- Stephen Weed
Soft Skills and Why They're Important
Here at Prime Financial Recruiting, we talk to a lot of people -- a lot. While we usually deal with professionals in our industry, when we were looking for new recruiters and an office manager for ourselves, we experienced during the course of one week:
Number of resumes received: 49.
Number of resumes without errors: 23.
Number of resumes where the candidate stayed in at least one position for at least two years: 16.
Number of candidates who responded to a query: 5.
Number of candidates who were polite and professional: 3.
That's it. Out of 49 people who applied, only 3 even had a shot at the position. During the interview and per-interviews, we experienced:
Lectures on the proper way to do our jobs -- from someone who had never done recruiting prior
The saying appears true -- common sense isn't too common. The basics of human interaction seem to have been forgotten. We saw this quote, and it applies perfectly.
"Last week at a policy conference in Mackinac, I talked to several hiring managers from a few of the largest companies in Michigan. They all told me the same thing - the biggest under-reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to 'p*** clean,') is an overwhelming lack of 'soft skills.' That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like 'please' and 'thank you.' This is not a Michigan problem - this is a national crisis. We’re churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work [...] The soft skills that allow you not to take a phone call during a job interview, tuck your shirt in, show up on time, the basic things that many employers bemoan today that seem to be conspicuously lacking in much of the employable people looking for jobs. They are not using their words to a degree that's making people excited about hiring them…they don’t know how to interview and what to say.” -- Mike Rowe
This is far too true, and it boggles our mind. If you do a search for "please and thank you" you will see hundreds of articles written on one topic alone -- people aren't saying "You're welcome" anymore. In fact, one study showed that 44% of executives said a lack of soft skills is the biggest proficiency gap in the American workforce. In another study, 67% of hiring managers said they were more likely to hire someone with soft skills and little experience or knowledge of the field than someone with a lot of experience or knowledge but no soft skills. They further stated that they were less likely to promote someone if they lacked soft skills. One report said as many as 500,000 workers will fail to progress their careers because they lack these soft skills.
Hiring managers have a saying -- people get hired for hard skills and fired for lack of soft skills. A lack of soft skills is more than simply being impolite; it can cause conflicts, poor customer service, and friction between employees can cause the good ones to leave, all of which impacts productivity and profits.
Research shows that businesses with leadership who use soft skills with their team improve their team's performance by as much as 30%. One man explained that it "makes people feel valued and rewarded, gives them a clearer sense of high standards, and helps [them] feel more motivated.”
For some companies, soft skills may not be considered important. For others, it may play only a small part. Some may place heavy emphasis on it. Maybe only a few soft skills are desired -- such as keeping your shirt tucked in -- while others -- such as saying "please" -- are dismissed.
While we do our best to screen candidates, it is up to each company to determine how much they value soft skills and how important it will be to a role. It will need to be decided what should happen if an employee is not demonstrating the desired traits, whether that be in the form of company-wide training, one-on-one, or even a reprimand. While companies want these soft skills, it is rare to find one that is investing into their employees. Businesses have a variety of training seminars, yet not one for soft skills. While such training should not be needed at this stage in life, it seems apparant that if we cannot find it, we must teach it.
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