important "soft" skill.

And even if the job candidate makes it past the interviews and get hired, the most common reason the new hire doesn't advance in their job is their inability to work well with others or show emotional intelligence. Qualified candidates who meet the technical job requirements are easier to find than people with a range of emotional maturity skills.

The “ideal” employee.

Several surveys during the past five years questioned hiring authorities and CEO's to determine what they are looking for in the ideal employee. Assuming they have the job qualifications, here are the other key attributes CEO's want in their new employees.

1. Self-regulation

2. Persistence

3. Resilience

4. Passion

5. Empathy

6. Conscientiousness

7. Social skills

8. Openness to new experience

9. Emotional stability

10. Extraversion

11. Agreeableness

12. Positive attitude

13. Collaborative

14. Mindfulness

“Soft skills” are as important as hard skills.

Emotional maturity is demonstrated with soft skills. They are as valuable as your college degree. A survey of CEO' s who were asked to rank the relative importance of “soft” skills cited these attributes in order of critical importance:

1. Communication 58%

2. Organizational skills 57%

3. Team player 56%

4. Punctuality 56%

5. Critical thinking 56%

6. Social skills 56%

7. Creativity 56%

8. Interpersonal communication 55%

9. Adaptability 55%

10. Friendly personality 55%

Core skills that you can take anywhere.

Consider also developing skills that allow you to “pivot” successfully as opportunities appear or as your personal interests point you in a new direction. The core skills that enable you to succeed in nearly any endeavor include:

1. Public speaking

2. Marketing

3. Sales

4. Promotion

5. Computer skills

These skills are easily transferable to nearly any job or career direction you choose.

Since your career will be the engine that drives much of the satisfaction you derive from life, it pays to develop them. Even the most important thing in your life---a close circle of friends and loved ones---can largely be the result of developing your soft skills.

Students aren’t usually taught these things in school. And many parents are unable to pass these skills on to their children because they don’t have them either. You may also be genetically programmed to lack some soft skills. But it pays to do the personal work necessary to incorporate them into your personality.

What you don’t do is often as important as what you do.

A Gallup poll found that 51% of American workers “aren’t engaged with their current job.” Another 15% are “actively disengaged.” Gallup estimates this disengagement “costs U.S. companies between $450 and $550 billion per year.” Disengaged employees are often their own worst enemy in advancing in their career. Career limiting moves on the job include:

1. Lack of insight or introspection

2. Mistaking busywork for accomplishment

3. Not showing up or being late

4. Not learning from your mistakes

5. Not sharing the values and style of the company

6. Abusing company time with personal tasks

7. Unreliability

8. Believing you are indispensable

9. A negative attitude

10. Only doing what you are paid to do

11. Not learning and growing in your job

12. Not building a network beyond your company

13. Staying within your comfort zone

14. Hiding your talents

15. Not getting along with your boss

Success in your career isn’t just about degrees.

It may be disheartening to realize that your personal skills frequently outweigh the expensive degree you invested four or more years earning, but that’s the reality of the 21st Century workplace. It’s encouraging though that “soft skills” and personal improvements are free or inexpensive to learn to do.

Personal development can be more difficult than learning hard skills because you must do the tough inner work to overcome ingrained personality traits and learned biases, but it is work that will reward you for life.

At Wentworth Executive Recruiting, we evaluate job candidates for both hard and soft skills. We also provide executive coaching to help you develop your “soft skills.”


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- Carol Ann Wentworth

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