Got a Failure to Communicate? Soft Skills Matter More Than You Think

It is not uncommon to hear the words “skills gap” repeatedly mentioned by hiring managers when discussing why positions are vacant and how to win the search for the Holy Grail (AKA–the perfectly fitting candidates to fill those vacant positions). There is great debate on what exactly comprises a “skills gap” and why positions stay vacant. Is the gap based on technological skills? Technical skills? Soft skills? A mix? A recent telephone survey conducted by Adecco Staffing to 500 executives sheds some light on this topic, and the results generated from that phone survey might not be that shocking. 44% of those surveyed reported the gap they experience most often is based on a lack of soft skills.

How to Screen for Soft Skills

Soft skills. Interesting adjective: soft. Soft skills are anything but soft because those skills provide the core foundation for an employee’s success within an organization, and that success is essential for a company to survive in this volatile economic market. If a company hires a candidate with less than stellar soft skills, that can be a huge liability to the company. Customer service is a key role in every position, no matter if that person does not directly contact the company’s clients. Employees must positively interact with teammates in order to deliver exemplary customer service and not just meet, but exceed, the customer’s demands. If the customer is not happy, that customer will find another company to make it happy…and tell other potential customers about its experience along the way. Employee assessments can assist hiring managers in identifying candidates who could possibly integrate successfully into the company culture. We are human. Disagreements can and will occur because great talent comes from various personality styles; it is how those disagreements occur constructively and how they are resolved positively for growth to occur and innovative ideas to formulate and come to fruition.

Effective communication skills are some of the most sought after soft skills. Unless the job specifically requires it, a person does not need to be an accomplished speaker or published writer with a long list of accolades; that person does need to have the communication skills to express thoughts and ideas efficiently and be able to give and receive constructive criticism in a positive manner along with demonstrating the ability to coherently express himself/herself in written language. Displaying professionalism in the work environment means displaying the same behaviors sought. Leading by example impacts others more profoundly than preaching empty words and barking orders. Managers need to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves: Am I a supportive mentor to my team? Am I displaying the same characteristics I expect from my team?

Ways to Enhance Your Communication Skills

So how can a person improve his/her soft skills? Volunteering is a great way to help others while helping oneself. When working with diverse groups of people, a person will be introduced to different communication styles which in turn gives an individual an opportunity to refine his/her communication skills. There is an extensive list of nonprofit organizations that are desperately seeking human capital to volunteer; use your favorite search engine to get a list of those places, or just contact an organization that piques your interest and call it to see how you can volunteer. Another way to enhance communication skills is to find a professional mentor who can support you as you branch out of your comfort zone and what you feel is the norm. Look at networking groups to meet and integrate with others. Take a class. Many colleges have noncredit classes at a low fee or credit based classes you can audit at a reduced tuition rate if you do not want the college credits. There are so many classes that are applicable to human resources, interpersonal communications, and organizational development that will expand your ideas, but even taking a course based on a hobby introduces you to others’ perspectives where you can also share your own. It is never too late to learn new concepts.

Employers want employees who can “play well” together because time is too limited of a resource to be spending it putting out fires among the team. The old adage plays true–you are only as strong as the weakest link, and if that link breaks, it might not be able to be repaired. Time needs to be spent on the organization’s mission and not bandaging internal conflicts. People tend to spend more time at work or working at home than non-work related activities so it is important to develop a team of mutually supportive individuals aiming for the same goals but with creativity and innovative skills to help the team take a very unique route to achieve those goals. After all, isn’t it great to enjoy the scenery on the way to arriving at the destination?

To learn more about employee assessments available from ExactHire, please visit our assessment features page or contact us today.

Image credit: Reach! by Adam Baker (contact)

Teaching Company Culture to a Newly Hired Employee

I am not the newest member of the ExactHire team, but I still remember my first day well! Being the new kid on the block can be a little intimidating, especially at a small company. So, ease the fears of your new hires by teaching company culture from the start. You know…the informal, generally accepted ways of doing things in your company that the employee won’t necessarily read about in the employee handbook.

