What are soft skills, why they matter?

William Woods Business

The hard skills vs. soft skills debate continues in today’s workplace. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, a majority of companies say that soft skills are just as important as hard skills when it comes to recruiting and hiring new employees.

Though definitions may vary, soft skills are traits typically associated with one’s personality and can be innate or developed over time. In contrast, hard skills are usually attributed to one’s technical abilities as a result of education and/or job training.

According to the survey, soft skills that companies look for when hiring include: strong work ethic, dependability, positive attitude, self-motivation and teamwork. Other soft skills commonly seen on job postings are communication, professionalism and problem solving.

While hard skills remain the center focus of many MBA programs, even the most quant-driven programs recognize the role softer people skills can have on one’s career. The focus on hard skills isn’t a bad thing as it meets one of the primary expectations hiring managers have when hiring MBA graduates.  In fact, while applicants’ hard skills can often be tested or established through a possession of a higher degree such as an MBA, applicants’ soft skills can be more difficult to identify.

In an interview with Forbes, Mark Murphy, a recognized industry expert on leadership training and the author of Hiring for Attitude said, “When our research tracked 20,000 new hires, 46 percent of them failed within 18 months. But even more surprising than the failure rate, was that when new hires failed, 89 percent of the time it was for attitudinal reasons and only 11 percent of the time for a lack of skill. The attitudinal deficits that doomed these failed hires included a lack of coach ability, low levels of emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.”

Future posts will offer tips on ways to practice and polish your softer side.

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