Hard skills are skills that are learned in the classroom with books or training materials, or on the job, such as machine operation or bookkeeping. While certain hard skills are necessary for any position, employers are increasingly looking for job applicants with strong soft skills. This is because it’s easier for an employer to train a new employee in a particular hard skill (for example how to use specific computer software). It is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill such as listening or communication.
Soft skills are the personal qualities needed for success in the job. These skills are especially important if working directly with clients and customers. A positive attitude, great communication skills, creative thinking, work ethic, teamwork, flexibility and problem-solving are the soft skills employers are looking to find in a job applicant.
The selection criteria that potential employers use to evaluate candidates have evolved over time. Employers are no longer looking for the most qualified person for the job. They now want motivated people with great soft skills who will fit within their organisations.
You will often find in job interviews that employers will test your soft skill abilities through situational interview questions such as, “Tell me about a time that you had to use conflict resolution to resolve an issue between team members.”
Employers will ask these types of questions because statistics indicate that the ‘bad’ or ‘less than ideal’ employees in an organisation are not bad because of a lack of technical skills. They are much more likely to be less than ideal because of poor attitude, lack of interpersonal and communication skills, and poor team fit.
Which type of skill should you focus on developing?
To HR professionals, successfully recruiting the right candidate for the job is more than hiring someone with the right technical skills and relevant experience. The best practice approach to recruitment suggests recruitment specialists focus not only on a candidate’s hard skills but also on their interpersonal skills, behavioural competencies, and organisational fit.
Both hard and soft skills are important, and choosing which skill to work on today will depend on the type of job and industry you are working in.
Speak with your supervisor and ask their thoughts on what areas might be valuable for you to develop.