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What are essential skills?

Essential skills, sometimes referred to as transferable skills or professional skills, are less specialised and focus more on the general disposition and personality of a candidate. These include, but are not limited to, communication, teamwork and problem solving and relate to attitude and instincts.

Why do they matter?
In most competitive job markets, the recruitment criteria do not stop at the technical ability and knowledge of a candidate. Recruiters look for people who have the potential to become leaders, and whether a candidate shows leadership qualities depends on their essential skills. A salesperson, for example, may have an unrivalled knowledge of their market but lacking essential skills such as interpersonal skills and negotiation will make it difficult to close a deal. This leads to the next point.

Hard skills are useless without essential skills
In most jobs, technical skills alone are not enough to be truly effective. Like a salesperson, a business manager needs to be able to listen, communicate successfully and think creatively, to achieve optimal productivity.

Essential skills are harder to learn
Hard skills can be taught, learned and perfected over time. Essential skills, however, are more challenging because they have little to do with knowledge and more to do with a person’s character.

The modern workplace is interpersonal
Communication in all its forms is unavoidable. To ensure a productive, collaborative and healthy work environment, listening, presenting ideas and communicating effectively with team members is key.

Customers require essential skills
With unlimited choices for the modern consumer, the difference often lies in customer service to influence them and get their business. The ability to communicate efficiently and effectively with customers is vital for any organisation.

Essential skills in the future workplace
Artificial intelligence and the growth of cutting-edge technology means that tasks requiring hard skills are declining, making essential skills the key differentiator in the workplace now and in the future.

For the candidate
Understanding why essential skills are important and improving them is the best option for a candidate. Options include attending communication skills training and leadership training to improve skills. Employers value and need these skills and a candidate that challenges themselves will strengthen these skills.

Essential skills to focus on are:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Flexibility
  • Positivity
  • Learning from criticism
  • Working under pressure

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