Responding to listeners questions the co-hosts explain why people don’t talk much about soft skills and how often we call on our soft skills, often without even being aware of it.

Co-hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham answer questions about soft skills from some of their listeners in this episode.

Among the topics they discuss:

  • How soft skills tend to be overlooked
  • Why people fail to recognize the role of soft skills
  • How combining soft skills with technical skills makes employees and organizations better

Don’t miss our free ebook offer for our ebook, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, using a special coupon code that we mention in the middle of this episode.

Next Week

We will be exploring the soft skill of adapting to change and prioritizing and how it helps people be more successful in their jobs.

More than four-in-five jobs come from connections, making networking a critical piece of any job search or path toward promotion. And at its core, any kind of networking calls on our soft skills.

Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham discuss:

  • Why focusing on the perfect customer during networking can ruin any event
  • How every contact you make could be a vitally important one someday
  • How networking differs from speed dating
  • Building value through networking is the name of the game
  • Some examples of good and bad networking
  • How natural discussion can do more for networking than anything contrived.
  • Opening doors to discovery
  • The serendipity of networking
  • How you can’t make a customer from networking
  • The art of graceful exits from discussions and how to do it without seeming like a jerk
  • The do’s and don’ts of networking
  • Bob’s Three-Card Rule
  • Toby’s rules for giving out business cards
  • Methods to manage any followup
  • The Rule of Threes

Next week

We’ll explore the soft skill of enthusiasm and how it makes a major contribution to any business.

This is the last week of our Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy and this week we look at a specific job posting and talk about how the employer could have better integrated soft skills into the job posting, valuable information for employers and job seekers.

In this week’s episode, Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham discuss various aspects of integrating soft skills into a job announcement.

Among the topics they discuss are:

  • Getting soft skills into the competencies and qualifications an employee needs
  • How to combine soft skills into one bullet in an employment announcement
  • Taking what’s in the job add and adding a story about your soft skills
  • Talking about a situation that covers lots of soft skills in the cover letter
  • Why a story is worth a thousand promises of what we can do
  • Using an employment advertisement to set good candidates up to succeed
  • How to show growth, not experience, at a job
  • How applicants can read between the lines of a job posting
  • Being a rock versus a rock star
  • Using soft skills to develop the fiber of your organization

Next week

We start the first of two weeks of how to become a Networking Ninja. Networking is an important career skill, encompassing many soft skills. We’ll break it down and give you some real good hints for networking effectively, even if you are an introvert.

In Week 5 of our Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, we look at how to implement soft skills into the hiring process, which will provide valuable insights into the process for hiring managers and job applicants.


Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham, co-hosts of the Serious Soft Skills Podcast, cover the following topics:

  • Avoiding the trap of only looking at technical skills
  • Evaluating applicants’ functional skills along with soft skills
  • How applicants can articulate how they can blend soft skills with technical skills are the gold standard
  • How the best applicants can explain how they transfer technical information into actionable skills in the workplace
  • Why open-ended questions encourage good applicants to talk about their soft skills
  • How standard questions can help compare candidates and specific soft skills you are seeking
  • Gearing questions around soft skills
  • Why it might help to provide foundational questions in advance of an interview
  • Why checking of qualifications is not the best way to interview
  • Asking “how” questions
  • What are the best methods for evaluating technical skills outside of the interview
  • Proven tips for conducting a good interview for you and your interviewee

Next Week

In Week 6, our final week of our Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, we will dig deeper into how to integrate soft skills into the hiring process so employers can find better-fitting candidates who can help their organizations grow.

It’s Week 4 of the Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, where we will be looking at how to incorporate soft skills into a job interview. Armed with this ability, you will zoom to the top of every job search list.

In Episode 29 of the Serious Soft Skills Podcast, Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham continue to put soft skills to work for you in your quest to obtain a better job or a promotion. This week, we’re going to talk through how to use soft skills as an interviewee.

