It should come as no surprise that a college degree alone is no longer the golden ticket to a good career that it once was. It certainly helps, but the letters on your diploma are no longer a guarantee of a good job. In fact, employers are looking more at valuable soft skills, like teamwork and communication skills, when making hiring decisions.
What employers want
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recently released the results of a survey, in which they asked hiring managers what skills they would prioritize when recruiting in 2015.
The results might surprise you. Here are the top 10 responses:
- Ability to work in a team structure
- Ability to make decisions and solve problems (tie)
- Ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside an organization
- Ability to plan, organize and prioritize work
- Ability to obtain and process information
You’ll notice that the first five are all soft skills, that is, skills and attributes that make a person able to interact with others effectively. They’re all part of your EQ, your emotional intelligence quotient. And you won’t find many college courses specifically dedicated to these skills.
- Ability to analyze quantitative data
- Technical knowledge related to the job
- Proficiency with computer software programs
- Ability to create and/or edit written reports
- Ability to sell and influence others
The second half of the top ten does focus more on specific skill sets, including an analytical mindset, good written communication skills, and computer proficiency.
Highlighting and improving your analytical skills
I have highlighted the ever-increasing importance of data skills in many of my posts. A lot of the skills listed here relate to our ability to make better fact-based decisions. Our world is becoming an increasingly digital space—and those without a sound understanding of how to use computers and how to turn data into insights will increasingly struggle. One recommendation is to make 2015 a year to focus on your data skills.
But you won’t get a job in 2015 (and beyond) if you can’t demonstrate your proficiency with the softer skills either.
Highlighting and improving your soft skills
If you feel your EQ or soft skills might be lacking and damaging your job prospects, consider the following:
- Have you highlighted your soft skills on your resume? It could be that simply drawing attention to your ability to work in a team setting, for example, might make you more attractive to hiring managers. Be sure to keep these traits in mind when describing your past job responsibilities and when answering interview questions.
- Have you taken steps to improve? If you can readily identify one or more of the five skills above as a challenge for you, take steps to improve. If, for example, you know that time management has been an issue in the past, invest in a book or program to help you improve, and feel free to mention it if appropriate in an interview.
- Have you received quality feedback? If you’re uncertain whether your soft skills are up to snuff, consider asking a few trusted friends and colleagues for their feedback. Ask them to be specific in helping you identify areas for improvement. Because you can’t improve if you aren’t aware of any shortcomings.
In a CareerBuilder survey, 71% of respondents said they valued EQ over IQ when making hiring decisions, so it’s important to make sure your soft skills are sharp.