The Importance of Graduates Having Soft Skills and Employers Assessing them
“Soft skills are personal attributes that describe an individual’s ability to interact with others. Soft skills, also known as people skills, complement hard skills to enhance an individual’s relationships, job performance and career prospects. It’s often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get — and keep — the job.” 1
Recently I had the opportunity to take part in a conference hosted by the Canadian Association for Career Educators and Employees (CACEE). In the first breakout session titled “Challenges to entry level employment” both educators and employers gathered to discuss how to make the transition from student to employee easier.
Ever wonder how a hiring teams see soft skills in an interview – you can’t!
After much discussion it was decided that employers put a high value on the soft skills of employees. How are the hiring managers actually able to see or even appreciate the soft skills of candidates when most resumes don’t make it to the hiring manager’s desk? The facilitator of this session encouraged the group to take the issue back to their company teams to see if something could be done about this hiring dilemma. Good discussion and ideas came out of these small groups.
Top 5 Soft Skills Employers Value Most
An interesting “top 5” was shared with the participants of this conference as it pertains to graduates being hired for soft / hard skills. According to the 2013 CACEE campus recruitment2 report the top 5 skillsets employers valued most in applicants were:
- Communication skills (verbal)
- Teamwork skills
- Analytical Skills
- Strong Work Ethic
- Problem-Solving Skills
You have to see candidate in action to experience soft skills!
Before we go into the employers problem of identifying soft skills let’s think about these two questions. First, are soft skills learned? Secondly, is it possible to teach soft skills? Unfortunately there is no easy answer to either of these questions. Soft skills cannot be learned by listening to a lecture and taking notes (ok maybe the theory of soft skills). The best way is for a candidate to be put into a situation that requires them to be used. For instance, I used to hate public speaking… probably because of a voice cracking incidence back in my grade 10 English class. Fortunately for me I became involved in a non-profit organization where I was “voluntold” to speak on a regular basis to high school kids. At first speaking to a room full of kids was nerve racking and hard, but after practicing (and being thrown into the deep end) it became more natural and comfortable to me. I was required to learn this skill of speaking to a crowded room with a compelling message.
Now back to the problem that exists: employers cannot actually identify the soft skills of a candidate just using the resume and interview. Fortunately many employers have noticed this and have included other assessments into their hiring practices
- Case studies
- Team exercises
- Dinner after the interview
I’ve even heard of companies including their receptionist/host for interviewees in the hiring process. They wanted to know how the candidate treated the receptionist as well as other candidates in the waiting rooms.
All of these assessments are great but how do you actually decide which candidate is a fit for the job? At Grad Potential we believe that you need to put them into the exercises that simulate the job. This allows you to see them in real life business settings. This along with a scoring systems brings logic and consistency to the hiring process. Now as a hiring manager you can clearly see who excelled in the job exercises with an easy to read score card and graph. Need to show your boss why you are hiring Jimmy? Fire him an email with the score card and graph attached.
A logical and consistent hiring process is needed – not based on emotions or interview skills.
Best of all, these on the job exercises allow you to see their soft skills like nothing else. You begin to understand how they communicate, how they work in teams, and how they think.
So if you are a grad – where do you start in building these soft skills? One area may be to become involved as a volunteer in a non-profit or join a club where you get a chance to practice those critical soft skills listed above.
To conclude, hard skills are important to have for many jobs. However, for graduating students entering the workforce just remember that having great soft skills will greatly assist you landing a job to start your career.