In a survey this spring 77 percent of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said they were seeking candidates with soft skills — and 16 percent of the respondents considered such qualities more crucial than hard skills. Soft skills relate to the way employees relate to and interact with other people. The Multi-Generational Job Search Study 2014 by Millennial Branding said employers ranked the following as the most highly desired qualities in candidates: communication skills, a positive attitude and the ability to work in a team, all of which can be labeled soft skills or emotional intelligence.
Hard skills, on the other hand, are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify, such as a proficiency in a foreign language or computer programming. While hard skills might be developed on the job, employees should come to an organization already in possession of soft skills. When employees lack these basic soft skills, it can hurt the overall success of the organization.
The soft skills that employers are seeking, according to CareerBuilder, Millennial Branding and others, include the following:
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1. Being dependable. Employers value workers they can rely on to get the job done. There’s nothing better than an employee who is available at the drop of a dime, arrives to work on time and delivers quality results.
During the interview process, hiring managers should ask candidates about their work ethic. Dependable employee are individuals who meet deadlines, are team players and stay focused at work.
2. Pulling together a presentation. Regardless of their position, most employees are expected to make presentations to management, co-workers, customers and clients in some fashion.
For example, an in-house graphic designer might receive an email from the head of the marketing department about a new client. Although this employee isn’t a communications professional, she might be asked to pull together branding ideas in a presentation for the client.
3. Solving problems. Especially for fast-paced organizations, strong employees can think critically and effectively solve problems.
During the job interview, hiring managers should ask candidates about a time when they had to overcome a challenge in the workplace. This will help a hiring manager gauge the candidate’s ability to solve problems, be resourceful and face obstacles at work.
4. Coaching co-workers. According to Millennial Branding report, 92 percent of employers value strong teamwork skills.
Strong employees are individuals willing to help co-workers and coach them along the way.
Let’s say a new employee has been hired and added to a group project. The new employee probably doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on yet. In this scenario, an employee who’s been on the team a while should take the new worker under his wing and coach the person through the new project.
5. Fitting into the company's culture. The Millennial Branding survey also revealed that 43 percent of employers want to hire employees who are a great cultural fit.
Cutural fit refers to when a candidate's values align with the employer's. If an employer values a balance between work and fun in the office, say, then hiring managers should search for candidates who share this outlook.
6. Voicing opinions while being open to feedback. Employees who are confident in their ideas but open to feedback can play influential roles in a workplace. During a brainstorming session, for example, such an employee would not only share ideas but also challenge others' by asking thoughtful questions. This can create a stimulating discussion and even spark innovation.
7. Being flexible and focused. Deadlines and projects can change at a moment's notice. Employees need to quickly adapt while remaining focused on meeting deadlines.
For example, an employee may have just received an assignment and deadlines for the week. But Wednesday arrives and the manager decides everything needs to be shifted to arrive a day earlier. A flexible employee would be able to quickly adapt to these changes and focus on projects with top priority.
8. Being creative and innovative. Whether the employee is an accountant or art director, creativity is what sparks change in the workplace.
During an interview, the hiring manager should ask the candidate about a time when he or she was assigned a new project. The candidate should respond highlighting personal examples of thinking outside of the box to achieve results.
9. Developing new work processes. Employees with the ability to analyze work processes and discover new ways to complete them efficiently are valuable to employers. Not only does this save employers time, but it can also add to the bottom line.
10. Taking initiative. An employee demonstrates initiative by coming up with an idea and putting it into action.
For example, an employee might develop an idea for social-media marketing campaign that will build awareness for the organization.
After a company hires an employee, managers will want to gauge whether the employee will follow through in exhibiting soft skills. Some HR technology products let employers detect who has certain skills on the job. Talentoday is a skills assessment platform that helps employers measure soft skills and personalities through a variety of tests.
What soft skills do you believe are valuable in the workplace?
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