Soft Skills Needed

Diane Stafford's column in Sunday's Kansas City Star:

12 skills that workers need

How do you stand out among co-workers or other applicants for a job?

ACT, a nonprofit research and information service, pinpoints 12 skills that employers say they want.

We’re not talking about job-specific skills, such as an ability to design a Web site or give vaccinations.

Sure, the right education, experience and abilities are the main requirements to get or advance in any job. But we’re talking here about personal attributes that make bosses want to hire, keep or promote you.

Having those “soft skills” is a very big deal in today’s workplace, where a lot depends on interpersonal relationships.

Employers say they want workers who:
  1. Think before speaking and plan before acting.
  2. Are cordial and likable.
  3. Can quickly summon creative juices or imagination to find new, cost-cutting or time-saving ways to do something.
  4. Follow through on tasks without being distracted or bored and, overall, are responsible and dependable.
  5. Forgive others and believe that others are well intentioned.
  6. Speak up and exert positive influence. (That’s leadership!)
  7. Exude confidence and a positive attitude.
  8. Are efficient and neat.
  9. Can read others’ moods and are savvy about office politics.
  10. Enjoy sociable interactions with co-workers.
  11. Maintain composure and rationality under stress, whether it’s real or perceived.
  12. Have high aspirations and will work to achieve those goals.
If you think that’s so much squishy malarkey, think again.

Many employers are measuring those traits through pre-employment testing. (Fair disclosure: ACT is a purveyor of such assessments.)

Unfortunately, you’re not going to hear back from employers that you “failed” such a pre-employment test. You just won’t get an offer.

And you’ll have to count on a communicative boss to tell you exactly which traits (or lack thereof) are holding you back.

More often, an accurate self-analysis is your best bet. In fact, it ought to be No. 13 on the list.

Agree with these? Any others that you'd add to the list?


  1. I agree that those skills are very much needed in the workplace... heck, even in life. :) My 19 year old son is the loss prevention manager at Sears and has to hire people - a new experienice for him. One of the applicants cursed him out when my son didn't offer him a job on the spot. He later called back to apologize but my son told him that he couldn't hire someone who would "go off" on people so easily. Another applied for the job and when the background check came back the guy had been arrested early this year for stealing from another Sears store. Crazy what people will do and think they will get the job.

  2. I find all the 12 very relevant today. And the suggested 13th is even more important. To be in a place where all these are thriving will be a dream place to work in. Why couldn't it be a reality?

    Thanks for posting it!


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