The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


August 16, 2013

Career Coach: Your intangible skills matter

With the unemployment needle seemingly stuck at a frustratingly high rate around 7.5 percent nationally, many job seekers may be wondering what it will take to break through the stream of rejection letters. If you're one of the thousands of people still looking for work, what can you do to turn a job opening into a job offer?

The answer is both simple and yet not fully obvious: Show clearly how you can meet that employer's needs, both in terms of your technical skills and your intangible qualities. A general rule is that meeting needed technical skills gets you invited for an interview, but meeting needed intangible qualities gets you the job offer.

Employers ultimately screen applicants according to these needs and not by sharpest resume, most impressive work experience or elite degrees. To be sure, these features can help you stand out. But in themselves, they don't guarantee that you will land the job.

Typically the required technical skills will be spelled out in the recruitment ad or job description, and these are essential. They ensure that you can competently perform key tasks, share information with co-workers, and make necessary decisions. At the same time, don't take for granted your intangible qualities — attributes such as your ability to put customers at ease, resolve work-related conflicts with minimum drama and anticipate and resolve problems. The needed skills are rarely written down or advertised, but often prove critical to job success.

To understand what intangible qualities are important to an employer, investigate the industry's critical issues and reach out to clients and employees. These sources can reveal internal pressures and pain points, as well as bright spots and pockets of opportunity. Ask: "What are recurring problems in this industry? What skills and qualities, beyond basic qualifications, are needed to be successful? What is happening in the industry or organization that's affecting productivity, clients or customers?"

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