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Leadership Development > Talent Acquisition

Soft Skills: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Soft skills are those fluffy, intangible, optional traits people won’t shut up about, right? WRONG. It’s not only a must-have for leaders, but can play a role in hiring decisions as well.

Maybe the confusion lies in the fact that they’re called “soft” skills. I was at the Close It Summit last month in Washington, D.C. where leaders from the business and education spheres came together to discuss the dire skills gap this country is facing and what we can do about it. One of the speakers there talked about how soft skills should be called “essential” skills since they are anything but fluff.

The term typically refers to communication, leadership, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, team skills, relationship management and a long list of other so-called intangible traits.

For employees AND leaders

While these may be qualities that are hard to measure quantitatively, they can be just the differentiators you want in your employees. A Bloomberg article advised MBA students and those employees looking to get ahead in their organizations to place an emphasis on both hard as well as soft skills.

Soft skills shouldn’t just be something we look for in potential hires; it should be something we hone as leaders and managers as well. Check out this recap of the most recent #TChat, Talent Culture’s live Twitter chat, where we discussed emotional intelligence – a soft skill – as an essential leadership trait.

So the next time you find yourself engaged in a conversation about closing the skills gap, make sure soft skills are also part of the discussion. Because as one recent report pointed out, a good chunk of U.S. executives say this is where the biggest skills gap lies.

We want to hear what YOU think. What role do soft skills play in your hiring process? Have you found a good way to evaluate this in candidates during an interview? Tell us in the comments below or send us a tweet.

Deanna Hartley

About Deanna Hartley

Deanna Hartley is a senior copywriter and community manager on the creative services team at CareerBuilder, where she writes about issues that are top of mind for employers and recruiters – including talent acquisition, employee engagement and retention. An avid social media user, Deanna is the face behind @CBforEmployers on Twitter as well as CBforEmployers’ Facebook and Instagram pages, so it’s easy to stay connected with her. Prior to joining CareerBuilder, Deanna was a senior editor for the Human Capital Media Group, publishers of Talent Management, Chief Learning Officer, Diversity Executive and Workforce Management magazines. Deanna holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She loves caffeine, social media, pop culture and dogs – though not necessarily in that order.


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