job.skillsYou’ve put in a lot of effort to master the “hard skills” that your job requires.  Maybe you’re a pro when it comes to technical troubleshooting, or perhaps you’re a wizard with spreadsheets. Or maybe you can write a successful press release with one hand tied behind your back.

“Hard skills” are technical or administrative procedures related to your job requirements. Things like machine operations, computer activity, financial procedures, and sales administration.  And not so long ago, being proficient in the hard skills of your job was top priority.  Being exceptional in those skills was enough to get you noticed for advancement.

But things are a little different today.

Employers are looking for candidates with “soft skills” as well.  While hard skills are about your ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to your ability to interact effectively with coworkers, customers, and leadership.  Soft skills are personal attributes that relate to your interactions with others. And these days, your job performance and career are clearly affected by them.

Things like:

  • Communicating
  • Listening
  • Giving feedback
  • Cooperating as a team member
  • Solving problems
  • Resolving conflict

It’s really no surprise that these skills are considered more important than they used to be.  After all, who would you rather work with? Someone who is effective in the abilities listed above, even though they might need some help mastering the technical tasks at work? Or someone who regularly struggles with people interaction, although they can perform work tasks faster than anyone else on the team?

So you can see why employers are paying attention to an employee’s or candidate’s soft skills.

And not only are employers seeking – and preferring – candidates with soft skills, they are actually prioritizing these “soft skills” higher than the “hard skills” when it comes to new hires.

According to the Job Outlook 2013 report, published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE):

“What makes a new graduate stand out from equally qualified competitors, is evidence of the ‘soft skills’ needed in the workplace. Employers prize skills such as communication skills, the ability to work in a team, and problem-solving skills.”

Take a look at their survey results about what employers are looking for among new college graduates.

Four of the top ten qualities listed have nothing to do with the hard skills of a particular job.

They fall into the category of soft skills: interpersonal communication, working well in a team, problem solving & decision making, and effectively influencing others.

Clearly, building proficiency in these areas can help you. You’ll surely want to put a little effort into honing these particular skills. You’ll need any edge you can get among the other candidates.

When the time comes, you’ll be glad you gained that edge.

After all, according to Marilyn Mackes, NACE’s executive director, “Employers say they want good communicators who can make decisions and solve problems while working effectively as part of a team.”

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