Forget About Hard Skills; Soft Skills Are What You Need to Succeed

Monica Arriaga
Jul 4, 2020 · 3 min read

It is a complicated world we live in, and it only becomes more complicated when we add human interactions to the equation.

Photo by from Pexels

Usually, at a job interview, people ask about which skills you have. This will guide the interviewer into understanding if the person on the other side of the table has an adequate profile for the job. These skills are separated into two big categories: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills are the evident skills, which come with a certificate validating you have the necessary qualifications to do a certain task, or that are objective and leave no space for vague explanations. The answers for these skills are mostly binary, either you have it or you don’t. Also, these skills come with tangible, evident results. An example of a hard skill would be a certain level of proficiency in English. Another would be proficiency in mechanics modeling software, such as a SolidWorks certificate. Maybe you took the latest hot course on how to do Data Analytics with Python. The list could go on, you get the idea.

As valuable as these skills are for professional development, and by all means, do continue to learn how to do new things, in 5 years of experience doing freelance I have seen that no matter how good you are at coding with Python or how much perfect sentences you write in English, hard skills are of no use if you do not develop equally some soft skills.

Now, soft skills are harder to define. While hard skills are about what you do, soft skills are about how you do it. They describe how you relate to other people in your work, academic, or even personal environment. These could be a sense of responsibility, good communication, selling ideas, leadership, and so on. Do not get fooled by the word “soft”, these skills are nothing but easy.

Some soft skills come naturally to some people, for example, people who are extroverted or like spending time with people. However, everyone needs to develop them professionally, since it is not the same to spend a night out with friends than successfully convincing your boss or co-workers to implement an idea of a project.

Imagine the following scenario. You are in charge of hiring a new manager. You have received tons of applications, in the end, you have narrowed it down to two candidates according to their resumés. One of them graduated with honors, has tons of certifications on business analytics, is fluent in English and French, and as a plus, is proficient in the software that the company uses for internal purposes. The other one has a very good profile too. In this case, the candidate graduated with a good score, knows how to use basic software required for the job, and although there are not a ton of certifications, she described herself as highly disciplined and good at teamwork. The first interview went well, however, the candidate answered questions quite vaguely and didn’t transmit her motivations for applying to the job. The second interview was almost enjoyable, you had a good time! The candidate clearly stated why she was applying for that job and you could tell she would know how to lead a team.

Which candidate would you hire? Because of the nature of this article and the way I described the situation, you are probably biased to say “I would hire the second candidate, this is easy!” The thing is, that this is a story that happened. Two colleagues applied for the same job, and the one with better interpersonal skills –soft skills– got the job, even though I know the other candidate is brilliant. On top of it all, this is not an isolated case, ask anyone with HR and interviewing experience and they will likely tell you the same story. There are tons and tons of situations in which people with better interpersonal skills outshine others, not only applying to job applications.

Whether it is job applications, convincing your friends on which restaurant go to, applying for a Masters Degree, trust me in this, you will need soft skills.

No matter how brilliant you are, we live in a world in which more people live in, and we must learn to work with others if we wish to achieve anything of value.

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Monica Arriaga

Written by

Product Designer & Visual Artist. MSc Politecnico di Milano.

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