The secret to finding good candidates in today’s job market? Soft skills

Sandra Kofler

How can you tell if a candidate will be a good addition to your team? The latest numbers say that when you look beyond qualifications and add a focus on soft skills, you’re likely to increase your hiring home-run average.

CareerBuilder/Harris Poll of employers conducted earlier this year showed that soft skills are high in demand, while at the same time, unemployment is at an all-time low and there are more openings than qualified candidates. Almost half of employers polled (47%) reported they have jobs that stay open 12 weeks or longer.

It makes sense, then, that the characteristics employers say make up a great candidate have increasingly shifted to strong interpersonal, communication and critical thinking skills. The top soft skills in demand today? Being team oriented, attention to detail/quality assurance, customer service skills and problem-solving.

Soft skills have always been important in hiring, but they were often overshadowed by an abundance of candidates in the market with more experience and hard skills. Employers traditionally suss out whether a candidate’s soft skills and temperament are a good match for the position during the interview portion of the hiring process. But these days, the numbers tell a different story: candidates with just-right experience may take longer to find, so it’s important to get serious on soft skills starting at the resume level.

The majority of employers polled (92%) said a candidate’s soft skills will be important in deciding whether they will hire them this year, and nearly 3 in 5 employers (59%) plan to hire and train workers who may not have all the experience needed for the job on Day 1. Some of those workers are millennials, who may have fewer years of experience than some other workers, but tend to be more soft-skills savvy than recent grads.

The wins in shifting from majority candidates with perfect experience to more candidates with great potential can benefit everyone in the hiring process: an emphasis on soft skills may help fill spots faster, keeping employers and workplaces from suffering inefficiency. Employees gain valuable skills on the job that may increase their loyalty, reduce future attrition and add more net-new qualified candidates to the marketplace.

If you’re currently hiring, the best advice is to determine which soft skills will make a candidate most successful in the role you're hiring for, state them clearly in job descriptions, and check resumes closely for ways candidates express them.

Someone with great time management might describe an ability to juggle many tasks on tight deadlines. A candidate who is detail-oriented might describe a multi-faceted project they created that improved ROI. A candidate with a lot of current continuing education shows they're solutions-oriented. When you read resumes carefully in this way, you just might find your next indispensable staffer.

Once you find your next great hire, make sure you know How to set your new hires up for success.

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