The Importance of ‘Soft Skills’

By Richard Serby

The current job market has been frustrating, to say the least, for many people. I received a call last week from a gentleman inquiring about one of our job postings. It became apparent very quickly that he had a lot of 'venting' to do and little interest in the job itself. He went on in great detail about 'bad and short-sighted' employers who won't be flexible about skills needed for a job. He hinted at a 'conspiracy' to keep certain people out of the job market and that he refused to consider most communities because of cost-of-living and his inability to be 'comfortable' in some cities. His negative demeanor and caustic verbal tirade against the world convinced me that I would never set this guy up for an interview with a paying client. His 'soft skills' need much improvement.

The development of 'soft skills' in this market is important when there is intense competition for many available positions.
  • Learn the basics of effective verbal communications and presentations. Take a speech communications course or join a local 'Toastmasters' group to become comfortable with your verbal skills. Practice your telephone skills. Most interviews begin with a telephone interview.You may be offered an interview because of your resume but the best communicator in the interview will get the job.
  • You only have one shot at a good 'first impression'. Make sure that your manner of dress and grooming are appropriate for the job setting. I recommend dressing one notch' above the everyday norm when interviewing for a job. If the everyday attire is Dockers and casual shirt then the interview attire ought to be dress pants and shirt with tie. For females the 'one notch above' may include a dress or business suit.
  • Practice your approach in greeting people and shaking hands. Look the person directly in the eye with a smile and firm handshake. If the other person is elderly or appears somewhat frail adjust your handshake accordingly. Firm but not painful.
  • The 'art of conversation' is just that art. The ability to carry on interesting conversations with people about the wide variety of topics and current events is an important tool in establishing an effective business relationship. Book clubs and discussion groups are good ways to develop these skills if you are not already associated with a group of interesting friends who enjoy lively conversation.
The ability to develop and use 'soft skills' can make the difference between a job offer and the enjoyment of a new employment and community environment.

Published Thursday, September 18th, 2003

Written by Richard Serby

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