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Want the Hard Truth? Soft Skills Can Make or Break Your Job Search

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Workers in tech-centric roles are right to be proud of the technical skills they’ve acquired over the course of their educations and careers. These skills are hard won and are imperative to their success in their chosen fields.

However, a recent study suggests that recruiters today have a soft spot for soft skills, regardless of the role they are looking to fill. Even in careers where soft skills haven’t historically held a ton of weight – such as software development and accounting, for example – employers are now looking for candidates who are the whole package. In other words, it’s critical today that workers, even ones in highly technical jobs, demonstrate that they also possess soft skills.

To start, let’s define what a tech-centric job is exactly. According to LiveCareer’s recently released 2018 Skills Gap Report, researchers defined tech-centric jobs as those jobs for which some form of higher education is required to perform the role. These jobs typically rely heavily on a bevy of hard skills – or skills that can be learned and measured.

(This contrasts with soft-centric occupations, which are defined as roles that don’t require formal training or higher education. These roles include bartenders, customer service representatives, and sales associates, among others.)

To better understand the skills that employers want – and to compare those skills to the ones that jobseekers are listing on their resumes – the study took a “big data” approach to analyzing thousands of resumes and job ads across 12 different occupations. The question the study sought to answer is this one: is the skills gap is real, or are jobseekers just underreporting their skill sets in resumes?

Jobseekers in tech-centric occupations should analyze the study’s most arresting findings on soft skills to increase the likelihood of success in the job market. Some key finding to consider include:

  • The study found that – across the board – employers increasingly value customer service and communications skills. In fact, job ads in 11 of the 12 occupational types list customer service as among the most desirable skills.This means that even in jobs where customer service isn’t traditionally a requirement – such as accountants, teachers, and registered nurses – employers expect jobseekers to make those skills a focus today.
  • Communication skills appear in job ads for 12 of the 12 occupation types that the study focused on, meaning all jobseekers should place an emphasis on this soft skill in their resumes.
  • Tech-centric employers demand largely the same soft skills as customer-facing employers. In fact, three of the top five required soft skills in both occupational categories are the same.
  • Jobseekers in all professions are listing far too few skills on their resumes, overall. Individual job ads, on average, contain 21.8 skills. Resumes, on average, contain only 13 skills.

It’s not surprising that tech-centric workers aren’t emphasizing soft skills since job ads for these professions are asking for 4.25x more hard skills than soft skills. However, the report also found that since employers increasingly value customer service and communications skills in candidates, jobseekers who neglect to thoroughly list soft skills on their resumes may be doing themselves a disservice.

The takeaway for jobseekers in tech-centric occupations: shine a light on those intangible but increasingly important soft skills on your resume; they matter just as much as your hard skills. In fact, jobseekers who can clearly communicate their soft skills to potential employers – both in their resumes and in job interviews – will have an advantage over those candidates who cannot.

Experts agree that the best way to accomplish this goal is for jobseekers to concentrate on learning how to write a resume in such a way that it mimics the language of a job ad. This ensures that they are including all the most valuable skills cited in the job post, and it will also help get their resumes past an applicant tracking system (ATS), which many employers use today to screen out unqualified candidates.

Wording is of key importance, because most ATSs don’t understand nuance in language, which means you must echo the language the ads use precisely in resumes. Fail to do so and you risk being eliminated from the running, even as a qualified candidate. How precisely do you need to match the wording? Exactly. If a job ad asks for “solid verbal communication skills,” and you list writing “solid oral communication skills,” you could be knocked out of the running!

Jobseekers can find additional learnings, plus a PDF download of the report, via the 2018 Skills Gap Report link at the beginning of the article.

LiveCareer bio:

Need more guidance on how to incorporate soft skills into your resume? Peruse LiveCareer’s free resume examples, and see how other successful professionals have expressed those skills in their resumes. All examples are arranged by industry and job title. And if you need help building a resume from the ground up, try our free, easy-to-use Resume Builder.

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