Do You Have the Skills words in a red metal toolbox to illustratSure, there’s still time to find a job in what’s left of 2014, theoretically speaking, but it might be time to look ahead and note the skills you’ll need to get hired in 2015.

One expert thinks he has the answers. In a blog post on LinkedIn, Bernard Marr, best-selling author and consultant in strategy and performance management, writes, “… employers are looking more at valuable soft skills, like teamwork and communication skills, when making hiring decisions.”

Marr references a report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, nonprofit group that links college career placement offices with employers. That report says, in part, “When considering new college graduates for job openings, employers are looking for leaders who can work as part of a team and communicate effectively, according to respondents to NACE’s Job Outlook 2015 survey.”

The report continues, “When employers were asked which attributes they look for on a candidate’s resume, the biggest group of respondents (77.8 percent) chose both ‘leadership’ and ‘the ability to work in a team structure.’ These skills/qualities are followed by ‘written communication skills,’ ‘problem-solving skills,’ ‘strong work ethic,’ and ‘analytical/quantitative skills.’

Job seekers really need to heed this next element of the report: “Further evidence that having leadership skills can make or break a hiring decision is that when employers are forced to choose between two equally qualified candidates, they will choose the one with leadership skills over the other.”

As Marr points out, “You’ll notice that the first five are all soft skills, that is, skills and attributes that make a person able to interact with others effectively [sic]. They’re all part of your EQ, your emotional intelligence quotient. And you won’t find many college courses specifically dedicated to these skills.”

The second area Marr says candidates need to focus on is developing analytical skills. It’s an opinion shared by him and many other experts in the field. “A lot of the skills listed here relate to our ability to make better fact-based decisions. Our world is becoming an increasingly digital space and without a sound understanding of how to use computers and how to turn data into insights job seekers will increasingly struggle [sic]. One recommendation is to make 2015 a year to focus on your data skills,” he says.

Marr buttresses his opinion. “In a CareerBuilder survey, 71 percent of respondents said they valued EQ over IQ when making hiring decisions, so it’s important to make sure your soft skills are sharp,” he writes. “Have you highlighted your soft skills on your resume? It could be that simply drawing attention to your ability to work in a team setting, for example, might make you more attractive to hiring managers. Be sure to keep these traits in mind when describing your past job responsibilities and when answering interview questions.”

Not everybody agrees with Marr’s beliefs. As one commenter on his blog says, “I find myself increasingly depressed over the trumpeting of ‘soft skills’ over technical excellence. Yes, they are important — but only for those candidates who have also demonstrated their ability in critical thinking, self-discipline in problem solving, and an understanding of, and adherence to, established engineering standards in their chosen career field. I don’t care how good my doctor’s soft skills are if he or she hasn’t stayed abreast of medical research in their own field, and in family practice in general.”

What are your opinions on soft skills? Is too much emphasis being placed on them as the commenter above says? Or is Marr right on with his conclusions? Take a moment to share your thoughts below.

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