The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Handshake Business ProfessionalsEmployers will never cease to be picky; they may lower their standards a bit when the unemployment rate drops below 3 percent, but they will always have a certain mix of hard and soft skills in mind when they interview applicants. If you have been interviewed for a job only to be turned down after testing and three meetings, there is a strong chance that the hiring manager did not find the soft skills she had in mind.

Another scenario that can be traced to applicants being short on soft skills would be the following: you learn about an open position at your current job you think should have been yours from the start, but it is a large company and there is a chance that managers want to give everyone a fair shot. You go through the application process only to remain stuck at your current position and salary. In this case, everything may have looked good on paper, but your soft skills may have been insufficient.

Hard Skills and Soft Skills

Quantifiable and certifiable skills are learned and obtained through programs such as the ones offered by Florida National University. The Patient Care Technician certification program, for example, can be easily verified by employers in South Florida and across the nation: there are 20 credit hours of classroom education plus three seminars on CPR, OSHA and HIV prevention, not to mention the 120 hours of clinical training. These are job-specific skills.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are evaluated in a different manner. Communication, empathy, the ability to listen, personal drive, critical thinking, and understanding make a great portion of soft skills. Professional demeanor, personality, motivation, leadership, and conflict resolution are interpersonal traits that are also part of the soft skill set.

Hybrid skills are a combination of hard and soft skills, and they are what all employers are looking for these days. In the past, back when micromanagement and the Theory X of dealing with employees were prevalent in the business world, employers mostly looked for hard skills, but this was a totally different era when a vocational training certificate would get you a high-paying job at a manufacturing company that would give you a nice pension after 20 years of work.

The job placement team at FNU is aware of the current hiring situation in the Sunshine State and around the United States, and it is easy to understand why employers are placing so much attention on soft skills. In a nutshell, soft skills are transferable, which means that they can take you from a technician position to a supervisory job and from the factory floor to the manager’s office.

At a time when the business world has become highly competitive, employers are looking for people who can give the company an edge, and this does not mean a sole individual who will emerge as the miracle worker. Soft skills are crucial when diversity rules the workforce, and they are also vital in terms of dealing with customers and business partners.

The Emotional Aspect of Soft Skills

Some people seem to be born with people skills, but the reality of soft skills is that they can be observed, understood, learned, and acquired. We used to believe in the myth of the born leader, at least until we realized that charismatic and gregarious natures are talents that do not necessarily translate into soft skills. There is a challenge related to soft skills, and it is based on emotional intelligence.

Being able to apply a logical thought process to guide our decisions is a great soft skill to develop, and it means bypassing the grip of our emotions. It should be noted that emotions are notoriously difficult to suppress, but this does not mean that they should guide our professional actions. Let’s say you are sitting in the office of the human resources manager applying for a position that should have been yours; at some point in the interview, the manager starts asking questions such as:

  • Do you see yourself as a leader?
  • Do you enjoy doing the least required amount of work?
  • Do you care more about your job or about the company?
  • How exactly do you fit within the company’s mission?
  • What is the big picture of the company?

What the HR manager doing is testing your soft skills, and this is an aspect of job search and career advancement that we should all strive to fine-tune. The bottom line of job search these days is that verifying hard skills is too easy; when you graduate from FNU, employers will recognize that this is an accredited institution of higher learning, and they can get in touch with our counselors and advisers to understand what you have learned. Once hiring managers get the hard skills out of the way, they will move on to initial, second and even third interviews, and this when you should be mindful of your soft skills.

Soft Skills in the Modern Job Interview

One of the goals among hiring managers is to get you to open up and start talking. Here’s a tip for business administration and accounting graduates: do not be surprised if the manager calls another worker into the office to bring coffee for a joint interview. This may be a slight antic to test soft skills, and it may be a prelude to the following questions, which by now are becoming workplace standards:

  • Do you practice any interesting hobbies in your spare time?
  • Can you please tell me more about yourself?
  • Can you describe a prior work situation when you had to solve a problem?
  • What do you see as your strengths and weaknesses?

In the end, a good set of soft skills can bring enough power into your job search arsenal to get the jobs you know you have the hard skills for. The Job Placement team at FNU is just one of the many services offered to students; this school also offers career counseling, financial aid, scholarship assistance, and more. Find out more about how FNU can help you shape the future of your career, visit one of our campus locations or contact us online.