I have had many different hats in my career from being a job seeker, to a manager, from a recruiter and job developer to a CEO and in every one of my roles where I was responsible for recruiting or hiring, it has always been the candidates with the best “soft skills” which outperformed the rest. It’s no secret that workers with stronger soft-skills and higher E.Q., “Emotional Quotient”, out perform those with higher I.Q., “Intellectual Quotient”. I would hire a go-getter any day over a whiz-kid/ adult with no or low soft skills.
Employers Want Soft Skills
So it’s no surprise that this is the same when employers are asked what they are looking for in candidates and workers. In fact, in a recent study, titled “Sector Intermediary Snapshot Report” published by Goodwill Southern California, and funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Community and Senior Services, employers stated they “struggled with work readiness and soft skills, such as communication, skills, problem-solving, teamwork and motivation”.
Not only are employers asking about soft skills, but they are also listing soft skills as a priority in their job postings. According to the Burning Glass Human Factor report, 1 in 3 skills requested in a job posting were “baseline” or soft skills.
Employers believe they can teach the technical skills, but getting workers who will show up to work on time, motivated and with the right attitude is their biggest challenge, and when you’re working with a less skilled population, as is the case in a low-unemployment, or under-employed market, soft-skills in job seekers need developing.
Teach Soft Skills In The Class Room, But Job Readiness 1:1
Obviously, to have an effective sector strategy, you need to make soft skills training a priority, and in my opinion above technical training. There are many good examples of successful training programs such as BankWorks by JVS, where soft skills training is emphasized, and when I have met with employers who have hired workers as part of sector initiatives, they emphasize how the soft skills training was the differentiator in the program.
Secondly, job readiness and preparation is a major success factor, and can make the biggest difference in getting employers to hire your workers. Employers evaluate candidates based on their readiness to work i.e., how strong is their resume, how professionally do they present themselves during an interview, and how knowledgeable are they on the job description, the company, and the industry.
Effective sector strategy initiatives integrate this information into the training to ensure that the candidate is well prepared. Oftentimes employers will hire candidates on the spot if they deem that candidate to be well prepared for the position even over candidates who have more experience, but are not prepared. We have seen that the best form of job readiness does not happen in a classroom environment, but is most effective one-on-one with the career advisor.
This is because candidates often get overwhelmed in classes, or do not implement the recommendations. However when a career advisor is able to sit down with that candidate and identify their weakest job readiness points and address those and are knowledgeable on the employer’s requirements they can “custom tailor” a strategy, and implement in short period of time. Sometimes all that is needed is to have the candidate’s resume updated with key words, or have the candidate do some research on the company and industry.
In the National Association of colleges and employers, Job Outlook 2016 it stated, “More than 80 percent of responding employers said they look for evidence of leadership skills on the candidate’s resume, and nearly as many seek out indications that the candidate is able to work in a team. (See Figure 1.). Employers also cited written communication skills, problem-solving skills, verbal communication skills, and a strong work ethic as important candidate attributes.” The following table shows attributes employers listed as important to see on their resume.
When engaging employers in sector strategies, emphasize soft skills
By moving soft skills to the top of the conversation, it demonstrates that you know what employers are thinking and wanting. It shows that you can differentiate over other recruiting sources, and that you have a solution. When meeting with employers or sector stakeholders ask them which soft skills do they value the most. Start to catalogue this information just like other skills, and then developer accelerated soft skills workshops and incorporate in your technical education.
When making referrals to employers, emphasize the candidates soft-skills over their technical skills, especially if they lack certain technical skills.
America has changed a lot over the past 50 years, including social and cultural norms. What used to be expected in the workplace such as professionalism, politeness, respect for authority and strong communication has been replaced by individuality, casualness, the focus on self. Many younger workers were not taught these soft skills at home or in school, and employers are noticing. In order for workforce development sector strategies to have an impact, the lack of soft skills in our labor force needs to be addressed. Luckily, these skills can be taught and overtime, people will learn how to succeed in the workplace.