It’s not uncommon for recruiters to encounter applicants who have all of the technical competencies required for the job–and then turn them down. This is because recruiters also look at an applicant’s soft skills. Compared to hard or technical skills, soft skills are more intangible and difficult to objectively measure. These can include personal qualities, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal skills, all of which affect how we relate to people and how we adapt to changes. Although we often emphasize our technical skills when applying for a job, soft skills are actually heavily valued by employers.
Why Soft Skills Matter
In a global survey done by LinkedIn, 92% of hiring managers said that soft skills are just as important as technical skills–or even more so. In fact, soft skills can make or break a job application, regardless of how qualified the candidate is otherwise. This can seem surprising given the increasing emphasis on keeping up with new technology. But in a world where more and more of our hard skills will be outsourced to technology, from creating website templates to filing paperwork, soft skills remain distinctly human.
On a practical level, soft skills also have a major impact on work performance. Even when they have the same level of knowledge, someone with a growth-oriented mindset will be more open to learning compared to someone who’s fine with staying where they are. Poor communication can easily disrupt a project, and lack of teamwork can be disastrous, even if all individuals can do their tasks properly on their own.
Top Soft Skills
As a result, recruiters take care to check an applicant’s soft skills, especially during interviews. Here are the top soft skills that employers in any field will screen you for:
The ability to collaborate well with others is heavily valued by employers because nobody works in isolation today. Whatever your position is, you’ll be assigned to a specific department and team. Even jobs that can seem solitary such as writing or coding involve getting the outputs of different people and taking into account others’ feedback. In addition, job roles are often fluid, and the higher up you go, the more likely you’ll be managing people or collaborating directly with clients.
Interview Question: “If someone in your team is lagging behind with their tasks, what would you do?”
Communication has always been fundamental in work, whether you’re in a 9-to-5 job or you’re an entrepreneur. However, as remote work becomes the norm, employers want to see strong communication skills more than ever. A significant amount of communication now happens through emails or apps such as Slack and Zoom. Even in person, you will have to make presentations, explain your ideas in meetings, or give regular progress about your tasks.
Interview Question: “Imagine that I’m a five-year-old, and explain your solution for this scenario to me.”
Unexpected situations and challenges are inevitable, from customer complaints to deadlines having to be adjusted several days earlier. For most of these, there won’t be a direct script telling you what to do–you’ll have to make the decision on your own while factoring in different variables. Employers will expect evidence of your problem-solving skills. Aside from critical thinking, problem-solving involves thinking out of the box as well as remaining calm under pressure.
Interview Question: “Describe a time at work where you had to make a difficult decision.”
The job landscape is evolving quickly, and companies have to be constantly improving in order to stay on top of the market. They also want the same for their employees. Having a growth mindset means being willing to move out of your comfort zone and learn new skills, often on your own initiative. When you experience a setback, can you find the lesson in it and use it for improvement? Although companies can directly provide plenty of training and opportunities for growth, they seek job candidates who are self-motivated and who can get moving on their own.
Interview Question: “How do you think you’ve changed over the past year?”
You may not be able to predict which questions will come up in your interview, but you can prepare concrete examples from your life that demonstrate you have these qualities. All four of these are widely sought after, and showing evidence for these will improve your application.