One constant image in science fiction is a new world automated by robots. While modern technology and robotics have improved production in many fields, it still depends on people. That irreplaceable human touch is what separates hard skills from soft skills.
The skills you’ve learned for a specific job are hard skills–you can learn them and measure them. Computer capabilities, machine operation, and a certificate or degree are good examples. You received these through classroom instruction and training. In fact, the job description probably lists these as the main qualifiers for your job.
On the other hand, soft skills are your “people skills” and are difficult to quantify. They reflect how you relate to other people professionally or personally and are often called interpersonal abilities. These skills link to personality traits. Instead of measuring them, you must display or exhibit them. Employers may work with a temp agency that has the tools and skills needed to look for job candidates that exhibit these people skills along with the technical skills required for the job.
These talents extend to everyone in your circle of influence. So by observing your actions, people can quickly tell if you have these abilities or not. In fact, how you relate to others speaks volumes about who you’re as a person.
If you are overly sweet to your supervisors and mistreat your fellow workers, you lack people skills. Conversely, being kind and accepting of everyone shows maturity and leadership capabilities. Both soft and hard skills are necessary for any career path you follow.
The Best of Both Skillsets
Your interpersonal skills are just as essential to your employer as your hard skills. It doesn’t matter if you’re the most brilliant accountant in a firm if you can’t get along with coworkers and clients. Conversely, extraordinary people skills alone wouldn’t qualify you to be a physician.
It would help if you had an appropriate balance of hard skills and people skills to succeed on the job. Not only does it create a more positive work atmosphere, but it cultivates a bond between you and your customers. This balance also can help your workplace be more productive.
Eight Soft Skills Employers Want to See
Knowing what an employer expects makes it easier to understand where you need to improve. Most interpersonal skills involve relating well to others and treating them how you want to be treated. These are eight soft skills that employers want to see from their employees.
1. Communication Is Perhaps the Most Fundamental of the Soft Skills
Regardless of your job title or industry, excellent communication skills are crucial. Actively listening to your clients can differentiate between a sale or a missed opportunity. Plus, it’s one of the people skills you need to relate to your supervisors and coworkers. These are some of the components of communication skills:
- Clear and concise language
- Active listening
- Excellent written communication
- Non-verbal communication: Social cues, receptive body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and gestures
2. Group Dynamics
People are more valuable to employers when they understand team players. According to an article published by the University of Michigan, working together can bring a better outcome. Everyone contributes their skills, experience, and talent to achieve a common goal.
Being an effective team player includes respecting others and getting along with your colleagues. Working in a positive environment allows your team to brainstorm and solve problems better. Everybody works together and doesn’t allow egos to cause division and negativity.
How do you relate in a brainstorming session at work? Do you demand the center stage, or do you shy away into the shadows? Good interpersonal skills help you be an influential team member while respecting contributions from your fellow employees. Group dynamic skills involve these abilities:
- Coordinating efforts
- Negotiation with all interested parties
- Delegating tasks and responsibilities
- Coordinating schedules and tasks
- Conflict management
- Getting along with and respecting others
How flexible are you mentally and emotionally? Adaptability is one of the people skills employers need in an ever-evolving work field. It would help if you were open to changes in policy, procedures, technology, and the environment.
While it’s essential to abide by rules and standards of operation, you must be flexible. If not, you may lag when a sudden change happens at your job. Inflexibility can cause problems down the road and may even result in job loss.
For example, technology is constantly changing and making present technology obsolete. What if your company announces a new computer program for the staff? If you’re adaptable and willing to learn new concepts and procedures, you’ll continue to evolve with your company. These are skills that make you more adaptable:
- A positive attitude, especially toward change
- An open mind
- Motivation skills
- Constructive curiosity
- Quick decisiveness
- The ability to stay calm and lower your stress level
4. Impeccable Work Ethic
Interpersonal skills also include your work ethic, which is your pride in your job. You take a vested interest in each task and your role in the company. A good work ethic will take you far in whatever career you choose. Some examples of work ethic skills include:
- Dependability, which is your best ability
- Integrity, at work, home, and public
- Initiative, self-starter
- Ability to manage your time wisely
5. Professional Relationship Skills
Soft skills relate to your character and actions and your interpersonal abilities. How do you relate to your peers, colleagues, supervisors, and clients? Are you friendly, approachable, and respectful, especially those under your authority?
Your people skills should involve these essential aspects:
- Patience, with others and yourself
- Sensitivity to others and delicate situations
- Tolerance and acceptance
- Excellent public speaking skills
- A good sense of humor
- Mentoring skills
Creativity is not only an asset in artistic fields, but it’s also valuable to any workplace you choose. In his article published by the Journal of Creative Behavior, Dr. Michael D. Mumford explains the necessity of creativity in business. It’s the key for the evolution and growth of organizations, says Mumford.
It often takes creativity to solve problems and inspire a new direction. It’s the ability to gaze beyond the ordinary to see the extraordinary. Your creative skills consist of these:
- Divergent thinking, or “coloring outside of the lines.”
- Understanding concepts in a different way or reframing
7. Leadership Skills
You have a unique opportunity to share your leadership abilities if you’re a supervisor. You work with your staff to build camaraderie and workplace pride. Remember that influential leaders lead by example as well as by direction. Soft leadership skills have these characteristics:
- Trust from your staff and for your staff
- Humility is the only difference between you and them in your roles.
- Active listening
- Active mentor
8. Time Management One of the Key Soft Skills
Your supervisors want to know that they don’t have to micromanage you every second. Thus, time management time is a soft skill crucial for your job-related tasks. That’s because once you learn how to set deadlines for yourself you can avoid procrastination.
So what does that look like? These are also components of good time management:
- Prioritization, from most urgent to the least.
- Setting reasonable goals and meeting them
- Planning, short term, and long term
- Managing stress effectively
- Decisive, and not constantly second-guessing yourself
- Delegation: You don’t overload yourself or anyone else on the team.
- Focusing on the task at hand
- Coping with things you can’t change
How You Can Improve Your Soft Skills
As you review the list of interpersonal skills, you’ll be able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has room to grow and can discover ways to improve their skills. These are some helpful suggestions:
- Be honest with yourself and do a self-inventory on your interpersonal skills.
- Write a list of the skills you want to improve and ways to practice them.
- Ask for honest feedback from a trusted colleague or friend.
So please use this information as a guide for improvement after making your list and receiving feedback. Try not to be defensive when your friend or colleague is honest with constructive criticism. They are only trying to help you see more opportunities to grow.
Besides these tips, you can work with a mentor or a professional life coach if necessary. That helps because these professionals know how to help others reach their potential. They’ll demonstrate good interpersonal skills while offering constant feedback.
Highlighting Your Soft Skills for a New Job
It’s easier for potential employers to see hard skills on a resume than your interpersonal skills. If you have the same hard skill qualifications as another applicant, your people skills may be the deciding factor. Be sure to list all these skills on your application and resume and discuss them in the interview.
Final Thoughts on Soft Skills that Employers Expect–Even if They Don’t Vocalize Them to You
Employers want to hire employees who have the hard skills to get the job and the people skills to keep it. Thus, you need to balance these two skill sets no matter where you work. Blending knowledge, skills, and effective interpersonal relations are what you need to succeed in the workforce.