Desperately seeking soft skills

Companies are putting time and money into recruiting well-rounded candidates

Employers are growing frustrated with what they say is a dearth of applicants who possess soft skills such as critical thinking and empathy, Kate Davidson reports for the Wall Street Journal

More than ever, employers are seeking candidates who can go beyond routine tasks. A well-rounded candidate is able to work well with others, put their problem-solving skills to use in challenging situations, and be personable. But many employers complain that such employees are few and far between.

A 2015 Wall Street Journal survey found that out of nearly 900 executives, 92% said soft skills were just as important or even more important than technical skills. But 89% struggled to find candidates who with those highly desired soft skills.

Research from LinkedIn has produced similar findings. The company recently surveyed 291 hiring managers, 58% of whom said a lack of soft skills among job candidates was interfering with company productivity.

Companies are taking matters into their own hands by investing time and money in their quest for the evasive T-shaped candidate. Some are hiring consultants to create assessments, while others are boosting their training programs to groom ideal candidates. 

"We've never spent more money in the history of our firm than we are now on recruiting," says Keith Albritton, chief executive of Allen Investments.

In 2014, the wealth management company hired an industrial psychologist to create a test for job candidates that would determine whether they would excel as employees.

Cindy Herold, who runs the Old Europe restaurant in Washington, D.C., recently put up a sign to attract workers with "common sense."

"I can teach somebody how to slice and dice onions. I can teach somebody how to cook a soup. But it's hard to teach someone normal manners, or what you consider work ethic," she says (Davidson, Wall Street Journal, 8/30). 

Expert Perspective

Tackling the 'soft' skills gap

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