Soft skills have always played a significant role in the hiring process, but this past year has put a whole new emphasis on their importance, specifically in environments like healthcare where regulations and routines are still changing every day as the pandemic continues. While these intangible attributes are hard to define, soft skills are often described as “people skills” that shape the ways you work, both on your own and with others. They’re a combination of a person’s attitude, mindset and common sense. Hard skills are more specific technical abilities (such as equipment repair or software mastery) that can be taught and measured in a quantifiable way; soft skills are often considered more innate and qualitative.

If you’re wondering what soft skills you might have, ask someone you trust, like a family member or friend. Or reach out to a former colleague and ask for honest feedback and constructive criticism on what it was like to work with you. Talking about your intangible attributes might feel uncomfortable at first, but this exercise is critical to your long-term success because it can be difficult to accurately identify these skills on your own.

Employers can usually gauge a candidate’s soft skills within the first few minutes of a conversation. It’s all about getting a sense of the person and imagining how they might potentially fit in on a team. In 2021, we’re doing a lot of interviewing virtually, and with that has come a shift in the importance and value we place on those casual conversations.

When talking about soft skills, it’s worth noting that there is no singular “best list” of the most important ones to have, as they truly vary based on the job objectives and descriptions. For example, a customer-facing role may require an entirely different set of soft skills compared to a more behind-the-scenes role. The same is true for a more dynamic role that requires travel versus a position more consistent in one location. But in the context of healthcare, biomed and IT positions, here’s what I believe to be the top five ideal soft skills for employers and candidates to keep an eye on.



What It Looks Like:

-Having an adaptable attitude
-Being able to jump in and pivot when needed
-Keeping an open mind

Why It Matters So Much in 2021: We are still navigating in unprecedented times and need to remain prepared for any unexpected changes to come into the marketplace.

One Way Candidates Can Illustrate It: Tell a story (can be work-related or personal) about when you’ve had to change course and adapt unexpectedly.

One Way Employers Can Identify It: Ask the candidate to tell you about a time they had to work on a task that was outside of their typical job description.


What It Looks Like:

-Genuine interest in the job
-Engaged attitude in conversation
-Sending follow up thank you note

Why It Matters So Much in 2021: The rise of virtual working has opened the talent pool, and applicants are now competing with candidates from all over the country for the same jobs.

One Way Candidates Can Illustrate It: Be an active listener. react to what the interviewer is saying, maintain good eye contact and posture and paraphrase to show understanding.

One Way Employers Can Identify It: Ask the candidate why they are in their chosen field.

Willingness to Learn

What It Looks Like:

-Natural curiosity
-A growth-focused mindset
-Embracing change

Why It Matters So Much in 2021: The healthcare industry is changing dramatically every day and candidates must be able to keep learning and growing.

One Way Candidates Can Illustrate It: Think of the skills you’d learn in this role and then share with the interviewer why you’re excited to learn those things and how you’d like to apply that new knowledge.

One Way Employers Can Identify It: Talk about a new technology (either general or industry-specific) and see how the candidate reacts – do they appear more excited or reluctant?

Problem Solving

What It Looks Like:

-Motivated by a good challenge
-Determination to get the job done
-Being solution-oriented

Why It Matters So Much in 2021: With limited staffing and social distancing measures in place, employees across all industries are being asked to do things they didn’t have to do before. Employers are increasingly searching for candidates that have the ability to solve problems as they go.

One Way Candidates Can Illustrate It: Use data and combine it with your past performance (for example: “my ability to ______ lead me to ______ which resulted in _____.”)

One Way Employers Can Identify It: Ask about the candidate’s typical process for making a decision (for example: Are they    quick to jump in, or more methodical?).

Being a Team Player

What It Looks Like:

-Understanding your role and how it fits into the bigger picture

Why It Matters So Much in 2021: Teams’ structures are changing with new regulations and other pandemic-related           factors. Being able to fill in the gaps and remain a reliable member of a team has never      been more important, especially in healthcare.

One Way Candidates Can Illustrate It: Show off your emotional intelligence and ability to “read the room”.

One Way Employers Can Identify It: Ask the candidate how they deal with difficult customers or co-workers.


Given that most interviews are still being conducted virtually in 2021, it’s important for employers and candidates to adapt to this long-term change (if they haven’t already). For candidates, this can mean practicing conversations on camera and watching yourself to get a better idea of how you’re really coming across. For employers, it could mean including a more casual, non-work-related topic to foster more organic conversations. But no matter which side of the hiring desk you’re sitting on, we recommend trying to be just as engaged on camera as you would be in an in-person interview: eliminating distractions, practicing visual cues, and most effectively demonstrating over telling. If you can imagine yourself spending a full workday with the person you’re interviewing with, it’s likely that they have the soft skills needed for the job.



At Far West Staffing Services, we are experts in identifying and growing soft skills in candidates and employers. If you’re an employer looking for a candidate with a specific set of soft skills, contact Michele Genet.