If you’re a job seeker who’s been on the market for quite a while, you may wonder why you’re not getting hired. Is it your resume, your appearance, your interview skills, or something else? Manpower, a global staffing agency, recently released their Talent Shortage survey, which details the professions currently encountering a skills gap. The report also surveyed employers about why this gap in the talent pool is occurring.
Within the survey, employers and recruiters indicated two distinct areas where candidates were falling short: a lack of technical skills, and a lack of workplace competency skills (i.e. “soft skills”). Year-over-year, the number of employers who indicated they had trouble filling roles due to a lack of soft skills increased more than those citing lack of technical abilities, indicating that more employers are not only beginning to recognize the importance of soft skills – they’re also noticing that many employees don’t posses them.
Employers are adopting more “non-traditional” practices to fill this talent shortage, including providing additional training and development to staff and providing clear development opportunities during the recruiting process. But while those solutions can resolve gaps in technical competencies, they don’t do much to address the lack of soft skills.
Hiring teams agree that one of the reasons recent grads are having difficulty finding work is a lack of skills in both of these areas. They don’t possess the experience required, but unlike past generations, they aren’t able to compensate with soft skills. That being said, most employers stated that they’re willing to hire people who don’t currently have the technical skills they’re looking for, as long as they have the potential to learn and grow. In other words, honing and showcasing your soft skills might just be your ticket into the perfect role.
Soft Skills: 101
So what exactly are these “soft skills” that candidates are lacking, and how can you develop them? And more importantly, how can you showcase the soft skills you do possess to potential employers?
You’re likely to find “strong communication skills” in the requirements section of almost any job description. Whether written or verbal, employers are looking for employees who can make a point quickly and effectively, understand how to explain subjects to a diverse audience, and keep their team in the loop.
If written communication is your weak spot, start reading more. By reading professional articles and content you’ll get a feel for how sentences should feel, and you can borrow terms and phrases to make your communications more effective.
If you struggle more with verbal communication, consider joining a group like Toastmasters that will encourage you to speak in public. You can also practice speaking in front of a mirror to get more comfortable with your mannerisms and certain phrases before a big presentation or an interview.
For both, get in the habit of thinking before communicating – take time to plan out what you’d like to say before you say it, so it comes out as you intended. Showcase this skill by presenting a neat, organized resume that clearly explains your responsibilities, and follow that up with concise, pointed answers in your interview.
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking and problem solving are both skills that are essential for success in the workplace. You should be able to dissect problems and prioritize creative solutions using all of the resources available to you. Critical thinking also involves taking multiple perspectives into account and re-evaluating solutions in light of new evidence, which shows that you’re flexible and able to make the best decision for the team.
Showcase these skills by highlighting a problem you’ve had to solve – discuss the problem, how you came up with the possible solutions, and how you chose the right one.
The desire to learn, or motivation, is another soft skill that employers are looking for, especially in candidates who lack technical skills. Your ability to learn doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to your cognitive abilities – it’s ok if you’re not a quick learner.
Whether your learning style involves listening closely in team meetings, networking with your colleagues, or doing research after work to learn your industry, the employer wants to know that you’ll put in the time to learn what you need to succeed in your role. They also want to see that you’re not satisfied with knowing the bare minimum, and that you’re motivated to continuously develop to keep your skills at the top of the pack.
Showcase this on your resume by including a section for professional development – list conferences, webinars, and even books that you’ve read that will show the hiring team you’re not satisfied with the status quo of knowledge.
There are a number of other soft skills employers will want to see – humility, confidence, attitude, and dependability, among many others – that may get your foot in the door for the perfect job.
While you’re focusing on getting your professional experience up to par, don’t forget about honing these soft skills. Make room for them on your resume, and use the resources available to make sure that you’re a well-rounded candidate employers can take a chance on to fill their talent gap.