Job postings often contain a list of desired qualifications and abilities the employer deems necessary to fulfill the basic functions of the job, such as “proficiency with Microsoft® Office,” “a commercial driver’s license (CDL),” or “X years of corporate accounting experience.” “We need a truck driver. They’d better be licensed to drive for us.”
But job postings also often list things like “team player,” “ability to work in a fast-paced environment,” and “good communication skills.” These more nuanced qualities are often referred to as soft skills because they’re not as concrete as the demonstrable and objective ability to program using C++ or operate a forklift.
The Need for More Focus on Soft Skills
Ed Barrientos, CEO of Brazen, argues that soft skills should be given more weight by companies looking to bring on new team members. “Job candidates may not always have years of direct experience for the role they’re applying for, especially at the entry level,” he says. “However this does not mean that they should be disqualified or not given an opportunity to show their strengths, which could ultimately benefit the company. Soft skills, such as time management, public speaking and interpersonal communication skills are great indicators of a candidate’s potential and success.”
One reason soft skills are not given the same consideration as objective qualifications is that they’re more difficult to assess. A company can easily verify whether an applicant is a licensed engineer, but it’s harder to confirm whether the person works well with others. But this doesn’t mean soft skills should simply be ignored. Instead, recruiters should find ways to help identify these qualitative credentials.
Assessing for Soft Skills
“Virtual interviews and other HR technology can help with identifying soft skills that don’t always translate through static resumes, and connect recruiters and candidates over video to get a better sense of a candidate’s communication and work style,” says Barrientos. “Offering candidates upskilling and training opportunities, especially to new grads, veterans and anyone else new to the company or workforce, is a great way for employers to build strong workforces in a competitive talent market and foster employee growth.”
In the current U.S. labor market, companies may not always find the perfect fit for an open position, and this is especially true when focusing exclusively on objective criteria such as years of experience or certifications. Sometimes, a candidate’s soft skills may more than make up for what he or she lacks in quantitative résumé content. The key is knowing how to identify them.