While hard skills are always critical to landing the best job, it is often "soft skills" or character traits that can make the difference in who is hired and who is left standing on the street.
Fully 77 percent of employers say personality traits, such as a positive attitude or a strong work ethic, are just as important as the specific skills needed to perform a job function, according to a nationally representative Harris Poll of 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder.
In fact, 16 percent said those soft skills are even more important than hard skills. After all, you can teach someone how to use Excel, but how do you teach someone how to be dependable or confident?
The top 10 character traits or "soft skills" companies look for when hiring:
1. Strong work ethic: 73 percent
2. Dependable: 73 percent
3. Positive attitude: 72 percent
4. Self-motivated: 66 percent
5. Team-oriented: 60 percent
6. Organized and can manage multiple priorities: 57 percent
7. Works well under pressure: 57 percent
8. Effective communicator: 56 percent
9. Flexible: 51 percent
10. Confident: 46 percent
Why are soft skills so important? With the right set of these traits, an employee is far more likely to be able to quickly adapt and solve problems, as well as lead and motivate others.
While it's easy to tell a prospective employer you work well under pressure or you're a team player, that's not enough. You have to show it. "Provide an example of how you worked on a team to accomplish a particular goal. Provide an example of a high-pressure situation that you handled with ease," advises said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "Try to make the intangible tangible."
--From the Editors at Netscape