It keeps happening. Employers claim they cannot spot a suitable candidate within a pool of hundreds of applications while candidates complain they are not even given a chance for an interview even though they know to their core they tick all the boxes in the job description. Too many options and skills diversity in a market more competitive than ever as opposed to a constant nagging that “we cannot find the right people”.
But how realistic can this accusation be? We live in times when “over-“ is more of a normality than an exception. It is expected, if not required, to be just a little over-qualified, preferably combining a multidisciplinary background of educational and professional expertise tied to a strong set of soft and organisational skills.
And this is where part of the problem hides. And, consequently, part of the solution, too. When offer cannot meet demand, the obvious solution would be to either change the one or the other. Bring the one closer to the other. But when both are reaching a peak in terms of thoroughness, how can this phenomenon be addressed?
Simple. By changing the perspective, not the essence. Admittedly, this sounds vague. But what if I told you that you might be overlooking a really game-changing set of skills? Skills that have nothing to do with technical knowledge and everything to do with those personal qualities that enable individuals to interrelate effectively and harmoniously with the rest of the humanity, inside and outside of a work setting.
You got it right, I am talking about the famous but underestimated soft skills. Communication and people skills that build the emotional and social intelligence of people and can accurately depict how smoothly they will be assimilated into their new working environment. Creative thinking, work ethic, teamwork, decision-making, conflict resolution, flexibility, positive attitude and empathy are only few of those attributes that allow people to navigate their environment and become high-achievers.
Don’t get me wrong. Soft skills will never outshine hard skills. How could they, anyway? You cannot hire a surgeon for their great teamwork and positive attitude if they lack crucial technical skills. But let me put it that way, why not give a chance to this young professional who may tick only 7 out of 10 boxes in the job description but you can see into his willpower to work hard, his readiness to adopt and his motivation to learn fast and grow.
Waiting for the perfect candidate might seem more cost-effective in the long run since you anticipate countervailing the lost time and profit with a shorter training period. But the truth is that in today’s chaotic and super-qualified market, there will be times that the perfect candidate is already working for someone else or lives three countries to your right while a really good fit lives two blocks away and is currently looking for a job. Why not take a chance? Why not invest in someone’s potential?
Because this is exactly what soft skills can do. While intangible and impossible to quantify, they still have this unique ability to unravel personal attributes, habits and attitudes that can show the candidate’s potential to succeed in this new and challenging role.
Note to employees: never underestimate the power of a strong set of soft skills. Invest in your personal growth, work with yourselves and then go get this job.
Note to employers: sometimes, it’s worth it to take a leap of faith.