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Small Business Development Center
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Soft skills a priority for employers

March 23, 2014

When hiring employees sometimes we find ourselves in a bind on what to put more emphasis on, soft or hard skills?

The perfect combination is ideal but often difficult. For many job positions hard skills will be the area to focus on, but for many other businesses related to customer services or sales, soft skills might be paramount to make a decision when hiring.

Hard and soft skills are often discussed when hiring. For most jobs, while the hard skills are essential to getting the interview, it’s the soft skills that will land the job because as an employer you want someone who won’t just perform their job function, but will be a good personality fit for the company and make a good impression on clients.

Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. Examples of these are: software program, specific job-related task, typing, writing, math, reading, etc. Soft skills are those linked to the personality of each person. These are personality-driven skills like etiquette, getting along with others, listening and engaging in small talk.

Therefore, when hiring employees for your business you might consider some of the following soft skills in your candidates: responsibility, work ethic, effective decision making skill, goal setting, time management skill, perseverance, working well in teams, communicating effectively, empathy, knowing how to learn and exhibiting self-control. When it comes down to it, soft skills are characteristics that make people more likable.

As we know, we can train someone to do a job or a specific task, but it’s virtually impossible to teach someone a new set of soft skills. Therefore, it’s not surprising soft skills continue to play a big role in hiring decisions. A recent study from Millennial Branding showed soft skills topped the list of “must have” skills that employers want, with 98 percent of employers saying communication skills are essential.

Also, Mark Miller, author of “Hiring for Attitude,” notes 92 percent of employers believe attitude is key because candidates need to be “motivated to learn new skills, think innovatively, cope with failure, assimilate feedback and … collaborate with teammates.”

No matter the extent of technical or how-to, “hard skill” requirements of a job, most “soft skills” are valued at all workplaces. Sometimes what separates a good employee from an exceptional one is taking one or two extra steps or considering a situation from the employer’s point of view.

Ultimately as employers you want employees who are self-motivated, have ideas, take initiative and deliver more than is promised or expected.

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    Adriana Balcorta-Havins

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