While hard skills can help get your foot in the door, soft skills are what can make or break your chance of landing your dream job.
Today on the podcast, we’re joined by two of our Talent Acquisition Consultants: Nairi Togac and Chiara Amato Polito, who are bringing their recruitment experience to the table and talking all things soft skills.
– What are soft skills?
– Do we need them on our resume?
– How can we improve our soft skills?
– Are soft skills really that important?
They tackle these questions and more in our latest podcast offering.
Don’t have time to listen to the podcast? You can read the highlights below.
What exactly are soft skills? And how do they differ from hard skills?
So, hard skills can be defined as technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience, including what you learned during your career education. It could be accounting skills you learned as part of your university education, whether a master’s or a bachelor’s degree. It can be Powerpoint knowledge or Photoshop knowledge; it’s a very long list. And then on the other side, the soft skills are defined as things like personal habits and traits that shape how you work on your own and with others. So it can be, for example, your leadership skills, your adaptability skills, or your organisational skills.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
Hard skills differ from soft skills because they are very much related to personal qualities. And even though they’re different, soft skills can really impact the way you work. They can also be applied to any type of job. And they’re needed in every industry at every level as well. Mostly, for any given job you will need some hard skills, of course, because, as you know, if you become an accountant, you definitely need accounting skills. However, I believe that employers will also use soft skills to decide whether to hire candidates. And even I could say that employers now value strong, soft skills over technical ones in certain types of industries.
Improving Soft Skills
Soft skills are very much linked to one’s personality traits and therefore are difficult to learn. However, with that being said, let’s say we stay optimistic, anyone can improve their soft skills with experience and practice. So, for example, if you have difficulty with, let’s say, public speaking or communication skills, it’s definitely something that you could improve if you wanted to. So here are some tips to help you learn them.
I would say maybe the first one, just to, you know, use this example of public speaking again, will be to pick a certain soft skill that you want to improve and practise it consistently. And it could be as simple as having a mirror, looking at yourself in the mirror, and having a conversation with yourself in the mirror about some words you want to say or a speech you want to practice. And you will notice how your body interacts, such as how you pronounce words and how loudly you project your voice. So I think it’s important to practise the soft skills that you want to improve.
You can also observe and emulate positive soft skills you see in others. For example, it could be someone who is your mentor, or it can be your manager, or it could be through some interaction that you have with clients. You can see someone negotiating, for example, and maybe you can improve your negotiation skills just by watching.
What could be important as well is to ask for feedback because, unfortunately, we’re not always our own best judges. So it’s always great to ask for feedback. So, for example, if you do a presentation at school, ask for feedback from the teacher or maybe from the other students to see what could be improved. And also maybe ask what was good as well, because we all also want to know what our strengths are.
And then maybe my last tip is that we are in an age of new technologies, so we have access to a wide range of training options. And some of them are free as well and are specifically focused on soft skills. So again, there could be some training around emotional intelligence. With so many options, you’re bound to find a course that you like.
A study found that 93% of employers consider soft skills “essential” when making a hiring decision. Is that the case?
Yes. They are very, very important. And I would like to start with an example for that question. So try to think about the nurses. So, of course, they must have strong technical skills. But what do you think if they don’t have the emotional intelligence or the soft skills to assist you emotionally, of course, during a difficult moment? It’s not easy. It also happened with our roles at times. Some candidates, for example, have the right hard skills and experience for the role. But unfortunately, their soft skills are not aligned with the role or with the company culture.
Of course hard skills and soft skills are very important. But learning them can be two different processes. You can develop your skills through education, courses, training, and, of course, work experience, but soft skills are harder to learn because they are related to your personality. And of course, you can work on yourself, but you can’t completely change your personality.
What have been the most popular soft skills that your clients have asked for?
It depends on the roles because every role requires different soft skills. For example, in manager roles, you would be required to have great leadership skills, people management skills, and excellent organisational and time management skills, but is different from the more general profile. For example, our clients are looking for a proactive attitude, the ability to learn quickly, and good teamwork in more junior profiles because these are good soft skills, and they can promote the candidates into the next position if they have the right soft skills.
54% of employees say they haven’t added soft skills to their CVs. Do you think soft skills should be on a resume? If not, where should you demonstrate it?
I believe everyone has a different answer for this one, and perhaps I don’t know the answer, opinions differ from one recruiter to the next. But for me, you don’t necessarily need to dedicate a skill section to flaunting your soft skills on your resume, because for me, soft skills really need to be demonstrated. For example, and I’m sure it happened to every recruiter in this world, it can be that a candidate lists on their resume that they have excellent attention to detail while they have made some spelling mistakes.
Sometimes candidates will have a very long list of soft skills. And you’re not sure like if you can believe them, because it’s just like words on the paper. That’s why, my opinion, it is preferable to demonstrate your soft skills through examples and achievements. Personally, I like when a candidate lists the responsibilities they had while working for a certain company, and maybe after adding a section with achievements. So for example, if someone says, “I over-achieved my KPIs,” or “I manage a team of five or six people”, maybe, for this achievement and example, I can understand that this person has strong leadership skills, or that he or she is an over-achiever, etc.
You can also demonstrate those skills in person, let’s say during interviews. If for a certain role we need someone with great leadership skills, for example, I will always ask them to demonstrate these soft skills through examples, situations, and challenges. And I think it’s the best way to understand soft skills. And of course, during an interview, you have soft skills that you can see directly, like, for example, communication skills. Some people will feel more comfortable maybe speaking with someone they’ve never met, or you can see someone speak better with their hands. So yeah, I would say that for me, soft skills need to be mainly demonstrated through examples and interactions.
Yes, I totally agree with Nairi. In terms of soft skills, of course, you have to assess them during the interview. We usually have some examples that we could provide to you in terms of questions. So for example, if I need to assess the problem-solving skill set, I can ask “Could you describe a difficult situation at work? And how did you manage it?”. Or if I need to evaluate time management skills, I could ask “how do you prioritise your tasks when you have multiple deadlines to meet?”.
In my opinion, more than showing soft skills in the resume, it’s more important to show, for example, specific courses related to soft skills that the candidate has attended. Doing this, it’s easier for me and for recruiters to understand what kind of soft skills they would like to improve and are more interested in, so during the interview, I can start from that and dig further into them.
May I just add something else? It’s great that we also have this reference system in Australia. Because, for example, whenever a candidate is at the final stage of the recruitment process, we always ask for referees. Being able to contact these referees and talk with them is a great opportunity to ask about the candidates soft skills. We might ask:
“How would you describe their personalities?”
“How would you describe their time management skills?”
For recruiters, this is another great time to really assess the candidate’s soft skills.
On LinkedIn you can list your skills and have it endorsed by others. Do you look at that at all, or instead you rely more on calling referees that are on the resume?
We usually use it, too, because it’s better to understand their soft skills, and maybe we can assess them during the first phone call as well.
In my opinion, listing too many soft skills on LinkedIn is not a good idea. Instead, focus on only certain aspects and certain soft skills.
Any final thoughts on soft skills?
I believe that in this market, we have a lot of competition because, you know, we all go to the same university or have the same kind of diplomas. So I truly believe that soft skills are as important as hard skills, and in fact, they may be more important in some instances. So, yeah, I would advise anyone not to be afraid of developing some soft skills if they believe they have room for improvement.
I would definitely suggest taking the opportunity during the interview with the recruiters to show your soft skills.