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As a regular participant in careers advice and training sessions as well as one of the leading recruitment agencies in Cayman, a common theme we are seeing arise recently is the importance of soft skills in the workplace and how they are moving up the priority list when considering possible candidates for hire.

Technical skills & expertise just don’t cut it anymore:

The truth is that soft skills can have a hard impact and make a big difference for employers and for employees looking to succeed in their chosen field.

Essentially, the mindset that being the best candidate comes down to a simple matter of having the right blend of experience and technical skills in one major exercise in box ticking, has become outdated. Absolutely it’s still important as a way of getting your door in the door and securing an interview, but if you really want to stand out from the crowd and make that position your own, it’s the soft skills you want to be working on! By demonstrating these soft skills to potential employers, you’re showing them you’ve got what it takes to turn you from a possible candidate to an outstanding one and that you will take that job to the next level.

Why soft skills?

Soft skills such as communication and etiquette, the ability to listen and get along with other people are rising to the fore in the workplace. So much so that in a recent study on global talent trends conducted by LinkedIn, an overwhelming 91 percent of talent professionals agreed that soft skills have gained an increasing importance to the future of recruitment and HR.

In an age of new technology, automation and artificial intelligence, it’s the soft skills that machines can’t replicate (yet) that are garnering greater prominence, especially in a crowded landscape for talent. They’ve always been important but now, according to the survey, it seems that things have moved up a notch and from our conversations with employers, have graduated from welcome additions to absolute must haves, with hard skills alone, such as experience, qualifications and technical know-how, no longer being enough to cut it.

What soft skills are the most sought after by employers?

Having gained an understanding of what soft skills are and how effective they can be in the workplace, the next step is to identify what particular skills are likely to be of most interest to a potential employer and then how you can show that you’re ahead of the game and the candidate of choice.

So what are some of the most important soft skills?
Creativity & Problem solving – We aren’t talking about graphics and art here, but rather think of creativity in the sense of problem solving! Are you able to tackle worth in new and innovative ways and think of creative solutions to problems and challenging situations? These are skills that really set candidates apart to hiring managers and set you up for success.
Time management – Time management skills are another important differentiating factor and being able to juggle multiple projects and still meet deadlines will show you have the ability to succeed in the modern work environment.
Adaptability – How do you approach your work? Hiring managers are looking for candidates who are agile, who listen to the needs of clients and customers and adapt processes that are tailored to their needs to ensure efficiency and satisfaction is always at a high.
Overall emotional intelligence – Showing professionalism and self-awareness in how you carry out your duties will set you apart from your peers and again, make the difference between good and great.

How do you show potential employers these soft skills?

Trouble is that even employers who know what soft skills they are looking for will understand that they are not so easy to assess, traditionally relying on interview questions and body language to make these judgments, which can allow bias to creep in without being applied with 100 percent consistency.

Keeping in mind the list of sought-after skills above, when we are coaching candidates ahead of important interviews, we recommend preparing three examples or scenarios for each type of skill, where you can explain and help employers visualize how you approached these situations and ultimately prove that you have successfully used those skills in the past.

How do you develop your soft skills?

When you start to break things down and isolate the kind of soft skills that employers are increasingly interested in, you can see how an individual with that kind of ability can make a measurable difference to a company. So how do you develop these skills?

It’s fair to say that soft skills like creativity or negotiation perhaps come more naturally to some people than others. If you feel that it’s something that you really need to work on then read around the subject, broaden your horizons, listen to podcasts or watch TED Talks and don’t feel you have to spend your career in the same box that you’ve always been in. Think about different ways to tackle a problem, good questions to ask in a meeting, request feedback from your manager and see what valuable lessons you can learn from others!

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