The low unemployment rate is a great sign for the US economy. For the first time in recent history, open positions now out-number the amount of available candidates. It’s a great statistic if you’re in the job market, but not if you’re on the other side of the desk trying to find qualified candidates for your organization.
As the pool of top talent narrows, the need for certain skill sets will rise. This supply versus demand issue is often referred to as the skills gap. The skills gap is a phrase used to describe the difference between the abilities that employers want, and those that are currently available in the market.
So, what skills are candidates lacking? You’d think employers struggle to find applicants with hard skills like financial modeling, six-sigma, or programming, but after LinkedIn surveyed 5,000 talent professionals in 35 different countries, the largest gap was actually in soft skills.
That term is thrown around quite a bit. In a nutshell, soft skills are one’s ability to interact with other people effectively. Doesn’t seem hard, but in reality, many candidates spend a great deal of time preparing for the technical components of the job and forget the importance of these qualitative abilities.
Here are the top five soft skills according to LinkedIn. I’ve broken them down and added my personal experience to each:
Creativity, as defined by LinkedIn, is the ability to solve problems in original ways. A skill that was historically associated with designers, artists, and marketing professionals is now an ability that’s a requirement of every role.
As the world becomes more automated and managed by machines, the ability to think outside the box will become a competitive advantage.
When I’m interviewing, I ask candidates how they would solve an issue stereotypical to the position, then remove that solution and ask them to solve it again. Through the process, you’ll learn the extent of their creativity for better or for worse.
Not to be restricted to sales, persuasion is one’s ability to sway others to their point of view. Regardless of your profession or role, your success often depends on how well you can motivate, inspire and engage others in your ideas.
Especially in leadership positions, it’s critical that managers create buy-in and can advance the ideas of their teams. Without the ability, I’ve seen great ideas get passed up because leaders couldn’t convey clear conviction.
Collaborative work environments are quickly becoming the new norm. Companies are redesigning their offices, rewriting their policies and investing in technologies to facilitate teamwork. Not only does collaboration create a more enjoyable work environment, but it also results in tangible business advantages.
My organization sees the ability to work with others as a way to bolster diversity of thought, increase connectedness across the organization and build business acumen, and foster more innovative solutions.
You’ve heard it before– the only thing that’s consistent is change. Unless you possess the ability to adapt, adjust and embrace change, you’ll be left in the dust as your industry and company evolves.
If equal in every other area, I will always gravitate towards the candidate that demonstrates more versatility. We all know job descriptions are just a starting point. Employees that can roll with the punches and rise to the occasion will stand out.
5. Time Management
We all have to juggle multiple tasks at work. If you’re not careful, competing priorities, individual agendas, and interruptions can negatively affect your ability to make progress in the areas important to the business.
In a world where time is now the most valuable resource, one’s capability to effectively manage their day is an advantage.
This research from LinkedIn is a great reminder that without the ability to interact with others, quantitative skill sets will only get you so far. Next time you’re preparing for an interview, make sure you place an equal amount of weight and importance on showcasing your soft skills as you do your technical ones.