Times Have Changed in the Workplace

In most cases, workplaces are much more flexible and relaxed places to be than in decades past. If this is the case with your office, make sure the new hire is aware of dress code, lunch policy and other activities/tasks on which flexibility is given. This is true for companies that are still very traditional, as well. Think about how uncomfortable a new employee would feel coming to work way overdressed (or way too casual) on the first day of work. Let him/her know the expectations right away…especially since new employees may be hesitant to ask these types of questions directly when first beginning work at a new organization.

Part of the Family

If you utilized pre-employment testing during the hiring process, than you should already know a lot about what makes your employee “tick” and why he/she is well-suited for the role he/she has accepted. Keep that in mind when acclimating him/her to the new work environment and co-workers. If your company has any social media pages, make sure to invite the new employee to optionally view or participate in these pages. LinkedIn will provide a sense of the company’s industry presence or overall market view. Pages like Facebook, will allow the employee to see some of the fun activities your company has to offer (examples could include office parties or working retreats that the employees attend together).

Know Your Company History

It is helpful to teach the new employee about the background of the company, as well as the industry in which it participates. Knowing how the company started and what major milestones have been reached, paints a clearer picture of why the company is what it is today. Some businesses have traditions they keep in place to remind them of humble roots at the start of the company or even just reminders of the original owners. The new employee will more likely feel more in tune with the overall culture of the company as a result of knowing these facts.

By proactively instilling a sense of your organization’s culture with new employees, you are further helping to make the employee onboarding process a pleasant and informative experience. In the long run, employees who engage more quickly are generally more likely to be productive sooner and stay employed with your company longer.

Technology can augment your company’s employment brand which is certainly a key component of the organizational culture. For more information about ExactHire and how we can help, visit our resources section or contact us today.

Image credit: Say Geese by Vinoth Chandar (contact)

Let’s Have a Laugh: Applicant #LOL

Laughter, like coffee or wine, is best when shared with friends. So let us share these chuckles with one another. #LOL

We have all seen at least one resume, applicant, or cover letter come across our path that leaves us unsure of whether we should be appalled, reach out to help the person…or just laugh. If this has not yet happened to you and you are in a role or industry where you deal with resumes, applicants, and cover letters on a regular basis, it will soon.

Some of my favorite cover letter chuckles.

“I look forward to hearin from ya.”
Oh yes. At first I thought maybe this person simply forgot the “g.” Maybe the applicant was typing too fast? But then when I read the “ya” for you, I realized the applicant was typing as s/he speaks. Bless her/his heart. That is all I could think.

“I am qualified.”
You have got it…that was the entire cover letter. Are you intrigued yet?

There was one cover letter that came through with the closing of, “Needing employment. Much appreciated.”
I thought his/her directness was appreciated. Granted, the majority of the cover letter was actually nicely written…so by the time I read the closing, I was a bit biased.

“please reply back asap. thank u so much & have a great day.”
I personally happen to despise the term “ASAP”. That does not give me a definite deadline to work against and your ASAP might not be the same as mine. But putting that aside, when did texting language become acceptable formal writing language?

Here is another one that has just appeared in my inbox, “In attachment pls find my latest…”
As Michelle Tanner from Full House would say, “Puh-lease!!!!”

So What if Grammar Ain’t My Forte?

There are the standard grammar issues: there vs they’re vs their, your vs you’re, two vs to vs too. These make me roll my eyes, but depending upon the position for which the applicant is applying, I may or may not focus too much on it.

The grammar mistakes that stop me in my tracks are passed vs past, then vs than, wonder vs wander, plane vs plain. The problem is that I read the sentence the way it is written and that takes on an entirely different meaning than the meaning intended. “Some people see me as a plane Jane.” No, I can assure you that no one sees you as a Jane flying through the air like a big hunk of metal.

While all of this makes me laugh, it does bring up a good question:
How much do grammar gaffes (and other instances of Twitter-fied vernacular) affect your applicant screening process?

Then, how much does it vary by position? Clearly, many people are responding to job listings on some sort of mobile device (or at least I hope so since they are using text shorthand.) Should I go so far as to ask applicants to pick the proper usage of a word in a sentence as part of my screening questions? Of course I make these mistakes occasionally, too. It is possible that the person was having an “off” day? Should I add instructions around my cover letter area reminding the applicant that this is considered a formal document where formal language is expected?

What kinds of interesting and/or amusing comments have you come across in cover letters, resumes or interviews? Please share them below in the comments area! We could all use a good laugh now and then.