Experience or personality? Which is more important in a job interview? Until very recently, employers most valued a job candidate’s knowledge of his work area. An individual with more studies or years of experience had an advantage over someone with fewer years of schooling or pertinent experience.
Today, however, employers are starting to pay attention to other characteristics, especially those related to personality.
According to a World Bank study, grit (defined as the perseverance to achieve long-term objectives) is one of the most sought-after personality traits by organizations. Future employers also highly value problem-solving, resilience, ethics and team work skills.
“I increasingly see ads that say ‘ability to work under pressure,’” says Rommel Cáceres, who has worked at several Peruvian companies. “It is important to develop this skill while you are still in school; if not, it could be difficult to keep a job,” he says.
What are social-emotional skills and why are they important?
Social-emotional skills are characteristics that enable people to interact successfully in life. It all begins with good nutrition, good health and a stimulating environment during the first 1,000 days of life. These skills are later developed at home and in school.
Traits such as empathy and tolerance, self-confidence, creativity, self-control and grit are developed in childhood. Individuals who attain these skills before age five are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug use, teen-age pregnancy, gang involvement and even criminal activity.
According to UNESCO, the Latin American and Caribbean region has nearly 117 million school-aged children and adolescents. In general, Latin American educators believe they are adequately educating youth for the labor market whereas employers complain about young people’s lack of social and emotional skills.
This is mainly because education focuses on cognitive development. Teachers devote little class time to developing students’ social skills. In most cases, teachers are not trained to develop and talk about control of emotions; this task is even more difficult in poor areas with high levels of social violence.