Highlighting soft skills can be key to getting a job

soft skillsSoft skills – the personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others – may be just as important to performing and keeping a job as the technical or job performance related skills for which people are hired.

And many employers agree. In a survey of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder in 2014, 77% of employers felt that soft skills are just as important as hard skills.

“When companies are assessing job candidates, they’re looking for the best of both worlds: someone who is not only proficient in a particular function, but also has the right personality,” said Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.

“Along with responsibilities, it’s important to highlight soft skills that can give employers an idea of how quickly you can adapt and solve problems, whether you can be relied on to follow through, and how effectively you can lead and motivate others.”

Top 10 soft skills that employers consider when evaluating a job candidate

The top 10 most popular soft skills companies say they look for when hiring are that the candidate:

  • has a strong work ethic – 73 percent
  • is dependable – 73 percent
  • has a positive attitude – 72 percent
  • is self-motivated – 66 percent
  • is team-oriented – 60 percent
  • is organized, can manage multiple priorities – 57 percent
  • works well under pressure – 57 percent
  • is an effective communicator – 56 percent
  • is flexible – 51 percent
  • is confident – 46 percent

If you want to know more about the importance of soft skills, just ask Frederick H. Wentz. He’s an expert on the subject and wrote two books used for training people so that they can recognize and develop their soft skills.

Wentz became aware of the need during his years working in the restaurant industry. “I hired a lot of entry level employees, and many came from communities that lacked exposure to soft skills,” he says.

He also worked training people in reentry and noticed that people who have been out of the workforce for a long time had the same problem.

“The biggest challenges (to those in reentry) are making decisions and problem solving. When they’re incarcerated all their decisions are being made by someone else,” he says. “Communication is another difficulty for them. In prison communication is just one way.”

Wentz goes on to say that, “The behaviors that people need to survive in prison are being tough and being intimating, and these are not going to work on the job.”

Four types of soft skills

Instead they need to develop soft skills. Soft skills can be one of four different types, related to:

  • Communication
  • Problem solving
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Personal attributes

As specific examples, Wentz mentions, among other things, being:

  • Able to get along with others
  • Positive
  • Able to control emotions
  • Conscientious
  • Friendly
  • Able to follow instructions

In his book, Soft Skills Training: A Workbook to Develop Skills for Employment, Wentz alternates articles and stories about success with exercises that make students think about the importance of soft skills.

Some examples of the questions from the exercises in the book:

  • What do most entry-level workers lack?
  • In what areas do entry-level employees need the most improvement?
  • Why is it important to reach out and help others while at work?
  • When you do not understand something, what are three positive consequences of asking a question?
  • List five personal qualities you must display on every job.
  • How did Michael Jordan visualize and how did it help him? Give an example of how it can help you.

Job developers who work with those in reentry may find this book a useful tool.

And those looking for work might want to add references to their soft skills in their resume or JIST card. Including things like “meets all deadlines,” “works well in a team environment” and “communicates effectively” will highlight your proficiency in the soft skill arena.

Because employers are convinced of the importance of these skills, make sure you let them know you have them.

 

What you post on social media can keep you from getting a job

social mediaAs social media becomes a growing presence in everyday life, you need to be increasingly careful about the things you post and tweet.

The pictures you publish and the things you say on social media sites can keep you from getting a job, can get you in trouble with your boss or can even get you fired. But social media postings can also work in your favor, if they portray you as professional, able to communicate effectively and make you appear as a person that would be nice to work with.

60% of employers use social media to research applicants

And don’t think that hiring managers and recruiters aren’t looking. They are. Or at least according to CareerBuilder’s annual social media recruitment survey of 2,186 hiring and human research managers conducted between February 10 and March 17, 2016. It found that 60% of employers use social media sites to research job applicants, up from 52%  last year and 11% in 2005.

“Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. “And with more and more people using social media, it’s not unusual to see the usage for recruitment to grow as well.”

Info on social media can hinder job search

The company’s survey found that 49% of hiring managers who screen candidates using social media found information that made them decide to not hire a candidate. The top things that bothered them:

  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information (46%)
  • Information about a candidate drinking or using drugs (43%)
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. (33%)
  • Bad-mouthing a previous company or fellow employee (31%)
  • Poor communication skills (29%)

Jobvite, a San Mateo, Calif.-based software and recruiting company, found similar responses. In its Jobvite Recruiter Nation Report 2016, based on an online survey conducted in June and completed by 1,600 recruiting and human resources professionals:

  • 47% of recruiters view pictures of alcohol consumption negatively on social media
  • 60% find over sharing a problem
  • 72% view typos negatively
  • 71% find indications of marijuana use problematic

Shutting down Facebook account may not be best idea

In the past some people recommended that job seekers should shut down their Facebook accounts, since it’s impossible to tell what a hiring manager might find offensive. These days, however, many hirers may wonder why a certain job seeker does not have a social media presence, i.e., a Facebook account.

According to the CareerBuilder survey, 41% of employers said they are less likely to interview a job applicant if they are unable to find information about that person online.

Although LinkedIn is used by hiring managers and recruiters to get an idea of an applicant’s professional background, Facebook – and to a lesser extent Twitter – portray the personal side, and can answer the question, “Is this someone I would enjoy working with.”

If your Facebook postings or tags are even slightly offensive, however, it might not be a bad idea to deactivate your account while you’re searching for a job, since it will no doubt work against you.

And even after you get a job, you’re not safe. According the CareerBuilder survey, more than a quarter of employers have either fired or reprimanded an employee because of content they found online.

It’s important to carefully consider each and every photo and comment you post, especially on Facebook. So constantly monitor your social media presence and make sure it portrays you as the kind of person that the company you dream of working for would like to hire.

 

Don’t forget to write job interview thank you notes

thank you noteIn conducting a job search, you always need to keep in mind ways to set yourself apart from other applicants. And one of those ways is to write a thank you note.

Be sure to do this after every job interview, but also after after an informational interview or job shadowing experience. If you’re proactive, as we recommend, and drop by restaurants, retail shops or businesses unannounced to talk to the hiring manager about potential job opportunities, be sure to follow up by sending a thank you note to that person as well.

While many people don’t bother to send these notes, it’s very important to do so.

In a survey of 2,878 hiring managers conducted in 2011 by Harris International for CareerBuilder, more than one in five (22%) said they are less likely to hire a candidate who doesn’t send a thank you note after the interview. The reasons stated: It shows a lack of follow through and sends a message that the candidate is not really serious about the opportunity.

Although the survey was conducted nearly five years ago, it still rings true. Hiring managers like to be thanked.

While it used to be said that hand-written notes were the preferred method to thank people, these days email thank you notes are also appropriate. Some people send an email note within 24 hours of the interview and follow up with a hand-written note that emphasizes other details.

Either way, the medium may not be as important as the message.

What to include in a thank you note

Be sure to keep the thank you note to a few paragraphs, and use it strategically to:

  • Bring up a point or two that you didn’t remember to mention in the interview.
  • Briefly elaborate on a question the interviewer asked but you feel you didn’t answer well.
  • Clarify anything that you think might have been misunderstood.
  • Show that you are really interested in the position (or the field, if it’s an informational interview).

If you’re not sure how to write one, there are plenty of examples of interview thank you notes online. Just search using the term “interview thank you notes,” and they will come up. Read a few examples and write an original note of your own.

Creating a habit of writing follow-up thank you notes will be just one more way to help ensure your job search is successful.