Publications Keying In


Keying In
January 2004, Volume 14, Number 3

Step Up to the Soft Skills
"Possessing a certain skill set—say, knowing specific accounting procedures or office software—is no longer enough to win that prized first professional job. As the numbers of jobs shrink (there were 3.3 million fewer jobs in the United States in 2003 than there were in 2001) and international competition increases, companies need their employees to be many things: versatile, dependable, forward-thinking.
What do employers look for when they are hiring new employees? A recent survey of 327 employers conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) provides some answers. When asked to rank the importance of candidate qualities and skills, the employers placed these five on top: communication skills, honesty and integrity, the ability to work on a team, interpersonal effectiveness, motivation and initiative, and a strong work ethic.

These capabilities are often labeled "soft skills." A person with developed soft skills is one who can communicate effectively, get along and work well with others, be a self-starter, and otherwise act, dress, and speak in a professional manner.

"While employers rate communication skills as one of their most desired characteristics, they also report that they are the skills that are most lacking in today’s job candidates," Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director, commented in a prepared statement when the survey was released last year. "There is such a heavy emphasis on effective communication in the workplace that college students who master these skills can set themselves apart from the pack when searching for employment."

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Catalog No. 135.90