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The Soft Skills All Employers Seek

Hannah Morgan

Have you ever wondered what recruiters are secretly hiring for? You've seen the mile-long job description asking for everything imaginable. Which skills and attributes are really going to land you the job?

Thomas L. Friedman's piece for The New York Times, "How to Get a Job at Google," references an interview between Adam Bryant of the Times and Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations for Google. Bock spills the beans on what Google looks for when hiring new employees, and it isn't just coding and good grades:

1. Agile learning. Bock says one of the most important skills to hire for is the ability to make sense out of random pieces of data on the fly, which Google tests for through behavioral interviewing. It can be difficult to show this on your résumé, but certainly not impossible. Tell a STAR story: Think about a time you were forced to make a decision based on lots of data or changing information. Now, break your story into four parts: Situation, Task, Actions and Results. You can wow recruiters by using a specific story during your conversation and by including an abbreviated version in your LinkedIn profile.

2. Emergent leadership. When faced with a problem as part of a team, how do you react? Have you ever been on a team where no one offers solutions to the problem or steps up to try and fix it? According to Bock, Google looks for leaders who come forward with solutions when things go wrong. Holding a powerful position or traditional leadership roles aren't enough. Emergent leadership is when a team member comes forward to intervene during a crisis and easily steps back into his or her team role again. A great way to prove your leadership qualities is to get recommendations on LinkedIn from peers and supervisors that speak to your ability to step forward.

3. Intellectual humility. Do you take ownership of your work and ideas, yet know when to back down to better ideas? Intellectual humility means you don't let your ego get in the way. Bock describes intellectual humility as the ability to fight for ideas adamantly, but when new information is introduced, having the ability to embrace the new direction that evolves. Humility is also the ability to do whatever it takes to get a job done. There is nothing too far below you -- in fact, taking out the trash can be great exercise.

4. Being inquisitive and loving to learn trump expertise. Bock noted that employees who possess the desire to learn and an inquisitive nature sometimes come to the same conclusions that an expert would. Even more fascinating is that the nonexpert can come up with a completely new idea or solution because they don't have the expertise or historical perspective. This can lead to innovative solutions and new directions. Depending on the industry you intend to work in, innovation may not be the most valued element of the corporate culture. Learn and appreciate which industries are adamant about expertise, and know when to showcase your love of learning.

Truth Be ToldWill putting "team player, innovative and strong leadership" on your résumé get you the interview? Probably not. Résumés are reviewed for technical skills, and it isn't until the interview process that soft skills can be assessed adequately. So why is it that hiring managers screen résumés for technical skills when employers value soft skills most? Is there a breakdown in communication? Is it because technology can't screen for the soft skills? Or is it because too few employers can quantify, measure or label the performance associated with these soft skills? Let's hope that's where the next great advancement in recruiting happens.

Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.

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