A recent LinkedIn study found that of 291 hiring managerssurveyed, 59% agreed that finding employees with the right softskills is much more difficult than finding employees with adequatetechnical skills. They also found that these skills areparticularly important, and just as hard to find, in areas such asconsumer services, retail and healthcare. A recent Wall StreetJournal study supported these findings, adding that 92% ofexecutives felt that soft skills were equally important totechnical skills, while 89% cited difficulty in finding candidateswith those skills. This revelation has caused a shift interminology with some now referring to this group of skills as “keyskills” or “core skills,” some even calling them “employabilityskills,” emphasizing their importance.

We find that the majority of hiring managers choose candidatesbased on technical skills, yet the preponderance of terminationsand promotions are based on behavioral attributes relatedto soft skills. Personal and organizational success, therefore,appears to be directly linked to one's ability to communicate, workin teams, think critically, be adaptable and possess a high levelof emotional intelligence. This holds true across industries aswell as across employee levels. As the labor market becomes morecompetitive, these soft skills are becoming more and more importantin finding a job, and even more important in moving up thecorporate ladder.

Some of the most successful companies in the world, such asSouthwest Airlines, Disney and Ritz Carlton Hotels, pridethemselves on hiring for soft skills and teaching the technicalskills on the job. According to a 2015 article in the HarvardBusiness Review, Southwest Airlines receives a job applicationevery two seconds and hires only 2% of all applicants. What theylook for in these applicants are primarily the soft skills. Ofcourse a pilot needs a license or a mechanic needs a certification.But beyond the base technical competence, the candidate that showsthe intangibles such as a desire to excel and persevere, anaptitude for innovation, the ability to put others first, showrespect to everyone, proactively serve customers, approach lifewith a passion and joy, and not take oneself too seriously, willget the job. In order to ensure that applicants have these traits,Southwest uses behavioral interviewing and other techniques, whileother companies have hired an organizational psychologist andconsultants to aid in finding the right candidates with appropriatesoft skills. However, most hiring managers agree, finding thesetypes of candidates is getting harder and harder.

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