The five soft skills employers should look for in candidates

7 min read | Pam Lindsay-Dunn, Director of People and Culture, Hays EMEA | Article | | Emerging skillsets

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Learn why soft skills are important in the workplace, and the top five soft skills employers should look for in candidates. Pam Lindsay-Dunn, Director of People and Culture, Hays EMEA, tells us more.


Soft skills in the workplace: Key insights

There is more demand today for soft skills than ever before. A study by Deloitte Access Economics even predicts that soft-skill-intensive occupations will make up two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. 

To understand this trend, think about why soft skills are important. Soft skills can show us that a candidate is more:

  • Willing to learn
  • Skilled at talking to customers
  • Adaptable
  • Organised
  • Likely to get on with colleagues.

When complemented with hard skills, it’s easy to see why these soft skills would be so valuable to a business. But what exactly should employers look for?


Soft skills in the workplace: Background

The world of work is changing at a rapid pace. Innovations in the digital realm are altering the way we operate and cooperate. As such, relevant, job-ready skills are changing at a similar speed. 

Nowadays, most employers look to a range of soft skills to show that a candidate will fit their company. Really, it makes sense that employers want their staff to demonstrate fresh new skills to succeed in the face of new challenges. 

But what soft skills should employers look for? Whether it’s traditional factors like strong communication or being more adaptable and curious towards the role, many soft skills can help a company succeed. By filling over 1,000 jobs every day, at Hays, we now know what soft skills are most commonly asked by employers.

These are our top five soft skills that employers should look for in a candidate.

1. A willingness to learn

A willingness to learn is the most requested soft skill in the world of work today. Hiring managers want the ideal candidate to be proactive and take the initiative to continuously develop themselves while encouraging others. This could involve:

Listening to webinars and podcasts on their commute
Looking at what your competition is doing
Keeping an eye on customer feedback
Recommending news articles to existing colleagues
Creating email alerts for themselves surrounding relevant topics.

Continuous learning shows that candidates are self-aware and proactive. Regardless of the industry, a desire to stay on top of current trends and changes relevant to your profession is hugely valuable to employers. 

2. Understanding customer behaviour

Technology has helped evolve consumer behaviour. Businesses are now steered towards customer experience and learning how users engage with their products and services. 

For instance, sports fans will now buy match tickets via a third-party app rather than at a stadium box office. Holidaymakers will go on price comparison sites for the best deal before booking their flights. Jobseekers will apply for roles online.

This is why organisations now require people that can keep up with technological changes. Look for candidates that understand these macro behavioural trends – they may suggest new ways for the business to thrive.

3. Adaptable to change

Employers want people who can move out of their comfort zone. The best employees see change and challenges as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Look for candidates who have adjusted to new environments before – it is now a key part of the modern world of working. 

Reasons to adapt could be a variation of organisational and technological changes. There may also be changes and adjustments in candidates’ personal lives that show the versatility they could bring to your company.

4. Strong interpersonal and communication skills

Learning and problem-solving are great skills to have – but they will be wasted if an employee cannot communicate knowledge to their colleagues.

“I want to hire employees who also have a clear view of the bigger picture. Those that have a vision for the future of the business and the industry they are working in – and can communicate this to their colleagues and teams.” Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays

How employees communicate their ideas is what makes the difference. In workplaces that embrace a diversity of thought and collaboration, debates sometimes ensue. These debates can push people to come up with more innovative solutions. Organisations, therefore, should look for employees who:

  • can keep the debate on-task and professional, never personal
  • would not put a fellow employee down for speaking their mind
  • can speak professionally with people at any level of the organisation
  • respects others’ ideas.

5. Excellent organisational skills 

Employers look for candidates who have attention to detail in organising their time. These types of employees ensure productivity is maximised, deadlines are met, and all resources are coordinated. 

The world of work can be unpredictable. As an employer, look for candidates that stay focussed – no matter what the situation may be. They will be the employees that stay calm and get work done when things get hectic.


Soft skills in the workplace: Next steps for your business

Employers looking to futureproof should prioritise finding candidates with a mixture of these workplace soft skills. By combining these soft skills with digital literacy and hard skills, you will be closer to finding employees that can help your organisation meet future challenges head-on.

If you are looking for support with your recruitment needs, please contact your local office.


About this author

Contact Pam Lindsay-Dunn

Pam has been at Hays for over 20 years and is the Director of People and Culture working across EMEA. Prior to her current role working across. 

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