8 Top Soft Skills Employers Look For
Learn the 8 soft skills in English communication.
Hi from Speak More Clearly. Great to see you here!
There are lots of different aspects to English communication skills, and some of them have come to be known as “soft skills’.
Soft skills can be defined as interpersonal skills that you use when you work and interact with others. These skills are important because you need these skills as well as your professional technical skills, to be able to interact and communicate at work and socially. These skills support you to fit in, and to be able to move ahead in your career.
According to Forbes, 94% of recruiters believe that top-notch soft skills outweigh experience when it comes to promotion to leadership positions. They are an important part of getting a job and essential for career growth.
There are many ‘soft skills’ but I want to talk about 8 particular important skills.
1. Speak Clearly
This is sort of an obvious one, but some people don’t realise how important this is. If you want to get ahead and fit in at work, it’s important to speak English clearly. If colleagues, employers and clients/ customers have to work hard to understand what you’re saying, they become tired and give up, or find it frustrating. This gets in the way of clear, open communication.
Besides this, it is also very frustrating not to be understood by others, and not to be able to get your meaning across.
As one of our students said, ‘People think less of me, and don’t believe I have the skills they need, because I have a heavy accent in English, and sometimes people can’t understand me.’
It’s important to greet people appropriately, and look at them when you greet them and when they greet you. You need to take the time to do this because it’s part of building stronger connections with others at work, or on your team,
Actually, consciously notice how people greet each other. What words and physical gestures do they use? Learn to use them also. This also includes saying goodbye at the end of the day.
Make sure you smile at the person you are greeting. This signifies that you are open to their communication, and open to interacting with them. The flow on effect of this is that you are open to being part of ‘the team and as with the other skills so far have the soft skills to also be a manager etc.
In English communication it is important to use the common forms of politeness- please, thank you, would you mind…. etc. Even if this is not the way you do it in your native language. If you don’t use polite skills, you will be considered rude, and that you don’t have the needed people skills.
Notice how others respond, ask for something etc. This includes body language which is a big part of what we unconsciously pay attention to when interacting with others. (How close do they stand-personal distance, what sort of facial expression do they use to convey their meaning etc).
This also applies to written communication as well. Use please and thank you. How do people sign off in their emails? How does the boss sign off as opposed to a colleague?
5. Word stress
If you want others to understand a particular message or instruction and especially if you are giving a presentation, then work on English word stress. You need to stress (emphasize) the words you would like them to pay attention to.
Another reason to master this is because certain words said with stress or emphasis, can also convey your intention without you actually explaining your intention.
For example, let’s take the sentence ‘I want you to drive.’ The stressed word is written in bold each time and I’ll explain the intention implied:-
I want you to drive. – I particularly want you to drive. Maybe others don’t , but I do.
I want you to drive. – It’s my wish that you drive, not me.
I want you to drive. – I don’t want anyone else that’s here to drive .
I want you to drive.- I don’t want you to take the bus or walk, I want you to drive there.
This element also conveys intent, but more about speech intent. For example, if you want to signify that you haven’t finished talking and want to keep going, but are pausing for effect or to take a breath, you make your intonation go up- not as much as with a question though. (usually this corresponds to where you would put a comma in written speech).
If you have finished saying your piece and are happy to have someone else have a turn, you make your intonation go up for the vowel just before the end of the word, and then down at the end.
Listen to how colleagues use these cues in speech. Attune your ear to it so you can use it also.
7. Ability to Listen
Develop active listening to others rather than waiting for your turn to talk. Notice what they are really trying to get across to you including the emotion behind what they are saying, and respond to that.
For example, you might ask your secretary or colleague how some project, or piece of work is going. They may say ok… with a pause, or have a doubtful look on their face. You can notice this, and could say, “Are you sure? You don’t look sure about it. Can I help in any way?”
Or if someone sounds frustrated as they are telling you something, rather than offering a solution straight away, you could say ” That sounds frustrating.” This shows the speaker that you ‘get’ how they’re feeling and will feel/ think that you are communicating and connecting with them well.
Another aspect of this is following the instructions you are given rather than trying to do something else because you think it’s better. If you think it might be better, discuss it first. The person giving the instruction may want you to do it that way for a reason.
This seems obvious, but often this is more important than the actual skills someone may have. It is important to have the technical/ appropriate skills for the job, of course. On the other hand, if someone has great technical skill but isn’t interested in being enthusiastic, or being friendly, or being part of a team, or willing to learn, it can mean that an employer will choose someone else with the same skill level, who does have a good attitude. Attitude is an important soft skill.
Often these soft skills are underestimated or not thought of as important. When working in English speaking environments, these skills are equally as important as the technical skills required, and are especially important if you are going for top level job positions.
So pay attention to your soft skills as well.
You may also check this article on the differences in work place culture.
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