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Increasing demand for talent with soft skills

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68% said focus on hard skills may cost candidates chance of being offered the job

Global recruitment company, Michael Page, has revealed that soft skills are as important as technical skills and qualifications in the interview process in determining the candidates’ success.

One thousand people involved with hiring were canvassed, and the findings highlighted the increasing need for prospective talent to show their willingness to learn and show flexibility.

The unexpected soft skills that are most sought after include selflessness, a sense of humour, and the ability to admit when you don’t know something. Sixty-two percent said they have hired someone who has demonstrated a range of these soft skills even up against better-qualified candidates.

Of those surveyed:

  • 63% felt that candidates focussed too much on their hard skills and qualifications and not enough on their human side when preparing for an interview.
  • 68% claimed that this focus may cost candidates their chance of being offered the job.
  • Half agreed that a willingness to develop their skills for the future is a key factor when deciding between two candidates.

The increasing demand for soft skills and emotional intelligence is evident even in highly technical industries such as technology and transformation.

In looking at the interview process, it was discovered that:

  • 51% favoured face-to-face interviews.
  • 74% of those who preferred in-person interviews agreed that they can get a better feel for the person this way. A further 61% said that the conversation flows more naturally.
  • Of those who preferred video interviews, 74% felt that the process allows them to speak with applicants from further afield, increasing the pool of talent.

Doug Rode, UK&I Managing Director at Michael Page, said: “The pandemic really drove home the importance of soft skills and taught businesses how crucial it is to invest in a workforce that possesses more than just technical ability.

“Now, with a turbulent economic landscape impacting businesses across the country, attributes such as a willingness to learn, flexibility and a sense of humour are all highly desired by hiring managers who know that personal qualities can impact a company’s overall success.

“Too often, candidates talk themselves out of applying for a certain job because they worry they don’t have every single skill, but this research clearly shows that employers are willing to overlook that for the right candidate. It’s easy to upskill once someone is in role, but traits like teamwork, empathy and friendliness are crucial attributes that you can’t necessarily teach.”

“Over the past few years, technology has fundamentally changed the traditional recruitment process – particularly through virtual interviewing. One of the key benefits of this is that companies are able to widen the net to secure talent from further afield, increasing diversity and creating opportunities for previously untapped talent pools.

“However, whether virtual or in person, interviewers will be keen to get a sense of the soft skills candidates can offer their business. The most successful will be those who are able to showcase a blend of both – pairing expertise and qualification with emotional intelligence too. Now, more than ever, demonstrating the desire to develop and futureproof their skills, being willing to learn and able to solve problems will give most candidates an edge over purely technical ability.”

James Barrett, Managing Director at Michael Page Technology, said: “Technology is always evolving, meaning roles are constantly coming to market which require completely new skillsets. This means that qualifications can quickly become outdated, and, in some cases, the qualifications don’t even yet exist. This makes it more important than ever to hire talent who are curious, willing to learn and develop and embrace change.”

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