The 5 Soft Skills Employers Want To See in Candidates

Which soft skills and character traits separate good candidates from great ones in the eyes of employers around the world?

That’s the question we put to our global research team for our latest blog post. With the internet full of articles about in-demand professional skills, we wanted to give recruiters and candidates more insight into the human factors that sway employers. So we asked the experts and turned their responses into the list below.

First, a little clarification.

What do we mean by soft skills?

From leadership to critical thinking, we’re talking about skills not directly earned in the workplace (even if they can be enhanced or proven at work). They’re useful in most if not all jobs. And they’re impossible to fake. For candidates, probably the easiest way to think of it is that if you haven’t got it now, you never will. However, the more of these traits you can honestly see in yourself, the greater your chances in the global job market, in any sector.

You can’t tick all the boxes

Before we get to the most in-demand skills, a quick word on the most overused ones. Our researchers agreed that job profiles and applications tend to be overloaded with empty skills. Things like honesty and confidence are taken as read, while the likes of teamwork and attention to detail are ubiquitous to the point of redundancy. When updating your LinkedIn page or drafting a role profile, keep in mind this brilliant quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.”

The anatomy of an in-demand executive

Without further ado, here are the top 5 traits our researchers said their clients look for in executive candidates in 2016.

1. Leader

A manager is one thing. A leader is another. This distinction is why we define leadership as a soft skill, even if it has to be proven through experience to be a true asset. Top employers want leaders at every level driving their company forward.

© Unknown. Via Modern Servant Leader – see their footnote re credit.

2. Entrepreneur

We’re living in an era of reinvention. Globalisation, tech innovation and economic uncertainty spell caution for some, but possibility for others. Executives who embrace the latter are the ones companies want on their payroll, particularly in the US and expanding markets like India.

3. Growth mindset

Our researchers find our clients asking for candidates who can convert the opportunities of our time into solid company growth. They want employees who aren’t happy resting on a plateau, but always eager to press on to the next peak.

4. Adaptive

In uncertain times, it’s not enough to accept change. You have to embrace it, mould it, use it to your advantage. We see this as not just adaptability, but adaptation. Some people are simply better at this than others. They’re the candidates leading employers want to talk to.

5. Relationship builder

‘Communication skills’ may be a recruitment cliché, but like most clichés, it’s overused for a reason. At executive level, nurturing fruitful relationships is absolutely vital, whether handling different client types with aplomb or building internal alliances to unlock new opportunities.

Taken together, these 5 complementary traits add up to a clearly impressive candidate – influencer of people, darling of clients, engineer of opportunity and architect of the future.

Candidates, how do you measure up? If you have 3 or more of these soft skills, we think you’re set fair for a successful career in your field. If you have all 5, the world is yours!

Recruiters, we hope you found this glimpse into our market intelligence revealing. If so, we’ve plenty more to tell you.