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Technical Vs. Non-Technical Skills in the Workplace: Which Is More Important?

Vocamotive March 2, 2018

This past season on ABC brought us a new show, “The Good Doctor.” I’m a self-professed TV junkie with an affinity for medical related shows (Grey’s Anatomy anyone?) and have been loving it.

For those that haven’t watched the show, it’s based on a young doctor (Shaun Murphy) with autism, which makes verbal and non-verbal interaction with others difficult. On the other hand, it also allows him to think through medical anomalies in ways no one else can.

Throughout the show, scenarios are presented in which Dr. Shaun Murphy makes extreme mistakes when communicating with patients, but then restores the patients and the hospital’s faith in him when he is able to save the day with a medical miracle.

Now — you’re probably wondering how this relates back to anything LinkedIn “worthy.”

I was involved in a LinkedIn conversation the other day about the importance of “soft skills” such as interpersonal communication, motivation, or ability to receive constructive criticism in the workplace and thought back to The Good Doctor.

During the conversation, I shared a statistic that according to Forbes, “85% of new hires fail for attitude, not aptitude.”

I’m a strong believer in this sentiment and oftentimes share with my résumé and LinkedIn clients that it is important to display both technical (hard) skills and non-technical (soft) skills, such as attitude, due to their dual importance in hiring decisions.

In this case study, if you will, Shaun Murphy has the hard skills needed to be a doctor, but none of the soft skills. He is able to make diagnoses and perform complex surgeries, but he is unable to empathize or effectively communicate with his patients.

I’m wondering how this translates to real world hiring decisions. So without further ado, I have a few questions I’d like to throw out to my network:

If someone has shown you that their soft skills don’t align with a position, but their technical skills far surpass any other candidates, would you still hire them or keep them employed?

If faced with 2 candidates, one with all the hard skills and none of the soft skills or another with great soft skills and poor hard skills, which would you pick and why?

Is there a tipping point when technical skills far outweigh basic soft skills like being able to communicate your ideas with others well?

If someone can get to a certain level in their company or they’re in a highly regarded role, is there a point where soft skills just don’t matter as much?

Are there certain industries where non-technical (soft) skills don’t matter or don’t matter as much?

IT, actuarial science, aerospace engineering, and neurology may be examples of fields that boil down to technical skills. Do basic soft skills still matter in this industries?   

Do certain stages of our career have more of a focus on technical skills whereas others focus more on non-technical?

Perhaps if you’re hiring a recent college graduate you care more about their soft skills than if you’re filling a senior-level role.

Most articles are written to share knowledge with others, but this isn’t one of them. Rather, I want to start a discussion to get opinions from others.

Hiring managers, what are your thoughts? Do you have certain examples you could provide?

Job seekers, what have you been experiencing in the labor market lately?

Established professionals, would you prefer to have a coworker with excellent technical skills, but is a drag to be around? Or, would you prefer to have someone that isn’t as good technically speaking, but is a supportive and a pleasure to be around?

Last Updated on March 2, 2018 by Voca_GC