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Soft skills play an increasingly important role in the job market

In addition to technical and professional skills, employers seek candidates with soft skill attributes such as flexibility, courtesy and teamwork.

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The most important soft skills include communication, courtesy, flexibility, integrity, interpersonal skills, positive attitude, responsibility, professionalism, teamwork, work ethic.

Until a few years ago, universities only taught specific technical skills at undergraduate and graduate schools. For example, an engineer took many subjects related with math and economics, an architect would study design and structures, to name a few cases.

Soft skills are extremely important for potential job hires

This has changed with the knowledge society of the XXI century. Today academic specialists recognize that professional success not only depends on these hard skills but also on other skills, previously not taken much into account but nevertheless increasingly important: the so-called soft skills.

What are soft skills?

Deepa Sheti and Manisha Seth, two University professors from India explain that soft skills is “an umbrella term covering several survival skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, leadership qualities, team skills, negotiations skills, time and stress management and business etiquette.”

Bernd Schulz, from the University of Dresden suggests that, “the perception of what is a soft skill differs from context to context. A subject may be considered a soft skill in one particular area, and may be considered a hard skill in another. For instance, training in cultural awareness might be useful for a chemist, but is an absolute necessity for a human resources expert in a multicultural society.”

Marcel Robles, a researcher from the University of East Kentucky, United States, interviewed 182 executives asking them to rank what they considered the most relevant soft skills. According to the study these were the top 10:

  1. Communication. Oral and written skills, presenting, listening.
  2. Courtesy. Manners, business etiquette, gracious. Says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, respectful.
  3. Flexibility. Adaptability, willing to change, lifelong learner. Accepts changes, adjusts, teachable.
  4. Integrity. Honesty, ethical, high morals. Has personal values, does what is right.
  5. Interpersonal skills. Nice, personable, sense of humor. Friendly, nurturing, empathetic, has self-control, patient, sociability, warmth, social skills.
  6. Positive attitude. Optimistic, enthusiastic, encouraging, happy, confident.
  7. Professionalism. Business-like, well-dressed, appearance, poised.
  8. Responsibility. Accountable, reliable, gets the job done, resourceful, self-disciplined, wants to do well, meticulous, common sense.
  9. Teamwork. Cooperative, gets along with others. Agreeable, supportive, helpful, collaborative.
  10. Work ethic. Hard working, willing to work, loyal, initiative, self-motivated, on time, good attendance.

Why are soft skills relevant?

Several studies show that these informal skills are essential for business success, and this is precisely why employers eagerly seek them out among candidates.

Robles explains that “the research for the 21st century shows that potential employers want to hire applicants with strong interpersonal skills, but new graduates are falling short of employers’ expectations. Employers stress that educators should be teaching their students how to cooperate with others in the workplace and successfully acquire customer service skills. In fact, soft skills are so important that they are ranked as number one and extremely important for potential job hires in many occupations and industries.”

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