September 20, 2016

Newsflash: Soft Skills in Short Supply

The Wall Street Journal published an interesting piece on the challenge of finding job candidates who have soft skills. The author, Kate Davidson, writes:

“Companies across the U.S. say it is becoming increasingly difficult to find applicants who can communicate clearly, take initiative, problem-solve and get along with co-workers…

“In a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives last year, 92% said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills. But 89% said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with the requisite attributes.”

That’s not really news, and comes as no surprise to those of us who hire people for a living.

Since the dawn of time, soft skills have been the difference between great employees and mediocre ones. The world is filled with individuals who have great technical skill, but accomplish little because they communicate poorly, can’t work well with others, are crippled by a poor self-image, or any of dozens of other deficits in soft skills.

Is the problem worse today than it has been in the past? I don’t think so, although the tight labor market has made people with excellent soft skills more difficult to attract and retain.

I suspect there may be something else going on. Maybe it’s the employers who have a problem because they are becoming less effective at identifying soft skills in candidates.

Think about it. As companies increasingly rely on automated screening of candidates, hiring managers (and especially HR professionals) spend more time with computer screens and less with people. As a result, they don’t see real human candidates enough to become skilled in assessing them. They just aren’t putting in the time to get good at it.

That would be truly ironic — employers complaining they can’t find soft skills because their own soft skills aren’t up to the task.

of Praise

Mike does a very good job of listening. He understands ZOLL, and that allows him to figure out who’s going to thrive in our organization.

— Richard Packer, Chairman, ZOLL Medical Corporation