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Do you have the “soft skills” employers badly need?

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Nice people of the world, take heart: Employers may be even more desperate for your people skills than you realize.

Fifty-nine percent of 291 U.S. hiring managers surveyed by LinkedIn (LNKD) said they had difficulty finding candidates with so-called “soft skills” -- the interpersonal skills that can make a workplace function smoothly. Surprisingly, only 53 percent said “hard skills” such as database engineering and coding were difficult to find.

The professional social network company analyzed the soft skills listed on member profiles who changed jobs from June 2014 through June 2015 to identify those most sought-after by employers, according to a LinkedIn post from its economist, Guy Berger. The top five skills are communication, organization, teamwork, punctuality and critical thinking. These are traits and abilities that job candidates should add to their resumes to grab hiring managers’ eyeballs, the company said.

“Soft skills are more difficult to teach and learn than hard skills, and our education system has struggled to develop scalable and effective ways to teach them,” Berger noted. 

The importance of soft skills may reflect the country’s shift away from manufacturing jobs, which tend to be routine tasks, to service jobs, which require more interpersonal skills and communication.

That jibed with LinkedIn’s findings that the sectors where soft skills are most common tend to be service-related industries, including restaurants, consumer services, professional training and coaching, and retail. 

Given that almost six out of 10 hiring managers said the lack of soft skills is “limiting the company’s productivity,” job applicants should highlight these basic interpersonal skills. One employer recently told a workforce development manager that he’d “rather hire a Boy Scout over someone with a degree because at least they’ll have the right soft skills,” Berger noted. 

These skills may be most in demand among today’s millennials, given that the most sought-after skills -- such as communication and organization -- were ranked as most important for entry-level workers. Earlier research has indicated that the millennial generation, or those born after 1980, are lagging on a number of fronts, from basic abilities such as literacy to softer skills such as critical thinking. 

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