Are Soft Skills More Important than the Right Qualifications?

Americans find soft skills are more desirable than having the right experience or qualifications for a job.
By: | March 15, 2019 • 2 min read

It all depends upon whom you ask.

According to a new survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted online by the Harris Poll on behalf of Yoh, having soft skills—such as personal, communications and time-management skills; enthusiasm; dependability; and reliability—without the required experience seems to be more desirable than having the right experience or qualifications for a job but lacking soft skills.

The survey’s results suggest that, if hiring for a job and the perfect candidate didn’t exist, 75 percent of Americans would most likely hire a job candidate who has soft skills and not the right experience or qualifications. If no perfect candidate existed, rather than choose someone with direct experience or qualifications and poor personal skills, Americans would most likely choose someone who is enthusiastic and willing to learn (36 percent), someone who has excellent personal, communication and time-management skills (27 percent) or is very dependable/reliable (11 percent).

Apparently only 13 percent of those surveyed Americans say they would most likely choose someone who has the right experience and qualifications but is lacking personal skills. Just over 12 percent say they most likely wouldn’t hire anyone and would leave the position unfilled indefinitely.

Additional findings include:

  • Women more open to soft skills than men. Women are more likely than men to say, in absence of a perfect candidate, they would most likely choose someone who isn’t experienced/qualified but has soft skills (77 percent versus 72 percent)
  • Younger adults choose hard skills over soft skills. Younger adults (ages 18 to 34) seem less focused on the value of personal skills, and are more than twice as likely as their older counterparts to say they would most likely hire someone who has the right experience but is lacking personal skills (e.g., poor communication, bad time management, not reliable/dependable, not enthusiastic) (22 percent for 18- to 34-year-olds versus 9 percent ages 35 and above)
  • College grads and higher-earning households more likely to opt for soft skills. Results found college graduates are more likely than those with a high school degree or less to say they would most likely choose someone who isn’t experienced/qualified but has soft skills (78 percent versus 71 percent). Those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more are more likely than those with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 to say they’d choose a candidate with soft skills and not the right experience (78 percent versus 71 percent).

The survey’s results say two very important things about today’s ultra-competitive job market, said Emmett McGrath, president of Yoh. “One is that having the right experience and technical skills for a job is not enough—job candidates also need to fit in culturally and have non-technical skills in order to succeed.

“And two, hiring managers who recognize the value of soft skills and are more open in the candidates they consider will almost always be more successful in finding quality candidates than those that prioritize only hard skills. The talent landscape has gotten increasingly complex—and organizations that take a creative, strategic approach to their hiring will rise to the top.”

Web Editor Michael J. O’Brien has been with HRE for more than a decade and holds a degree in economics from Boston College. He can be reached at [email protected]