Using Soft Skills in a Hard Job Market

By Hallie Crawford

With the unemployment rates still very high in most states, career seekers – while more optimistic than several years ago – are still cautiously so. The good news, if you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that the unemployment rate has been trending down steadily since January 2009. It still remains much higher than we have experienced since 2007, making it understandable that job seekers feel less confident in their job search. We all need to understand how to remain competitive in the marketplace, and that need is greater now more than ever.

Whether the economy is down or not, if you are conducting a job search, you must understand the importance of promoting your soft skills as much if not more than hard skills. Here is the deal… Soft skills are those things that employers cannot teach at all or easily, like teamwork, strong work ethic or good communication skills. And they are critical to success at any job regardless of the role, industry or location.

These intangibles may seem less important than the hard skills, like knowing a certain software program for your industry or past experience in the field. But, they are just as important if not more so in some cases, than the tangible experience and expertise you have. When the market is tight and there are hundreds of people applying for the same position you are, your soft skills are what will help you stand out. On top of that, the soft skills will enable you to be a better networker, tap into the hidden job market and land the job you want.

So how do you get a better understanding of what your soft skills are, and where do you mention them? First, make a list of the things you feel you do better than anyone else. Do not worry about whether they are hard or soft skills, you can categorize them next. Second, interview friends and family via phone or email about your strengths; what do they think of first when they think of you? What do they see are your four greatest strengths? After you have combined your list with what they said, circle those skills that are intangible, or soft skills.

Next, identify which of these skills are most relevant to the jobs you are applying for and, include them on your resume at the top in your professional profile section, as well as in your cover letter. Be very clear what they are and how they can benefit the prospective employer when you are in a job interview. Include them in your list of top five things you want to ensure you communicate during your interview and have an example of how you have used each skill in the past. This will help ensure you are prepared for interviews, but also networking as well, which is another chance for you to mention those soft skills. Watch this video to learn more:

Do not discount the importance of soft skills. Remember that when employers and recruiters are asked what they look for in candidates, the top answers they give are soft skills-not hard skills.

Hallie Crawford is a certified career coach, speaker and author from Atlanta whose coaching company, Create Your Career Path, helps people identify their ideal career path, navigate their career transition and nurture their careers. Her team of coaches work with people of all ages, have clients worldwide, and have helped thousands of people achieve their career goals.


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