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'Soft skills' rank high on employers' wish list

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By Diane Stafford
Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

Hirers say communication and reasoning skills are sadly lacking in too many applicants. And because it costs them time and money when they make hiring mistakes, employers increasingly are giving skills and personality tests before giving job offers.

At a recent meeting of job recruiters and hirers, I heard several members emphasize the basic abilities they look for when they evaluate job candidates. Attitude, communication and a basic work-ready appearance, topped their wish lists.

Advisers at Johnson County Community College's Career Development Center said the hirers' comments dovetailed with survey findings from the National Association of Colleges and Employers. In the association's new Top 10 list of qualities sought in employees, technical knowledge and software proficiency were ranked No. 7 and No. 8, respectively.

In top-to-bottom order, the other sought-after qualities all fell in either the communication or “soft skill” categories. They were:

Ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization; ability to work in a team structure; ability to make decisions and solve problems; ability to plan, organize and prioritize work; ability to obtain and process information; ability to analyze quantitative data; ability to create and/or edit written reports, and ability to sell or influence others.

These are the same skills that separate A and B students from the rest of the pack. Top performers in the classroom “get” the assignment and do it better than just OK.

Diane Stafford is a writer for The Kansas City Star. Email her at

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