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Are “soft skills” as important as “hard skills”?

The term “soft skills” refers to the character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person's relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered a complement to “hard skills”, which refer to a person's ability to perform a certain type of task or activity.

Soft skills are often described by using terms often associated with personality traits, such as:

• optimism
• a sense of humor
• integrity
• teamwork
• leadership
• communication
• good manners
• sociability

The US Department of Labor considers soft skills to be so vital in the job market that they offer a course called "Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success”.

Recruiters often say that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get (and keep) the job. “Today's service economy and the ascendance of work teams in large organizations puts a new premium on people skills and relationship-building," Portland-based human resources expert Lori Kocon says.

Why are recruiter focusing on this? In a nutshell, they are trying to differentiate job candidates. Usually, the hard-skill, the leading job site, has shared the “most valuable skills” for job seekers and employees. Here are the top 7 most important soft skills to have for both interviewing and in the workplace from Indeed's Director of Recruiting, Mike Steinerd:

• Acting as a team player means not only being cooperative, but also displaying strong leadership skills when necessary

• Flexibility is a valuable asset - employees who can adapt to any situation are dependable no matter what's thrown at them

• Effective communication is paramount, and includes articulating oneself well, being a good listener and using appropriate body language

• Problem-solving skills and resourcefulness are critical when unexpected issues inevitably arise

• Accepting feedback and applying lessons fosters professional growth

• Confidence is key, but it's important to always have the knowledge and skills to support self-assurance

• Creative thinking is invaluable and drives innovation and increased efficiency

When employers ask for these so-called “soft skills”,what they are really looking for is a way to differentiate between candidates who have similar qualifications for the position. Employers are looking for the individual who will be a better colleague. Building these skills makes you more competitive in most fields.

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