Almost two-thirds (63%) of teaching jobs advertised today demand candidates who can demonstrate a hybrid set of hard skills as well as passion and enthusiasm, according to recruiter Randstad Education.

Schools have been targeting teachers who display high EQ or ‘emotional intelligence quotient’ for decades but are more likely than ever to look for soft skills in a candidate – in addition to definable attributes such as job-specific abilities.

Soft skills are a set of personality traits such as the ability to communicate and listen effectively or leadership that are useful to employers and employees alike, but less tangible than professional knowledge, technical ability, and the relevant qualifications.  Ex-New York Times science correspondent Daniel Goleman popularised the concept when he published Emotional Intelligence in 1995, in which he claimed that soft skills like self-awareness, self-discipline, empathy and persistence were more important than IQ – and that children should be taught these competencies.

Jenny Rollinson, managing director of recruiter Randstad Education, said:  “The best teachers have been developing soft skills in their students since the days of Plato. As well as helping their classes achieve good results, they are also nurturing well-rounded individuals who will be able to display soft skills in their future careers. But soft skills are also important to teachers during the job application process. Clearly, qualifications and salient experience are a must-have in most roles, but other harder to define attributes are now just as essential.” 

"Clearly, leadership is important but currently it’s team work and passion that teachers need to demonstrate"

A growing number of adverts for education jobs are targeting individuals with such capabilities.  More than a third (35%) of all listings on the Randstad Education website include the references to honesty and a quarter (27%) good relationship skills.  Excellent time management was mentioned in 10% of job adverts and leadership in 6%.

Jenny Rollinson said: “Enthusiasm, passion and motivation are the soft skills in the highest demand for very good reason. Teachers who show enthusiasm towards students can affect a positive learning experience towards the course materials. Evaluations have found teachers who have a positive disposition towards the course content tend to transfer their passion to receptive students.

"There’s a solid case for caring about soft skills like enthusiasm in the education sector."

Having said that, we might imagine managerial and leadership skills would be the most popular with schools – the need for more teachers to move up into senior leadership roles is clear – but team work appears to be a higher priority.  Clearly, leadership is important but currently it’s team work and passion that teachers need to demonstrate at the interview stage to land a new job.  A CV lets employers filter applicants down to those who have the relevant qualifications and experience. But the interview process is where candidates can let their soft skills shine – it’s what sorts the professions’ wheat from its chaff."

Teachers can visit the Randstad Career Hub for more CV, interview and career advice.

EQ vs IQ

The valued placed on soft skills in education is matched in the broader economy.  Research recently commissioned by McDonald’s suggests that 97% of employers regarded soft skills as important to their success, with more than half ranking them as more important than academic qualifications.  Given the intangible nature of soft skills, it can be difficult to attribute a monetary value to their usefulness – but the report attempted to do just that.  It suggested soft skills currently contribute £88bn to the UK economy, with this figure expected to rise to £109bn within the next five years.

Jenny Rollinson said: “The research demonstrates the significance of soft skills and the scale of the contribution they make to the country. But while both the corporate and education sector are in tune with how vital soft skills are, there are still a lot of education professionals who think they’re going to get ahead on intellect and technical skills alone.  Qualifications will get you across the line, but they won’t land you a leadership role.”

The essential soft skills that don't make it onto job adverts

These are clearly highly important skills for qualified and unqualified teachers and support staff.  Perhaps the one skill that most experienced teachers know they need but doesn’t really make it onto job adverts is intuition.  

Jenny Rollinson concludes: “Part of the job involves dealing with a range of emotional and behavioural areas and having the ability to connect with the pupils and recognise signs of a potential situation brewing can be crucial.  Some people are complete natural and see this very clearly with a kind of intuitive sixth sense.  Others really have to work at it.  Getting it right can have even greater benefits – getting it wrong can have serious consequences.”