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The top 5 soft skills employers want in 2018

By Maureen Lynch Director of Hays Ireland

Today the demand for soft skills is higher than ever before. A study by Deloitte Access Economics highlights that soft-skill intensive occupations will make up two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. But what exactly is behind this trend?

The world of work is changing at a rapid pace. Innovations in the digital realm are continuously altering the way we operate. Therefore employers now want their staff to demonstrate new skills to succeed in the face of today’s challenges that perhaps the last wave of employees did not encounter.

By filling over 1,000 jobs every day across Ireland and the UK, at Hays we know what soft skills are most in-demand:

1. Are they willing to learn?

A willingness to learn is the most requested soft skill in the world of work today. Hiring managers want the ideal candidate to be proactive and take the initiative to continuously develop themselves as well as communicate this to others.

This could involve:

  • listening to webinars and podcasts on their commute
  • looking at what the competition is doing
  • keeping an eye on customer feedback
  • recommending news articles to existing colleagues
  • creating email alerts for themselves surrounding this topic

Regardless of the industry, a desire to stay on top of current trends and changes relevant to your profession is valued by businesses both large and small. This also shows that you are self-aware. By keeping an eye on changes within your industry, your knowledge will emerge to spotting new gaps in your industry, and potentially seek to bridge them.

2. Do they understand our customers?

Technology has helped evolve consumer behaviour. Businesses are now steered towards customer experience and behavioural patterns of how users engage with their products and services. For instance, sports fans will now buy match tickets via a third-party app rather than at a stadium box office, holiday makers will go on price comparison sites for the best deal before booking their flights, and jobseekers will apply for roles online.

This is why organisations now require someone who can keep up with these technological changes within their sector and suggest new ways for the business to adapt.

3. Can they adapt to change?

Employers want people who can move out of their comfort zone and see change as an opportunity for growth and innovation. Having the ability to accept and adapt is important as adjusting to a new environment is now part of the modern world of working. Reasons to adapt could be a variation of organisational and technological changes, or on how to evolve and develop your skill set to stand out in any stage of your career. Some may not always be expected, but it primarily falls down to how you immerse yourself in that process and are able to rise above the challenge.

4. Do they have strong interpersonal and communication skills?

Learning something new and thinking of smart solutions to challenges is a key part of progressing in your career, however, these will get lost if you’re not able to communicate your knowledge to others.


“I want to hire employees who also have a clear view of the bigger picture, those that have a vision for the future of the business and the industry they are working in and can communicate this to their colleagues and teams.”

Alistair Cox, CEO of Hays


Of course, bringing ideas to the table and communicating your views effectively will show your value to the organisation, but crucially, it’s how you communicate this is what makes a difference. In workplaces that embrace diversity of thought and collaboration, debates sometimes ensue and push people to come up with more innovative solutions to the problem or issue at hand. Organisations, therefore, want employees who:

  • can keep the debate on-task and professional, never personal
  • would not put a fellow employee down for speaking her or his mind
  • respects other’s ideas

Equally, employers favour jobseekers who are comfortable speaking with people at all levels of an organisation in a professional manner.

5. What are their organisational skills like?

Employers look for candidates who have attention to detail in organising their time to ensure productivity is maximised, deadlines are met and all resources are coordinated with no room for error. The world of work can be sometimes unpredictable, whether this is through cutting budgets or being more conscious towards cost in this current economy. As an employee, they want you to stay focused no matter what the situation may be.

With preparation and knowing what is expected within your new or existing role, these soft skills will help you stand out to employers, both now and in the future. When you combine these developed soft skills with digital literacy and relevant technical skills, you will be closer to achieving a successful career.

To find out more, or to discuss your recruitment needs, please contact your local consultant

About this author

Maureen joined Hays in 2000 where she specialised in Senior Accounting and Finance recruitment. With over 17 years’ experience, Maureen is the Director for Cork, Limerick and Galway along with over overseeing the Banking and Construction & Property operations in Cork. She also provides training expertise in the area of candidate screening and interviewing.

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