Financial Aid Planning
US Department of
"Soft Skills"/Employability Skills
What do today's employers expect from new employees?
They need workers that show up on time, give an honest effort, and don't
always need to be told what to do. Employers want employees that
treat others with respect and courtesy. Teamwork is important.
Employees need to show employers that are comfortable,
competent, and confident to learn how to do the tasks at hand.
These are called "soft skills" because they are needed to succeed in
virtually all jobs.
"Hard skills" refer to specific skills that are used on
specific jobs. For example, being able to back a semi-trailer up
to a loading dock without hitting anything or anybody is a "hard skill"
that is necessary to be a truck driver. Reporting to work on time,
being able to take direction, and having enough initiative to be
productive are "soft skills." Notice how these skills are
important to truck drivers. Employers seek these skills in
everyone they hire.
Most employers prefer to hire polite
people that can express themselves, and have an optimistic, friendly
attitude. Soft skills complement hard skills, which are the
technical requirements of a job. Employers want employees that have BOTH
soft and hard skills.
Many employers, however, are more interested in "soft
skills", because they can teach "hard skills" to those that are ready
and willing to learn. Its not hard to teach someone to use a
computer or machine. It is very hard to teach someone to show up
on time, ready to work.
Employers like outgoing, friendly, and cooperative employees. To
many employers, this is more important than any other qualification.
Personal appearance is important because it helps people see us in a
positive light. There is probably no easy way to teach soft
skills; we start to learn them when we are very young, long before we
start thinking about careers.
If may not seem fair that employers judge us on our soft skills - even
worse - people often don't talk about soft skills. If a person
needs help improving their soft skills, many feel uncomfortable even
bringing the subject up. We don't want to hurt the feelings of
others. We also don't want to get into arguments.
Employers often do not say anything when there are
problems with a persons soft skills - they just take appropriate action
so that they no longer have these types of problems. It doesn't
feel good to have someone tell us that we need help with our soft
skills. If someone is willing to help us, however, it can be
valuable to listen. If anyone ever politely suggests ways to
improve our soft skills, it is probably best to listen and thank them -
at least they cared enough to try and help.
Want to check
your soft skills?
HERE is an excellent online "quiz" that will help you
measure your "soft skills.
Let's look at ways we can show employers that we have
the necessary soft skills to get that job.
Work ethic. This is the belief that an employee needs to
give an employer an honest day's work for a paycheck. How do we
show that we have a good work ethic? Show up on time, look for
ways to stay busy, be willing to accept challenges, stick at a task
until it is done - these are all ways to demonstrate a good work ethic.
Courtesy. Manners are how we "grease" our
relationships with others. Being in the habitual use saying
“please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “may I help you?” when dealing
with others is the best way to demonstrate this soft skill.
Teamwork. Sharing is important - being able to share
responsibilities, help others, and eek help when needed show that we are
"team players." Even though many of us like to "stand out" by being
"exceptional," remember that employers need people to work together.
Often this means that we don't get fully noticed for everything we do, but
that's ok. Remember, most employers are not looking for
"superstars." It is how we work as a group that really counts.
Self-Discipline and Self-Confidence. Being able to manage
what we do, learn from experience, ask questions, correct mistakes, and
accept direction and criticism without feeling defeated, resentful, or
insulted is important. Employers need people that are teachable.
Conformity to Prevailing Norms. It's the
teamwork thing - being able to fit in with a group is important.
Dressing and grooming appropriately, being mindful of our body language,
the tone of our voice, and even the words we use affect how we work in a
Language Proficiency. Have you noticed that
effective communication is often the key? Being able to speak,
read, and write is important. Usually, it is through language that
employers expect us to learn a new job. Having the necesarry hard
skills does not do any good if we do not also have the soft skills to be