“Soft” Skills Win

by Ron Potter

Start with skills

An article in the Wall Street Journal was written with and about Bob Funk, founder of Express Employment Professionals and former chairman of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank.  Mr. Funk makes his living by matching people who want jobs with employers who need good employees.

When Mr. Fund talks about the interview process he starts with what most employees think of as the Hard Skills.

Hard skills and experience, he says, are only half the equation, and not the important half.  “So many people do not realize how important the soft skills are to unlocking job opportunity,”

Mr. Funk offers a quote from a boss he had over 50 years ago.  “There’s a person for every job and a job for every person.  That’s still true.”

Try before you buy

Most of the companies he works for are small and medium-size companies with fewer than 250 employees and he places most of his workers in part-time positions.  But over 60% of them go on to be full-time employees.

Hard skills and experience are only half of the equation and not the important half.  (Italics are mine).  Soft skills are the important part of unlocking job opportunities!

Soft skills rule

Mr. Funk found that the top five skills that employers look for are:

  1. Attitude
  2. Work ethic/Integrity
  3. Communication
  4. Culture fit
  5. Critical thinking

While Mr. Funk concedes that education is vital, the most important thing for most people is the ability to be trained.  And while I agree with Mr. Funk on this issue I don’t believe he gives enough credit to that ability to be trained with people of education.

Higher Education

So many of today’s graduates from major universities have been convinced that their degree from that particular institute has taught them everything they need to know to be successful.  I’m a graduate of the University of Michigan Engineering school and for a period of time recruited new hires from that institute.  What I discovered was that it didn’t make any difference which university the candidate graduated from.  What made the difference was number 5 on the list above, the ability to think critically that made the biggest difference between potential employees.

Learning is what’s important

As a consultant, I once ran an old exercise that didn’t produce any results.  When I asked my client why the effort fell flat they said they got the most out of sessions where I was sharing what I was learning.  My own learning produced the best results for my clients.  I believe that a college education gives you the opportunity to start learning.  Showing up to work every day assuming you’re there to share what you already know will get you nowhere.  Showing up to work every day ready to learn will show an eagerness to learn, which will carry you a long way.


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