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Hard Facts About Soft Skills and Why You Need Them


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“During the session you told me of a document I need to complete. When can I expect it?”

“I have all the requirements for the attached position, when will we discuss it?”

“Sorry to miss our meeting. I am available tomorrow at the same time.”

Ouch! Those are snippets from email correspondence from a client before we had a discussion on the hard facts about soft skills. He is a brilliant and technically savvy professional, but with such a brusque attitude, and one that lacked common courtesies, he was heading in the wrong career direction.

It is often said that the majority of employees fail in their jobs, not because of their technical prowess but because of poor interpersonal skills; a shortcoming in their social, communication, and self-management behaviours. These are soft skills, and they play a significant role in one’s ability to.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Hard skills are the technical abilities required to do a job or perform a task, and are usually acquired through education and training. They include the ability to use computers and software programs, operate machines, analyze data, etc. These skills are easy to observe, quantify, measure, and teach.

Soft skills, also called “interpersonal” or “people skills”, are harder to observe, quantify and measure. They are required for everyday interactions in and outside the workplace, and complement the technical or hard skills. Soft skills relate to how people communicate, listen, engage in discussions, give feedback, collaborate as a team member, solve problems and resolve conflicts.

An interviewer will not ask a candidate if he or she has soft skills, but will ask questions to uncover how the skills were used. The same could be said about the term ‘corporate fit or culture’. No one will ask a direct question like, “Do you think you will be a good fit for our company?”, but they will ask questions to see if, and how well, a potential employee will fit into the company. Will they mesh with the team or will they disrupt team synergy.

An individual could have the required expertise, but that, by itself, is not enough. Companies also look for people who are can communicate well, and who are positive, respectful, reliable and honest. They also look for people who are able to function in cross-cultural environments, appreciate differences and contribute to a team.

In a Huffington Post interview recently, Faizolhardi Zubairy, Head of Digital Media at PETRONAS Dagangan Berhad, was asked what was the most valuable advice he had ever received when he was facing challenges in his career. He said, “Hone your soft skills. While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills will open more doors for you.

Your work ethic, attitude, communication skills, negotiation skills, emotional intelligence and leadership are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.

As you can see, hard or technical skill is not all that’s required to obtain and keep a job. One’s attitude and attributes are also very important. The fact someone might know their job well is not a guarantee of on-the-job success. In fact, given the choice, some employers would prefer to hire someone with more soft skills and less hard skills, because they believe they can teach someone the hard skills, but it’s difficult and time-consuming to teach soft skills.

If you are someone who struggles with a lack of soft skills, all is not lost. These skills can be developed and sharpened through training and practise, and this will help you to advance in your personal and professional life.