What if everyone were talking about soft skills?

Soft skills are increasingly sought after by employers. In a world where technical knowledge is becoming more and more outdated, these are the major skills of the 21st century. At the other end of the spectrum, young people from modest backgrounds have little knowledge of this or underestimate their importance during the recruitment process. Arriving poorly prepared for an interview, they don’t showcase what can be genuine assets on their career paths: flexibility, tenacity, creativity, resourcefulness, curiosity, etc.

Softs skills: what employees are looking for

The identification of transversal skills is increasingly becoming a major concern for recruitment: they represent the skills of the future, especially in the face of technical skills that have a limited lifespan (estimated at 2.5 years by the OECD). Identifying them during the hiring process helps to ensure a better match between the candidate and the position, thus avoiding interruptions of probationary periods. According to a 2019 LinkedIn study, 89% of managers believe that dismissal during the probationary period is linked to a lack of soft skills. Finally, they are also an issue for career development and the level of compensation since they explain a 20% pay gap in remuneration for someone with an equivalent degree (CEREQ – 2019).

Soft skills: pitfall or opportunity for young graduates ?

For the young people from modest backgrounds that Article 1 assists, these transversal skills are both a pitfall and an opportunity:

The association notes that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds do not have a good grasp on this concept. Because they were unaware of their importance, they did not highlight them on their applications. Some with atypical backgrounds may even not even mention skills they may have acquired during informal or less socially valued work experiences on their résumés.

Yet, taking soft skills into consideration can be a huge opportunity for young people from low-income backgrounds. Their paths are often marked by obstacles that they have had to overcome to be admitted into certain courses of study or to finance them, for example. They can become an asset when recruiters find that a candidate has developed an interesting transversal skill for the position to be filled, like having played a sport or having worked an odd job.

Therefore, Article 1’s Jobready.fr  program has been helping these young people to identify their strengths and highlight them for recruiters since 2019. It combines a digital tool that translates experience into skills (find the chatbot on jobready.fr) with workshops on university campuses, community aid projects for young people, local associations, etc.

The ball is in the recruiters’ court !

But to complete the circle, managers need support to help them objectify soft skills in the recruitment process. These are less obvious to measure than the level of schooling. We have noted that some recruiters focus on reassuring, but discriminatory, criteria (I would hire this candidate because we share the same values, or went to the same school, etc.).

Yet it’s crucial today for companies to diversify their talent pool. It’s a question of performance for the organization. Soft skills help to identify diverse forms of talent and to move towards more inclusive recruitment. It’s a veritable lever for acting in favor of equal opportunity and to strengthen actual political commitment to diversity and inclusion.

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