New norm skills for job seekers

PETALING JAYA: Soft skills now matter as much as, if not more, than paper qualifications and physical capabilities for those hoping to land a job.

As the world changes under a new norm, and employees are expected to work without direct supervision, discipline and the ability to communicate from remote locations, as well as teamwork, creativity and problem-solving skills become essential.

The gradual change to remote work began with more people going freelance, but it was hastened by the Covid-19 pandemic last year, when even those whose work was not cut out to be performed from remote locations found themselves working from home.

As human resource experts see it, this new normal for work is going to persist even after the pandemic ends.

Siti Hamidah Mohamad Nor Azli, a senior human resource manager at a retail chain in the Klang Valley, said with the work-from-home (WFH) culture becoming entrenched, expectations have changed.

“For a start, job interviews have now gone virtual for some companies,” she told theSun.

“For job seekers, it is imperative that they brush up their communication skills to stand out from the rest.”

“Of course, they will still need to have the basic requirements to get shortlisted by the recruiter, but the soft skills could eventually tip the balance in their favour,” she added.

Siti Hamidah said when job recruiters make a decision, they base it on the ability of the candidate to put his points across when submitting his application via email, and during the job interview, be it online or through the phone.

“Over and above that, a candidate with the skills to solve problems, and who is also innovative and creative, will rise to the top of the recruiter’s list, without the need for a face-to-face meeting,” Siti Hamidah said.

She said such skills would come in useful when the candidate eventually has to deal with clients online or through email, without the risk of miscommunication.

“A person who knows how to deal with a client and how to solve a problem, or is creative and innovative when tackling an issue, will be appreciated at any company.”

She said a person who adapts quickly to new situations will be much sought after, given that with the changing environment caused by Covid-19, an employee must be able to adapt and adjust to changes.

Apart from soft skills, emotional intelligence and IT competence are also essential.

An assistant manager in charge of human resource at a government-linked company said employees who buckle under pressure or stress could cause hiccups in operations.

“While it can be tolerated in the short term, it is perceived as a weakness if it happens over a long period of time,” she said.

It is therefore critical that an employee is able to cope with frustration and stress while working remotely or on-site.

“At the end of the day, an employer assesses an employee based on his productivity,” she added.

A lecturer at a local university, Nur Haslinda Saad, said that while it is vital to excel academically, it is also important to learn new digital skills.

“With the ever changing business landscape, it is important for my students to be able to adapt to these changes,” said Nur Haslinda, who teaches in a business faculty.

“On top of the classes offered at university, I encouraged them to take online digital marketing courses to get themselves up-to-date on market demands,” she added.

“In this era of Covid-19, qualifications alone are not enough to land you a job. Now, more than ever, personal initiatives like joining classes to learn new skills are what recruiters look for in a job applicant.”