Why 6 out of 10 managers base their recruiting on soft skills

Katherine Fanning

May 20, 2019

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Enthusiasm, empathy, ease… these are all personal skills – also called soft skills  – and they are gaining popularity among companies and recruiters. Are they in the process of dethroning know-how and technical skills? Is this a phenomenon that is becoming widespread? What are the most sought after behavioral skills? Michael Page/Cadremploi offers an update on these issues with a new survey of 1641 French executives.

Used more or less commonly in the professional for several years already, the term "soft skills" is now widespread. Indeed, 84% of executives recognize being comfortable with this notion which designates the behavioral assets in opposition to "hard skills" – more technical skills. This proportion increases among managers (90%) and younger generations (89% of 18-25 year olds). However, 18% of 56-65 year olds concede that they have not mastered the concept.

The media seem to be behind the spread of this term, as more than one out of two respondents were made aware by reading articles on the subject (57%); a proportion that reaches 72% in the human resources industry, the most informed function of the company on the subject, just in front of leadership (68%).

The work environment also plays a key role in the development of these behavioral assets, as 9 out of 10 executives see it! According to the sample, colleagues (68%) and managers (57%) fully participate in the identification of these qualities, as are the close entourage (63%), while the experience and the scenario (86%) allow to cultivate them.

Nearly three out of ten executives solicit their soft skills more than their technical skills in their daily lives

The soft skills appear indispensable for many of the executives: 31% of them claim to use more of their personal skills than their technical skills every day. It's a finding that obviously varies according to the profession and the hierarchical level: 46% of managers and 39% of salespeople have this feeling. At the same time, more than half of executives (54%) think they use their  soft  and  hard skills  in the same proportions.

Of the soft skills that they think they have, managers are mainly characterized by their listening skills (62%), their autonomy (58%), their ability to work in a team (58%) and their ability to adapt (55%). This feeling reveals rather a good apprehension of the expectations of the professional sphere since the team work (47%) and the autonomy (44%) are precisely what the executives expect from their employees with the reliability (46%) and motivation (44%).

However, beyond their team, executives report a certain frustration about soft skills: 7 executives out of 10 judge their personal skills under solicited (70%) or not recognized by their employer (72%).

"Soft skills are and will remain indisputable passports to career success," comments Marlene Ribeiro, Executive Director of Michael Page. "We live in a time when everything goes very fast; technical skills reinvent themselves regularly and new professions appear while others disappear. The company must be a learner, this is true on hard skills but also on soft skills. We know that the development of soft skills is essential to give value to its employees, to enable them to maintain their employability. If business leaders do not perceive this need, they run the risk of failing to retain their best talent." 

Assets valued during recruitment processes

In addition to their internal valuation, soft skills are increasingly becoming a recruitment criterion in their own right. According to the study, 62% of managers and executives with managerial responsibilities are ready to recruit a candidate mainly on their personal skills. This proportion increases notably in the marketing, communication and digital sector (72%) but also in the 26-35 age group (73%).

The situation is however more nuanced on the side of the candidates. The highlighting of soft skills on the CV is not yet generalized since only 42% of respondents mentioned them. This practice obviously varies according to the professions: if the human resources professionals (56%) and the sales people (51%) insist particularly on them, the technical managers (34%) and the finance managers (36%) are the ones who communicate the least on their soft skills.

Last but not least, that of compensation: 56% of executives believe that their soft skills have an impact on their salary – a feeling that's difficult to assess concretely.

"Beyond an HR jargon, soft skills are now recognized in companies as a skill developed both within their professional and personal sphere," says Elodie Franco Da Cruz, Cadremploi analyst. "Conscious of the expectations of the new generations and in the context of a war of ever-increasing talents, managers and managers increasingly value this type of qualities, particularly in the context of their recruitment, to build strong, ambitious and happy teams. to work together on a daily basis."

Points of interest:

  • More than 8 out of 10 executives are comfortable with the notion of soft skills
  • 57% were aware of this by reading articles on the subject
  • 68% became aware of their qualities thanks to their colleagues
  • Listening, autonomy and teamwork  are the main qualities that managers think they have
  • Teamwork, reliability and autonomy  are the main qualities sought by employees
  • 62%  of managers are ready to recruit their employees mainly on their  soft skills
  • More than half of  managers believe that  soft skills  can have an impact on compensation

Join us in Miami Beach, June 5-7 for the Global Online Marketplaces Summit.

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Acerca de Lucas Vargas:

  • Empezó en Grupo ZAP como el VP de Sales y en 2016 cuando la empresa tenía 60 empleados. Fue nombrado COO de VivaReal tomando el mando de Brian Requarth el Co-Fundador. VivaReal lanzó en Colombia y se trasladó a Brasil. En 2017 se hizo CEO del Grupo ZAP.
  • Ha trabajado en Mexico en PWC y en el Banco Santander
  • Tiene un Master de Business Administration de Harvard
  • En noviembre este año después de la fusión de OLX Brasil y Grupo ZAP fue nombrado el CEO del OLX Business Unit. Lidera la empresa junto con Andries Oudshoorn y Marcos Leite
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Simon Baker is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Online Marketplaces and Property Portal Watch. Involved with property portals for 15 years, he’s a well-recognized expert and industry consultant.
As former CEO/MD of the REA Group for 8 years, Simon led the group to its current market-leading position. When he joined REA Group in 2001, it had $4m in revenues, $6m in losses and an $8m market cap.
By 2008, the company presided over $155m in revenues, $35m in EBITDA and enjoyed a peak market cap of $1b. Simon is currently Chairman of the Mitula Group and Real Estate Investar and a serial portal founder and, investor.