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Soft skills get a bad rap. Yet more organizations are requiring development on the softer side than ever before. Related: 5 Tips For Good Leadership Skills “Companies have moved away from the ‘command and control’ decision-making style. Managing day-to-day decisions takes away [leaders'] perspective and capacity to focus. Leaders must lead through others. You don’t accomplish that only with technical skills. You have to have [those skills], but to achieve the next level of success, you have to be able to lead through others,” says Marie Holmstrom, the Charlotte, N.C.-based director of talent management and organization alignment with Towers Watson. And recent research from HBR states, “Once people reach the C-suite, technical and functional expertise matters less than leadership skills and a strong grasp of business fundamentals.” In a nutshell, soft skills.

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It’s a typical story for many job seekers. You apply for a bunch of jobs. You get some interviews, but can’t understand why you aren’t hearing back from so many of these companies. Whether it’s to actually get a job interview or to be called back for a second interview, oftentimes, you may come to the conclusion that you just aren’t as qualified as many of the others. Related: 5 Transferable Skills Job Seekers Need. Read here! Other times you know you are qualified, so what gives? While there are many factors that come into play here, it is a fact that some less qualified candidates are chosen over more qualified candidates simply because they have stronger soft skills than their more qualified counterparts. Soft skills for job seekers are a combination of your personality, attitude, and social skills, do weigh heavily in an employer’s decision to consider you as a candidate. Many employers believe most people can be trained in the hard skills required for a job much more easily than they can be trained on the soft skills. If you are a job seeker, you should do a self check on how you present both to prospective employers. Millions of companies out there have some ultra highly skilled employees. These are employees who may have advanced degrees, various certifications, lengthy relevant experience, and sound knowledge of their job responsibilities. Despite that, their managers are desperate to toss them out. How do things go so wrong with such skilled employees? Aren’t highly skilled employees the object of an employer’s search for a new team member? Despite their sound skills and knowledge, some of these highly skilled employees turn out to be an employer’s biggest nightmare. Perhaps they are argumentative, self-serving, unmotivated, dishonest, or just have terrible attitudes. Maybe they have all those traits or just a few. Regardless, they lack some critical soft skills that are not easy (and oftentimes, impossible) to train. As a result, more and more employers are willing to train less qualified candidates when they find ones with outstanding soft skills. While hard skills are the skills employees should have to actually do their job (education, training, and experience) those alone simply are not enough to land jobs in many companies. Many employers assess candidates for their personality and behavior traits and consider finding the lack of strong soft skills to be deal breakers. As a result, less qualified employees often win jobs because employers know that hiring employees who lack strong soft skills can wreak more havoc to their bottom line than employees who are lacking some of the hard skills. I am not going to say that people can’t learn and grow in some key soft skill areas but ask any manager if it’s easy to train an "attitude." It’s not! The following are the critical soft skills employers most desire in their employees:

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Want to get hired? Of course you do! Employers are and will be looking for a more holistic group of skill sets in hiring people. The workplace and the world is shifting demographically, socially, and generationally. We're already seeing this in corporate America with the emergence of women and multi-ethnicity. Related: 5 Great Tools That Showcase Your Skills To Recruiters It’s not enough to just deliver your core skills. What will make you most valuable and have the most impact are a combination of your core, personal, and intangible, or soft skills.

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Dear J.T. & Dale: Here's a question from the other side. My company expects to be expanding next year. I haven't done much hiring lately and know so little; however, I've been thinking that character, integrity, self-discipline, and honesty are the most important traits to look for. I heard a radio interview where some guys were talking about "soft personality traits," and one eventually said they were really talking about character. Then he said they use "personality traits" because "character" sounds too moralistic. Is having morals bad? Should I expect employees to develop character? How should I approach soft skills in an interview? - Tom DALE: First, I'd urge you to talk openly and often about character; if it makes a job candidate uncomfortable, you know you're looking at the wrong person. J.T.: It's fine to talk about "soft skills" and character, but the challenge lies in how you define and evaluate them. Can you measure them in a job interview? Job seekers will tell you that their soft skills are their best feature, and I guarantee they'll all say they have an abundance of character. One solution is to study the interview technique known as behavioral interviewing. That's where you ask open-ended questions that typically start with, "Tell me about a time when..." or, "Describe a situation where..." Such questions help you see if the candidate's actions and thought processes fit your company culture. DALE: That brings us to the most important piece of advice I give any manager about to embark on hiring: The person you interview is never the person you hire. Some managers try to solve that dilemma by hiring for a particular background - interviewing only those from particular schools, or just hiring veterans or former athletes. I recently heard of a company that hires young Mormons just back from their missions. Another option is to recruit candidates via trusted friends, colleagues or customers, or to hire talented people working for suppliers. The theme of the best hiring systems is that you are not passive, hoping the right candidate turns up, but you are out spotting and courting talent. The best employees have lots of opportunities and need to be recruited, not just interviewed. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
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