Soft skills as important as hard skills to recruiters

Employers’ hiring priorities are changing, with soft skills, pay transparency, and flexible working high on the agenda, according to the latest Global Talent Trends report from LinkedIn

This year’s report revealed that, while hard skills still matter, employers are putting greater emphasis on soft skills. More than nine in 10 (92%) UK talent professionals surveyed said that soft skills are as important or more important than hard skills when hiring, while 82% claimed that soft skills are more important to their company’s success than before.

Candidates’ ability to bring out the best in others and work under pressure are particularly sought-after skills, the research found. Meanwhile creativity, persuasion, adaptability, collaboration and time management are the most in-demand soft skills, but also the hardest to find.

The research found that 80% of UK recruiters now ask specific behaviour-related questions during interviews, and 58% look out for body language and non-verbal cues.

The report also found that 75% of UK hiring professionals feel that offering flexible working will be ‘very or extremely important’ in the future, with 84% recognising it enables better work/life balance and satisfaction, and 72% agreeing it makes their workforce happier.

LinkedIn's Global Talent Trends report comes in the wake of the launch of a campaign by government departments, business groups, trade unions and charities to encourage employers to advertise jobs as flexible by using the strapline 'Happy to Talk Flexible Working' in job advertisements.

However, the LinkedIn data showed that offering flexible working is not always straightforward in practice. More than half (57%) of UK employers allow flexible working some of the time, while less than a quarter (23%) only do so in certain circumstances. Significant numbers of recruiters and businesses still harbour concerns that the practice can negatively affect team bonding (59%), collaboration (40%) and the ability to oversee work effectively (38%), the report found.

Transparency was also cited as a key talent trend. Half (50%) of UK hiring professionals said that sharing salary ranges and diversity statistics with both employees and candidates will be ‘very important’ in the future. More than three-quarters (77%) of UK talent professionals think pay transparency makes the hiring process more streamlined, and 72% believe it makes salaries fairer.

Thirty-two per cent said that increasing transparency on salary has already affected their hiring strategy, with 43% sharing salary ranges either internally or externally, and 37% making diversity figures available.

Yet respondents also cited a number of barriers to becoming more transparent. Eighty-seven per cent believe it could create conflict among current employees, while 44% said it is not common practice, and 38% believe it limits their ability to successfully negotiate salaries.

Jon Addison, head of talent solutions at LinkedIn UK, said that the results show the traditional relationship between employers and workers is changing.

“The pace of change in the talent market is unprecedented. The old school employer-employee power dynamic is evolving to a more transparent, trusting and reciprocal relationship. Talent professionals and hiring managers are already responding to these influences and rethinking their approach to hiring,” he said.

“In a near full-employment environment in which competition for talent is fierce, being transparent, flexible and open makes businesses more attractive to candidates, and the most progressive firms I’m working with are already doing this.”

LinkedIn surveyed more than 5,100 global talent professionals and hiring leads in 35 countries, including almost 500 from the UK.