In a previous Forbes post, we considered the disconcerting reality that even in the midst of an unemployment crisis, employers across industries are still unable to find the talent profiles they need. How is it possible that even highly educated candidates are unable to find skilled work when millions of open positions go unfilled? Evidence indicates that this talent gap is not due to the absence of technical skills, as one might expect, but rather to the absence of “soft skills,” or what we’ll call 21st century skills, in prospective candidates. These primarily refer to interpersonal and general analytic abilities like teamwork, empathy, leadership, negotiation, adaptability, and problem solving.
As we discussed, this is useful information for students and educators, but lessons from this research could be of particular benefit to employers, as well. The problem is that 21st century skills are very difficult to assess with any kind of rigor, especially before one can evaluate a candidate on the job. Can a candidate think innovatively? Collaborate with other team members? Assimilate feedback and coaching? Will the candidate be adaptable to new environments and successfully integrate with teams? It is very difficult to reduce these questions to discrete qualifications and quantifiable metrics in the same way we assess recognized degrees and numerical grades.