In an increasingly competitive hiring market, today’s candidates are challenged to stand out from their peers at an unprecedented level. While many mistakenly assume that education, skills, and experience are enough to set them apart (often due to academia’s misleading expectations), this is no longer the case. In order to obtain a competitive edge among a highly educated and capable talent pool, one must also possess a set of skills that should be common sense: social skills.
Let’s put it this way: three potential employees come to me for the same position. All have a bachelor’s degree, all have the required experience, and all have an impressive resume. In order to differentiate between the skilled candidates, I am going to look beyond their technical capabilities and take a look at their social skills: do they have the social competence needed to hold an interview? Do they constantly look at their phone during the interview? Do they have a history of working well with others and the ability to form a team? How do they represent my organization? In other words, while I am confident that they have the technical skills to do the job, can they play nice on the playground?
Do social skills really make a big difference? Of course they do! Let’s consider these 5 points:
- Bring Value to the Company: You might be able to do your job up to par, but I could probably find many other people with the same skill set. Why should I choose you? Show me what you can bring to the company and what makes you a more effective employee than the rest. How do you represent my organization to clients or other candidates?
- The Role of Training: As an employer, there are certain technical things for which I’m willing to train you. I can teach you how to use our technology, I can teach you our methodology, etc. However, I can’t train you to be a decent human being – that was your parents’ job, and I not playing the role of a surrogate.
- Presenting Ideas: You might have some great ideas, but how will I know that if you cannot effectively communicate them to me? Your ideas do me no good if you cannot get them across due to poor social and communication skills.
- Marketplace: Can you connect to our clients? Are you relatable? Can you hold a conversation long enough to appeal to potential customers? As a business owner, my clients are my first priority. Do you get that across to the clients, or is it all about you?
- Leadership: Can you lead a team, manage people, hire potential employees, and problem-solve as a leader should? Put candidly, one cannot rise to the top of the ladder without interacting with those also climbing the ladder. Furthermore, most candidates today confuse leadership with being a manager; leaders get teams to follow and produce results, while most managers measure activity. Do you know the difference between the two?
Contrary to what your college professor might have implied, technical skills are no longer enough to catch an employer’s attention; as a candidate you need to be personable, relatable, articulate, and valuable to the company. (Yes – it IS what you can do for your company and not just what your company can do for you!)
When the competition for positions get tough, do you have the social skills to set yourself apart from the pack, or will you be one of the many with a list of technical skills and accomplishments that looks like everyone else?