Recruiting Debate: Hard Skills v. Soft Skills
There is a perceived mismatch in the jobs available and existing talent pool. Employers complain they can’t find the skills they are looking for. On the other side, students report feeling unprepared to enter the workforce and unemployed worker say employers won’t give them a chance. So which matters more? Hard or soft skills?
Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that are based in fact. Hard skill sets are constantly changing and evolving according to the industry. Technology strides have made computer programming an essential skill. With our global economy bilingualism another distinguishing asset in the job market. Now that almost every business operation is online, new skill requirements have developed alongside the trend. Business’ use of social media is another example. And these skills will only continue to evolve.
Soft skills are defined by AOL jobs as “a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with.” Things such as a strong work ethic, positive attitude, good communication skills, and time management abilities are all examples of soft skills. While these characteristics aren’t quantifiable, they are crucial to success in the workplace.
It is the combination of hard and soft skills that makes a great candidate. One has to have both to succeed. A bilingual tech genius will get nowhere if he has a poor attitude and lazy work ethic. Likewise, having a good attitude will not get you far in the tech industry, where specific knowledge and skills are required.
But, with that being said, the ideal candidate also doesn’t have to possess the perfect combination of these skills in one package. There is a quote from a recent employer study that hits the balance perfectly: “The last two decades have radically altered the way skills are acquired and developed. Skills are no longer ‘front-end loaded’ onto a career. Rather, they are characterized by lifelong development and renewal.”
There is a middle ground between employers who say they can’t find workers with the skills they need and job seekers who say they can’t catch a break. Employers, with the expertise of the recruiting industry, can find workers not necessarily with the exact skill set, but with the potential to learn the hard skills necessary for the job. Employees in turn, should focus on soft skills and their ability to learn and adapt new harder skill sets to make them great candidates for employers.
This is where the recruiting industry comes in. It is these nuances that require your outside expertise, to balance the needs of the employer and finding a candidate that won’t necessarily hit every bullet point on their checklist, but has the potential to grow with the company.
What is your opinion on hard vs. soft job skills? Do you think one should be valued over the other? How do you determine if an employee has soft skills?
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