Are you naturally curious, calm under pressure, empathetic or creative? Then you can pat yourself on the back – you already have some of the most in-demand soft skills employers are looking for when hiring talent.

If you don’t have these, don’t worry. You probably have other personal skills that could make you an ideal candidate for a specific job. The best news, though, is these human attributes can be learnt, making sure your CV is seen when recruiters or employers start to draw up their candidate shortlists.

In today’s blog, we take a look at the underrated soft skills that employers are looking for and how anyone can acquire or hone them as they prepare to go job hunting.

Soft skills needed right now

Just to refresh, soft or ‘power’ skills are transferable, interpersonal or meta skills that are less rooted in specific professions, and more aligned with the individual personality and attributes of a candidate. One way candidates can set themselves apart when it comes to applying for an in-demand job is by sharpening these soft skills. In PwC’s Global Workforce Hopes & Fears Survey 2022, the group outlined some of the critical skills – some power, some underrated – that businesses in South Africa are looking for right now. These are:

  1. Productivity – The ability to set and meet goals, prioritise needs, and manage time while working collaboratively with clients and colleagues.
  2. Agility – The ability to cut through unnecessary work and focus only on essential work.
  3. Emotional Intelligence (EI) – Sound judgement under pressure and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.
  4. Leadership – Good at motivating and coaching to guide and support teams throughout a project.
  5. Collaboration – Working cross-functionally (as opposed to siloed) and across the business lines of service, coming together around the business’s shared purpose.
  6. Fluidity – Aka fluid intelligence, or the ability to reason quickly, think abstractly, and problem-solve independently of previously acquired knowledge.

Industries that are employing in 2023

The South African job market is a highly competitive space. Despite alarming unemployment levels, the skills gap means the same pool of qualified candidates is vying for the same pool of available jobs.

The South Africa 2023 Salary Guide & Hiring Insights report by recruitment giant Michael Page has revealed which sectors are hiring most right now. Next to each industry, we’ve listed three underrated soft skills that you most likely naturally possess (or could learn), and that could help you get ahead in these career fields.

  • Banking and financial services – influencing, active listening, relationship management
  • Engineering and manufacturing – curiosity, consistency, decisiveness
  • Finances and accounting – multitasking, working independently, prioritisation
  • Legal industry – storytelling, work ethics, thinking ahead
  • Supply chain and procurement – collaboration, dependability, attention to detail
  • Sales and marketing – presentation, persuasion, optimism
  • Technology – perseverance, resourcefulness, passion

Looking for more underrated skills? See how many of these you have: resilience, strong work ethic, people skills, dependability, delegation, self-regulation, innovation, active listening, rational thinking, patience, motivation, acceptance of criticism, accuracy, and confidence. Different jobs require a different mix of these skills, so carefully look at job postings to see which soft skills are must-haves before you apply.

Acquiring and honing soft skills

When applying for a job, consider what your soft skills are and how you can show evidence of them, both in your CV and in interviews. Working with a career coach is a great way to identify which soft skills you have, and which of those could be transferable to a new job or position.

You also have to research the soft skills most needed in your new job and weigh those up to find out which you have and which you should acquire. Then, when compiling your CV or prepping for a job interview, write up an ‘About Me’ section where you address the following points:

  • Write down at least two important soft skills the recruiter or HR manager is looking for and you know you have.
  • Explain how that skill or quality helped your employer(s) in the past.
  • Provide examples or metrics to show how these skills had a real-life impact.
  • Explain how these skills can be used and could benefit the company you’re applying at.

If you find you don’t have the right soft skillset for a particular job, we have great news for you. The MasterStart Power Skills Essentials course teaches you the fine art of acquiring the most sought-after soft skills, helping you develop a personal brand that is professional, sustainable and recognisable. You will then be able to put these skills on your CV and hugely increase the chances your job application reaches the top of the pile. Good luck!