It may seem like anyone can nail down skills like answering calls and resolving conflicts, whereas technical knowledge such as data modeling is harder to come by. But the reality is, it’s not uncommon for employers to let a talented employee go because they can’t assimilate to the company culture. Here are four areas that employers say applicants need to improve:
Personal AppearanceMillennials have, by and large, rejected the dress code. But while it might be socially acceptable to show a modest tattoo in today’s workplace, there are still standards worth adhering to. Rather than trying to decipher exactly what is meant by business casual, smart casual, or another ambiguous dress code, take cues from the office’s standout employees. Taking notice of what others are wearing will give you cues about the job’s expectations for clothing, footwear, and personal grooming. When in doubt, always opt for the more conservative option. After all, if you have to ask if something is appropriate for work, it probably isn’t.
Communication SkillsClear writing and speech are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the communication skills needed to make a good impression. Employees must understand how communication styles should be tailored to different audiences. While it might be perfectly fine to use text speak in messages to colleagues, such informal language could give a client the impression that you don’t take their business seriously. Likewise, job-seekers need to refine their in-person communication skills like small talk so they can engage customers and build relationships. Which brings us to the next item:
Relationship BuildingIn business, making money is all about building relationships. The most successful workers understand how to network and climb the business ladder, and they realize the importance of establishing meaningful relationships to attract and retain customers. For the sake of their own career success, workers should cultivate skills and habits that spark strong business relationships. FastCompany identifies seven habits essential for relationship building, like active listening, being warm without over-sharing, and making the other person feel important.
Conflict ResolutionWhether it’s a frustrated colleague or an unhappy customer, conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. The way you handle conflict is a critical piece in the development of business relationships. While getting defensive in the face of criticism isn’t an uncommon response, it damages relationships and has no place in a professional setting. On the other hand, approaching conflict with patience, empathy, and tact will win you points, regardless of who’s right or wrong. For tips on resolving problems productively, read Harvard’s strategies for dealing with conflict at work.
Few things are more frustrating than not getting a job you seemingly check all the boxes for. If you feel as though you’re qualified but can’t seem to land a position, consider whether you fall short in some of these important interpersonal skills. While soft skills may, on the surface, seem less important than the abilities you studied for years to gain, job-seekers who can’t effectively communicate and connect with others may never get the opportunity to show off their technical prowess.