A growing collection of HR data supports a theory that some experienced hiring managers and recruiters have suspected for generations: when choosing between two otherwise equal candidates, the one with stronger social skills will be a better bet in the long run than the candidate with stronger technical job skills. This is especially true at the entry level, when most candidates haven’t yet accumulated years of professional experience.
But why is this the case? If both candidates are equally intelligent, equally hard working, and equally committed to the enterprise, why should social skills be the tie-breaker? Here are four reasons why socially savvy candidates seem to have an easier time stealing the spotlight and winning the respect and loyalty of their employers.
At the entry level, skills for most professional roles can be taught on the job. A year, a few months, or even a few weeks of training can bring most newbies up to speed at this stage. But social skills don’t work this way. HR studies suggest that candidates either have them on the day of the interview or they don’t.
If you’re about to step into a new job, your manager can teach you how to run a complex software program or maintain a client account. But she can’t teach you how to be a kinder person, a better conversationalist, or a stronger listener.
It takes energy to tune in and remember the details of someone’s long, rambling story, especially if you—the listener—happen to be tired, hungry, annoyed or bored. And energy isn’t something that comes from your boss’s coaching and direction; it comes from your exercise and nutrition regimen, your sleep habits, and your core personality.
If you have barely enough energy to take care of yourself and survive the day, you won’t have time to care about the other people around you, at least not a genuine way. You can fake it…but only for so long. On the other hand, if your energy tanks are overflowing, you always have a little bit of extra head space (and heart space) to extend to your coworkers and clients.
Do you have the courage it takes to march directly up to someone you’ve hurt and apologize? And mean it? Can you launch right into an interesting conversation with someone you’ve never met? Can you stand up for your ideas and argue on your own behalf, even when your opponent is trying to silence you? When you need something, can you simply ask for it?
If you’re like most people, the answer is no. But if you can say yes to each of these, then you have what it takes to control the growth and direction of your own career—which means your employer won’t have to do it for you.
If you have the ability to make a total stranger care about you, wish you well, root for you, turn to you for guidance, and trust you with things they value, than you have a magical power. And employers want you on board, so they can use this magical power to impress their clients and partners and extend their company’s reach.
Anyone can move boxes or write code—but you have a gift that can help your employers cover far more ground and get more done at a comparatively lower cost. Use your gift wisely and your career will start strong and stay in motion, wherever your professional future takes you.
LiveCareer (www.livecareer.com), home to America’s #1 Resume Builder, connects job seekers of all experience levels and career categories to all the tools, resources and insider tips needed to win the job. Find LiveCareer on Facebook and visit LiveCareer’s Google+ page for even more tips and advice on all things career and resume-related.
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