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Soft skill hiring qualities, which are not easily described on a resume, have become more important to employers since the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Up to that time, it was often assumed that anyone with competent technical training could always get a high-paying job. But it isnt that simple these days-employers are asking for much more.
The print media and Internet are full of articles about the need for people to develop soft skills if they want to get a decent job and progress further in their chosen field. Self-help courses, advice and tests are popping up everywhere; one Internet site lists 68 soft skills for success. Soft skills include the abilities to communicate effectively, relate socially, solve problems and take the initiative. Other important factors are perceptiveness, personal habits, empathy, teamwork, time management and leadership traits.
Attitude is especially important. As Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher said, You dont hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills. We will hire someone with less experience, less education, and less expertise, than someone who has more of those things and has a rotten attitude.
Kate Davidson, writing for The Wall Street Journal, points out that soft skills can make the difference between a standout employee and one who just gets by. She observes that a recent LinkedIn survey found that 58 percent of hiring managers say the lack of soft skills among job candidates is limiting their companys productivity. A LinkedIn analysis said The ability to communicate trumped all else, followed by organization, capacity for teamwork, punctuality, critical thinking, social savvy, creativity and adaptability. Davidson quoted a Wall Street Journal survey of nearly 900 executives in which 92 percent said soft skills were equally important or more important than technical skills.
Unfortunately, some institutions of higher learning are so preoccupied with technical training that they are neglecting the liberal arts, where social soft skills are cultivated, germinate and grow. But luckily, the Montessori schools, which emphasize creativity and inventiveness, have filled this void for years at the pre-school level. Montessoris learning method emphasizes a collaborative environment, as well as self-directed learning and discovery. Peter Sims in his The Montessori Mafia blog mentions alumni who have been unusually successful. Among them are Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazons Jeff Bezos, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, chef Julia Child, and rapper P. Diddy.
Professor Scott L. Newstok, of Rhodes College in Tennessee, thinks that the best way to prepare for the unforeseen future is to learn how to think intensively and imaginatively. He reminds us that Apples co-founder, Steve Jobs, once said that the most important topic he ever studied was not engineering, but calligraphy.
It is important to remember that technical skills, and the industries for which they have been designed, can quickly become outdated in todays fast-changing world. Soft skills can help provide a path, if necessary, to a future career in an industry which might not have previously existed.
Jack Goodhue, management coach, may be contacted at

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