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RES Blog Post

Why did that new hire not work out?  

While companies are looking for very specific profiles when hiring in the financial services and fintech industry, studies have shown that hard skills are NOT the main reason that new hires were unsuccessful. In fact, according to Leadership IQ, 89% of people working within recruitment stated that when new hires don’t work out for a company, it’s often due to a lack of soft skills. Let’s take a look at the importance of these skills for recruiting and retaining talent.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

What’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Hard skills will be specific to the industry and role, involving knowledge, training and experience with particular functions or tools. In financial services and fintech, for example, these could include mathematics knowledge and aptitude, IT skills with particular systems or programs, and/or experience with analytics and risk analysis. Hard skills are considered to be those skills which you can learn, and they often form the basis of requirements for job applications.

On the other hand, soft skills are considered to be personality traits or interpersonal skills, which can be harder to list on your resume or showcase during an interview. These include communication, emotional intelligence (EQ), leadership ability, a strong work ethic, and decision-making skills.

Why are Soft Skills so Critical?

Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Research Center conducted research that concluded that 85% of success within a job comes from soft skills – and only 15% is due to technical or hard skills. Actually, experts have known this going back to 1918, when similar studies focused on engineers and their extensive technical training. They found these technical skills were not the key to success in a highly technical field. The more recent studies cover a broader career spectrum, but reach the same conclusion. You can read more about the research at

When starting at a company in a new role, soft skills such as coachability, emotional intelligence, and motivation are often far more important than technical competency. As the majority of hard skills can be learned over time with some basic ability and training, a positive attitude, the willingness to learn the needed skills and processes, and the ability to work with others as well as independently are essential. Competition for talent today is fierce, and these soft skills can be what sets one candidate apart from another. Hunt Scanlon Media recently published an article about how the pandemic has prompted more companies to increase their skills-based hiring. (We’re quoted – find it under the “Press” tab on our website.)

Whether you need to be able to engage in small talk with potential clients or manage projects to a very tight schedule, soft skills come into play in almost any role in any field. Even within more technical roles, as in fintech and financial services industries, the search for accompanying soft skills is growing. Burning Glass Technologies, using artificial intelligence technology analyzing millions of job postings and real-life career transitions to provide insight into U.S. labor market patterns, noticed that over 25% of the requirements in job postings were based around soft skills. One would think they would be mentioned considerably more given their importance in making a successful hire.

Many experienced job applicants can still be deficient in EQ -- a learned ability to explain, understand and express human emotions in healthy and productive ways. Can you disagree in a meeting without being disagreeable? Can you accept and learn from constructive feedback? Social skills and professionalism have never been more important and can and should be actively screened for by the recruiter and hiring manager. Obviously, hiring the right person cannot be guaranteed. However, identifying what soft skills are critical to success in an organization and developing specific interview questions to gauge those skills, will certainly increase the odds that your hire will be successful long term. Elisa Sheftic is the President and Managing Partner of Right Executive Search, LLC. Her expertise is placing mid- to C-level executives in the Financial Technology (fintech) and Financial Services industries. She communicates with Human Resources, Hiring Managers, and candidates on a daily basis and offers insights to clients and candidates on recruiting best practices. Elisa received her MBA from New York University and completed her HR post-graduate studies at Cornell University.

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