By Deborah A. Brodbeck / June 30, 2014

The trend in today’s workplace is a shift in what employers are looking for when hiring to move their business forward. Just search the Internet and you will find a plethora of articles and sites heralding the emerging importance of soft skills as a pre-requisite for employment. In research conducted by Seattle Jobs Initiative (SJI), “more than 75% of employers surveyed said that soft skills were as important as – or more important than – technical skills in securing entry-level employment [and that] a national survey of employers reflect similar views” (Pritchard, 2013). Buning, Cantrell, Marshall, and Smith (2011) in their report, Solving the Skills Crisis, notedthat “the term unskilled labor has all but disappeared from the business vocabulary.”

Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, notes that employers are looking for applicants to highlight specific situations from their background where they applied their soft skills, such as helping to solve a problem or contributing as a team member, as well as the applicable hard skills specific to the job description (Driscoll, 2013).

What are the soft skills that employers are looking for? At the top of the list are written and verbal communication skills and the ability to tailor your communications to your audience. This skill set facilitates being an effective member of a team and improving your capacity to assume a leadership role, important attributes that an employer is seeking when building a corporate team. The ability to think critically and problem-solve combined with good organization and time management skills give an added dimension to qualifications as a candidate. In the rapidly changing global workplace, IT skills and the ability to utilize the Internet as part of a business practice will become increasingly important while improving your marketability when seeking a new position.

Intrinsic qualities that foster the skill set for the contemporary workplace are a willingness to learn, motivation, flexibility, self-confidence, and demonstrating a good work ethic. These intrinsic qualities, coupled with the ability to improve performance with constructive feedback, will provide the path for advancement and being an effective team member. These are important qualities that are the foundation not only of personal success, but the capacity to be a meaningful member of a team that advances corporate goals.

Soft skills are viewed as portable or a transferable skill set. In todays’ work environment “most people will have at least three different careers during their work life and many of the skills used in one will be transferable to another” (Skills You Need, 2014). The importance of acquiring transferable skills increases your employability and capacity to diversify your career options.

During the interview process, the candidate with the edge will be the person who has the soft skills that employers are seeking and has the capacity to highlight those skills during the interview. Having knowledge of an organization and an understanding of its market and what makes the business successful is another important skill when interviewing. Commercial Awareness is “one of the key attributes cited by many employers as being essential to employability, yet job applicants have difficulty demonstrating this skill” (Skills You Need, 2014). Linking both your soft skills and hard skills to the structure of the organization will significantly improve your marketability and employability.

During the interview process the candidate with the edge will be the one who has the soft skills that the industry is looking for, the hard skills that have a goodness of fit with the organization, and the capacity to communicate the relevance of these skills to the framework of the company.



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Buning, Norbet, Cantrell, Susan, Marshall, Breck, T., & Smith, David. (2011) “Solving the Skills Crisis,Outlook: The Journal of High-Performance Business. No.3 (2011). 04/28/2014)

Driscoll, Emily. (2013). “How Grads Effectively Showcase Soft Skills to Employers.” FOXBusiness [online] (accessed 06/25/2014)

Freifeld, Lorri. “Bridging the Skills Gap.” N.p., 2 (Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Dec. 2013). (accessed 04/28/2014)

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Pritchard, Jennifer. “The Importance of Soft Skills in Entry-Level Employment and Postsecondary Success: Perspectives from Employers and Community Colleges,” Seattle Jobs Initiative Report. (2013). (accessed 04/28/2014)

Skills You Need. “Employability Skills,” “Transferable Skills,” “Commercial Awareness” (2014) [online];; 06/14/2014 )