Which soft skills are the most highly-valued by American businesses? (infographic)

In a business world that can often seem cut-throat and driven by people who want ‘marketing rock stars’, ‘data wizards’ and other nonsensical job titles, is there still a place for ‘soft skills’?

They might not offer the trackable return on investment that looks great on a CV and you wouldn’t put them after your name on your LinkedIn profile, but they can be the glue that holds businesses today.
The study shows the top 5 most-wanted soft skills in America are Collaboration (mentioned in 22.5% of ads), Innovation (19.2%), Confidence (13.9%), Patience (10.3%), and Creativity (9.6%)

According to the Collins English Dictionary, soft skills are: "desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude."

Having soft skills are crucial for a number of reasons, not least:
  1. Teamwork - A team will struggle to work well together if members lack the kind of soft skills that can bind people together to form a common purpose.
  2. Relationship-building - If you are the kind of person who lacks the skills to form productive working relationships, you will find it hard to network and make useful connections.
  3. Developing a positive reputation - There might be some careers where being considered ‘likeable’ might traditionally not be thought of as important but for the rest of us, earning the respect of our peers and managers is hugely important.
A new study of over 45,000 job listings by NetCredit has found which soft skills are the most in-demand across America, and here is what they found:

The Most In-Demand Soft Skills In America

The number one most prized soft skill in the job listings studied was ‘collaboration’, with 22.5% of them mentioning it as an important attribute for any candidate applying. That’s more than 1 in 5, demonstrating just how essential it is in the workplace to be able to collaborate successfully with others.

Innovation was the second most in-demand soft skill, featuring in 19.2% of job adverts, and while there are certainly roles where being innovative would be considered an essential skill rather than a soft one, the ability to come up with new ideas and fresh ways of doing things is a prized attribute in any role.

Third on the list is confidence, a soft skill that you can actually have too much of, which would be a bad thing. On the confidence scale, not enough inhibits your ability to do your job, while overconfidence risks working against other soft skills by damaging your relationships with your colleagues.
Because businesses today are prioritizing sensitive, creative employees who can do things that machines can't.
Certainly if you’re working with someone who is too confident in their own abilities, the fourth most popular soft skill will come in handy. Just over 10% of adverts mentioned patience, which can be sorely tested in many jobs, so anyone who remains patient in the face of adversity, delays and problematic colleagues is inevitably a prized employee.

The last of the top five soft skills is creativity, which like innovation is a necessary skill for many roles but an important one for any job. You don’t have to be able to come up with a jawdropping concept for a social media advert when you’re an accountant, but creative problem solving is a soft skill that can help you out of plenty of tricky situations.

Which states most value which soft skills?

You don’t need a study into job adverts to tell you that America is a diverse and often divided country, so it’s no surprise that breaking these soft skills down by states can offer an illuminating view of the kind of skills and jobs that are popular in each state. For one thing, we can see that California is the soft skill state, with 4,945 job ads containing one of the top 5 soft skills.

Other highlights include the discovery that the Peace Garden State, North Dakota values imagination while storytelling is predictably popular in California, home to Hollywood, where it features 3.7 times more often than the national rate. Meanwhile, a sense of humor seems to be important if you want to work in northern coastal states like Maine, Oregon or Washington.

Emotional intelligence is highly valued in more states than any other, coming out on top in places as diverse as Texas, Vermont, Iowa, Michigan and Alabama. Meanwhile, sensitivity is apparently important if you want to work in the District of Columbia, and it’s certainly a useful soft skill if you want to work - and live - in DC’s most famous building.

How to showcase your soft skills in a job interview

Now that you’ve seen which soft skills are considered important by employers around the USA, how do you make sure you’re showing off yours when you get to a job interview? Here are some tips for the top five soft skills:

Collaboration: In an interview, while it’s important to showcase your skills and experience, saying ‘I’ too often can make it look like you aren’t a collaborator. Try and use more inclusive language to show that you’re a team player.

Innovation: Make sure you have a good example to describe to them about a time when you have shown innovation in solving a problem or creating a new product or service. If you have stats to show how your company benefited from this, even better.

Confidence: The right amount of eye contact with your interviewers is a good way to convey confidence. Too little eye contact and you look uncertain and lacking in self belief. Too much and you might look cocky or even threatening, so try and keep a natural, attentive expression on your face.

Patience: Again, having a good example of a time you’ve shown patience is key here, but make sure you keep your story positive and don’t let it turn into a complaint about colleagues or managers, which could reflect badly on you.

Creativity: Anyone can say that they’re creative, so when giving your evidence, focus on your creative process while solving a difficult problem. This will help to show that you are creative, but not impulsive.

Soft skills may not get the headlines or the LinkedIn kudos, but this study shows exactly how important they are seen by companies when recruiting for new positions. Why not reflect on your soft skills and think about how they can help your career?

The Most In-Demand Soft Skills in America - infographic

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