The increasing importance of soft skills has brought a new dimension to the entire recruitment experience for candidates, employers and recruiters. Soft skills refer to culture fit, communication, stakeholder management, and the ability to impact and influence people. It is that 20% of the job description that isn’t about technical skills.

This growing importance has changed the recruitment process because employers and recruiters now need to find ways to discover the presence of important soft skills while also evaluating technical skills, culture fit and asking the dreaded interview question.

In many cases, candidates are now being ranked on and chosen primarily on soft skills - especially in situations when technical skills are more or less equal between top candidates. These soft skills are becoming more important because of the growing factor of the unknown in each job – this unknown is about people, rather than the technicality of the role itself. In Singapore, with its high levels of diversity, this is even more important.

Soft skills in Singapore

About the soft skills needed most in Singapore, Nilay Khandelwal, Managing Director at Michael page Singapore says: “In Singapore, as a large melting pot, soft skills such as effective communication, the ability to work in a multicultural environment, and being able to connect the dots between east and west are in hot demand.”

Companies are also looking for those skilled in stakeholder management, strong communication and the ability to impact and influence people with a huge diversity quotient. There is a still a difference between MNCs and more traditional Asian companies in terms of how they evaluate candidates and the value placed on soft skills versus technical skills. Khandelwal explains, “In more traditional firms, we still see a strong focus on technicality to a larger extent, but there is increasing demand for soft skills as well. How will this change in the future? Only time will tell.”

Importance of soft skills in retention and engagement

Candidate lists should reflect the real world and its diversity. To help this, recruiting should focus on personalities and behaviours with future potential, alongside the technical skills you need today. This will create market flexibility, improve candidate mobility and help make workplaces more representative. 

From every 100 hires, 13 fail or leave in the trial period, leading to a total of 33 departing in the first year. Why is the attrition rate so high? There are many reasons, but a prime driver is the need to close the gap between the technical and the soft skills needed to succeed in the role.

Need for situational and emotional intelligence

At the same time companies face difficulties in retaining their best employees. To improve retention, the right soft skills are a key requirement for team managers. They must know how to create an environment where team members can thrive and be fulfilled.

Recruiters and hiring managers will need to focus on more situational and emotional intelligence, on people who have high levels of learning quotient and critical thinking. There is a need to balance hard, technical skills with an adaptable, open personality that fits into your company strategy and culture.

The overarching question is: what skills will drive productivity and business forward?

Looking forward

What’s next for soft skills on the market? Khandelwal says, “Looking forward one or two years, we will see a war for talent when it comes to profiles with impressive soft skills, as many companies will be competing for the same talent. The companies that come out on top will be those who refine their hiring processes and are able to make the first move forward.”

Job descriptions have changed and will probably continue to evolve in the future. Khandelwal has seen this shift, “We used to see 4-5 technical requirements, and now, the first is technical and the rest are about what sort of person you are in your current job.”

This shift in job descriptions means that companies understand what is needed to find the right fit for the company – now and in the future. 

Read more in our Future of Hiring series

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