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What Are Soft Skills?

The willingness to work with colleagues from other cultures is viewed as an important soft skill.
Some employers seek employees with the soft skill of being able to quickly learn languages.
Desirable soft skills are viewed as essential to having a successful job interview and landing a position.
Soft skills are intangibles, such as working well with others.
It's important that an employee demonstrates proper etiquette both in and out of the workplace.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2014
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There is an axiom in business circles which suggests that hard skills will get a person an interview, but soft skills will land that person a job. This means an applicant with years of education and experience in the field might have the hard skills necessary to fill the position, but lack skills such as leadership ability or self-motivation necessary to perform well on the job. An ideal candidate for many job openings has a combination of both soft and hard skills, with a number of human resource directors preferring to see soft skills such as time management and a willingness to be trained.

Soft skills are qualities, personality traits and social skills which everyone possesses in varying degrees. Some people make friends easily, for example, which would be considered a valuable skill in the world of sales. Others are extremely punctual, or able to make rational decisions under pressure. A person may also have the innate ability to work with co-workers from other cultures, or learn a new language quickly. These would all be considered valuable skills.

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Unlike specific hard skills such as mathematical ability or mechanical aptitude, discovering a job applicant's soft skills can be notoriously difficult. Some companies use special psychological screening tests to determine if an applicant has the right temperament or personality for a specific job title, although these tests cannot always predict how an applicant would perform under real world conditions. A new employee may have the technical skills and experience to work on a customer support team, but lack the soft skills such as patience or the ability to work under stressful conditions to be effective in the position.

Some employers use open-ended interview questions about an applicant's work or life experiences in order to determine desirable soft skills. For example, an applicant for a managerial position might be asked about a past incident in which he or she had to assume leadership. Another applicant might be asked to recall a time when he or she had to resolve a conflict or deal with a difficult co-worker or customer. How an applicant handles such probing questions during an interview can also reveal a number of other soft skills, such as the ability to form answers quickly or to see the positive side of a negative situation.

Many employment experts strongly urge job seekers to improve their soft skills along with their hard skills such as continuing education or specialized training. Many employers are reluctant to hire technically skilled applications who display little emotional investment in their careers or the ability to work well with others under stressful conditions. Having a proper balance of soft and hard skills is one way to level the playing field when competing against hundreds of other applicants in a tight job market.

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Discuss this Article

anon282807
Post 6

Agreed, soft skills are also extremely important to have when you work with people like in the work release programs and such, who are on their last leg until they reach freedom from the prison system.

anon191291
Post 5

Now, in reading this, I feel really bad. I've caught myself thousands of times interrupting people. It wasn't meant bad or anything. In the future, I will focus on learning more about soft skills. If I can make it, anyone can make it.

anon157919
Post 4

Soft skills increases our visibility. We can network and sell ourselves better which is not possible only with hard skills.

oasis11
Post 3

Icecream17-I feel that soft skills are very important because we all know what it feels like when interact with someone that lacks the proper soft skills.

They are often abrupt and interrupt conversation and generally show little respect for people around them. Soft skills simply remind people of common courtesies and illustrate the importance of respectful interaction.

icecream17
Post 2

Crispety-I agree with you. Soft skills training is important for managers, but subordinates also need effective soft skills training too because they often deal directly with customers.

Soft skills training for associates might involve appropriate customer etiquette which includes a formal greeting and a gracious parting greeting.

Also, the soft skills course might include maintaining eye contact when speaking with the customer and maintaining the appropriate inflection in the voice.

Crispety
Post 1

I want to add that many companies offer extensive soft skill training especially for its management team.

Courses on human relations and dealing effectively with subordinates are often included. Managers that develop their soft skills receive more cooperation from their workforce which results in increased productivity.

This productivity adds more revenue for the company which is why the importance of soft skill is taught. People that work in a cohesive environment generally performs better at their jobs.

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