Education, training, certifications, and advanced degrees are all important credentials to get your foot in the door. But employers also place a high value on “soft skills.”

From taking initiative and thinking on your feet, to clearly communicating and showing empathy, these hard-to-measure qualities are of critical importance to employers.

In fact, a recent report by iCIMS Hiring Insights finds that 75 percent of recruiters have ended an interview because a candidate didn't show the soft skills they were looking for.

In addition, 94 percent say an employee with stronger soft skills has a better chance of being promoted than an employee who may have more experience.

“The good news for employers is that programs like Jobs Waiting provide candidates with a good dose of soft skills,” says Joseph DiCarlo, MBA, SPHR, Chief Talent and Engagement Officer, WESTMED Practice Partners. “We have had success hiring Jobs Waiting graduates, because of the dedication the program requires and the training it provides.”

He says it’s always easy to find people.

“But that ‘A’ player is hard to find. We have huge competition now in healthcare and need to provide a patient experience that is stellar. A candidate who has excellent soft skills is going to be able to do that.”

So which soft skills matter? Here are five soft skills employers are looking for:

1. Critical thinking: If you run into a problem, what course of action you take affects productivity and the bottom line, says Donvil Collins, President & CEO at VeeKast, a Westchester County-based video production company. “We test this in our interview process. Our candidates must complete a small editing project in which there are a few glitches. We watch how candidates approach the problem. Do they ask questions? Try to solve it on their own? Do they finish on time? We like to see how well people think things through, if they seek help when necessary.”

2. Empathy: The healthcare space is increasingly competitive, so employees of healthcare organizations must be able to provide a stellar patient experience, says DiCarlo. “From our parking attendants to medical receptionists and nurses on up, our employees need to go above and beyond for our patients. People come to us when they or their loved ones don’t feel well. If they see someone unsure of where to go, or sitting in a waiting room too long, will they jump in and help? Candidates must be able to demonstrate they will have empathy in those situations.”

Sarah Mojena, Talent Acquisition Specialist with Crystal Run Healthcare in Orange County, says one way they determine if candidates have empathy is to ask “situational” questions. “We ask an interviewee to tell us about a time when they have seen someone having difficulty and how they responded. It doesn’t have to be a professional experience; it just needs to shine a light on how they showed empathy. We’re looking for people who demonstrate the principles of good care, no matter what position they may end up in.”

3. Communication: The number one skill Denise Atkinson looks for is communication. “They have to be able to speak with patients, with nurses, with doctors, with families,” says Atkinson, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Crystal Run Healthcare. She observes candidates’ communications skills from the get-go. “We listen to how they speak on the phone; we look at how their email is written, and observe how they interact with us face-to-face. Are they concise? Do they listen well? Are they answering our questions clearly? When someone communicates well throughout the interview process, we have a pretty good idea of how they will or will not be able to build relationships after they are hired.”

4. Initiative: For organizations that have a high volume of patients, or clients, employee initiative is a valuable soft skill. “Do you need your supervisor to hold your hand, or do you try to solve problems on your own?” asks Collins. “Someone who hops on Google and attempts to figure out a technical solution for us is impressive. It’s OK to ask for help, too, so you don’t spend hours looking for a solution we may have already. A candidate who can show they know how to strike that balance is a superstar.”

5. Positive attitude: Organizational and time management skills are important, says Atkinson, but the ability to show a positive attitude will put a candidate over the top. “We have high-volume clinical areas that can be stressful. So, someone can be very organized but they may carry out their duties with a negative persona. Our patients see that.” What’s more important to Crystal Run, adds Mojena, is that employees enjoy being there. “When someone feels pulled in twenty directions, but makes the patient feel most important in their moment of need, that makes a world of difference.”

Don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter during an interview what skills they value, so you can demonstrate you’ve got the right stuff, DiCarlo notes. But be honest about which skills you possess.

“We like candidates who take charge and show initiative. We can train you in other skills. We’re looking for the person who can add value.”



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