Hard skills vs soft skills: What is the priority when hiring a new employee?
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Today’s million-dollar question: what should be the priority when hiring a new employee; soft skills or hard skills? It is truly dependent on the role, but from my experience, we shouldn’t undervalue or underestimate a candidate’s soft skills.
I want to challenge you to reconsider whether or not experience and qualifications are the only valuable assets in a potential candidate. I can argue that soft skills are equally if not more important than hard skills. When hiring a new employee, you’re investing in that person. Are the hard skills good enough to invest in? Or do we need a passionate attitude and flexible personality for the person to thrive within the business? Does the candidate’s communication skills need to align with the business’ culture?
The battle of the skills: soft vs hard
Let’s do a quick overview of what soft skills are:
- Communication skills,
- Work ethic,
- Leadership skills,
- Problem-solving skills,
- Interpersonal skills.
Now let’s overview the hard skills:
- A degree or certificate
- Computer programming
- Typing speed
- Machine operation
This blog’s angle is to challenge the old perception that hard skills are more valuable than softs skills. Depending on the job, experience and qualifications are indeed highly desirable. Frankie De Luca, an HR specialist at Myrecruitment+, stated, “I wouldn’t give one a priority because you need to assess both depending on the type of role you’re recruiting for. A Software Engineer would need a heavier weighting for hard skills compared to a Junior Sales Representative where the soft skills are an asset.” Both skills have equal importance; however, they have different weightings when hiring for certain positions.
As we know, hard skills are things that are taught like university degrees or technology knowledge. In many cases, these hard skills are desired and trump the importance of soft skills. Some companies will turn a blind eye to soft skills because they are looking for a specific skill. By no means am I insisting that hard skills are not valuable or a crucial factor during the recruitment process. What I am suggesting is that soft skills are equally as essential, if not more.
For example, it is imperative to have the relevant knowledge, skill sets, and qualifications to carry out tasks in medicine. It is impossible to attain jobs in this field without relevant hard skills. However, someone like a surgical assistant would need to be capable of dealing with gory medical procedures. Typically, this cannot be taught. This is a soft skill. If surgical assistants could not deal with these issues, they would not thrive within that role. They need to be calm, unphased and have a strong stomach.
For a junior sales representative job, you need to have excellent communication, leadership, interpersonal, and teamwork skills. Relevant experience isn’t as crucial as it is something that can be taught or obtained over time.
It’s not all about the skills, but about the person
As I mentioned previously, when you recruit someone, you are investing in them. From onboarding, training and career development processes, the person can learn hard skills and knowledge. Soft skills are something money cannot buy. They come from your DNA, upbringing, or natural skills and abilities. They are harder to instil in people, unlike hard skills.
Communication and social skills are vital assets to a person’s character. Looking at what a person can achieve rather than what they’ve experienced is an approach I am challenging the HR world to take. Communication skills aren’t just about how well you speak; it’s how well you listen and interact with others without interrupting and engaging in conversation. This is something you cannot teach someone. They either have it naturally or grow into it themselves.
Let me give you another scenario:
A young university student studying a bachelor of media and communications has her ambitious goals laid out. Although she is only in her second year, she is striving to start her career. After months of handing in job applications, she gets a call from an HR software development company. The job in question was to be a content marketer/writer. She’s shocked as she has no hands-on experience or completed her degree. As the employer asks her questions regarding her interests, she enthusiastically responds about her love for writing and future goals. Their communication flows without interruption, all the information is interpreted, and both parties speak professionally.
The employer is thoroughly impressed by her passion and asks for a sample of her writing. After determining that this university student’s passion and enthusiasm fits nicely into the business’ culture and her writing is exceptional, she is hired. Although she had no relevant experience in marketing, she had a natural talent for writing, communication and interpersonal skills. This made her an automatic asset to the company. The marketing aspect would be taught over time as she progressed through the work.
Anwar Khalil, the CEO of Myrecruitment+, states that “On paper, they are ideal-but you want to see how they sound, act and their body language. That initial phone call, you want an attractive personality. This is stuff money can’t buy.”
What makes soft skills so effective?
Let’s look at this from a more personable angle. When I was in high school I remember one particular teacher. He taught legal studies and made the unit enjoyable and interactive. His personality would shine in every class. He was able to get every student involved in the lesson and spent extra time with those who struggled with the material. The material we had to learn was a bore, but he had a way of lighting a spark and igniting the lesson. His personality and communication skills made everything seamless, and time would fly by. He is a fantastic example of someone with well developed hard and soft skills.
I also remember the teachers that were the polar opposite. They were knowledgeable of their subject; however, they lacked that vibrant personality. These teachers lacked soft skills like communication, leadership and interpersonal skills. This made the classes challenging to follow and unmotivating. They applied the hard skills, and the classes’ material was solid, but the teaching approach was not. This point illustrates the absolute necessity for soft skills.
What can we take away from this?
What is the priority: soft skills or hard skills? When you look at it this way, employers don’t always need a candidate with relevant experience or qualifications. They need someone approachable, easy to communicate with, a team player and a team leader. Without these qualities, it would be exceptionally hard to fit in with its culture and environment. Unless there is a specific role with a particular skill set required, it’s good to branch out and hire those who are well-rounded and can benefit your business beyond the position they were given.