Among the topics covered:

  • Soft skills are best conveyed in storytelling, which is a soft skill.
  • Rather than reciting facts, give context.
  • Show passion, show initiative, show you did more than what was required.
  • Why you want to be sticky to the interviewer
  • How long an anecdote or story should be
  • Dealing with open-ended questions
  • Highlighting your transferrable skills
  • How you want to be remembered by the employer or search committee
  • How to take control of the interview and make sure you get to explain your soft skills
  • Dealing with behavioral questions
  • What you need to do in advance to be ready to integrate soft skills into an interview
  • Why you should take EVERY interview offered

Next week

Next week we will be starting the last part of our Six Weeks of Soft Skills Strategy. For the next two weeks, we will look at the soft skills and interviewing from the employer’s perspective. Not only will this help people looking to hire, but potential interviewees will obtain even more insights into how to integrate soft skills into their job search. Coming up next week on the Serious Soft Skills Podcast.

And don’t forget to download your copy of our ebook, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, with the coupon code “sixweeks” to get it for free. Until next time, good day, thanks for listening, and of course, good soft skills.

Soft skills can hold important role in getting noticed in a job search, especially when integrated into your cover letter and resume. We’ll discuss how to get that notice by beefing up your soft skills in these materials.

As employers and organizations look more at soft skills, applicants need to articulate their soft skills in the cover letter and even the resume. So in Week 3 of the Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham discuss a number of strategies for integrating soft skills into resumes and cover letters.

Don’t forget, you can still get your own copy of our ebook, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, for free, using the coupon code “six weeks” at

Among the topics they address in this episode are:

  • Why we approach cover letters all wrong
  • Helping employers include you, not exclude you, from the interview list
  • Why finding a passion match matters and where it goes in the cover letter
  • Putting you as a person in the process
  • How to connect the dot for the employer in your cover letter
  • An example with a manager’s cover letter
  • A great word to include in your cover letter
  • How repetition helps you score points with employers
  • How specificity in what you are looking for in a job helps not just you, but your circle of friends and family
  • Making sure your resume is quantified
  • Matching your soft skills to the job specifications and the unwritten components of the job
  • Blending the tools you use and they mention with your soft skills
  • Why being concise, using strong verbs and documenting outcomes helps employers
  • How storytelling fits in
  • Key tips for resumes that will make your resume zoom to the top of the pile

Next Week

We will be in Week 4 of the Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, where we look at how to put soft skills to work to help employers see your value in the interview process.

In the second week of the Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham talk about integrating soft skills into cover letters and resumes.


Most employers continue to focus on technical skills, which are critical in their hiring decisions. But applicants who look for matches and exploit those matches can position themselves ahead of other candidates and show employers why they are perfect for a position.

Among the topics they discuss in this episode are:

  • Why job searches usually mean short staffing when they need to make the right choice when short-staffed
  • How to make an employer see how you fit into an organization
  • Understanding a company and how to be a perfect match
  • Storytelling and being “sticky” in the process
  • The categorization effect on hiring
  • How to cut through the stack of resumes
  • Why employers are looking to eliminate applicants
  • The difference between job qualifiers and job winners
  • A practical application of what we are discussing with an actual job posting
    How storytelling is key to getting interviews, especially if you are age 40 and above

Next Week

Week 3 of Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy will explore how to integrate soft skills into cover letters and resumes to improve your chances of getting a job interview.

To launch the Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham discuss their new book, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, its origins and how it will help every employee and leader be more effective this year.

Hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham have released a new ebook, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, that offers the first comprehensive look at the 55 soft skills they have uncovered through their research of academic research and business.

The hosts also offer a special code to make the $4.99 ebook purchase free. Listen to uncover the discount code.

Get our new ebook, The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success, at Use the coupon code “sixweeks” to get the ebook for free.

In this episode, they also discuss:

  • Their Six Weeks of Serious Soft Skills Strategy, where they will share specific ways to use the 55 soft skills they have uncovered to improve your career and your organization’s success this year and beyond
  • Why they wrote The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success
  • Who can benefit from reading the ebook
  • How to obtain a free copy of the ebook
  • How to leverage the 55 soft skills contained in the ebook to improve your career
  • Where the 55 soft skills can help organizations grow and innovate

Next week

A discussion of how the 55 soft skills addressed in The 55 Soft Skills that Guide Employee and Organizational Success can boost your success in a job search.

Written communication is an important skill, for it is often our first — and potentially — lasting impression of a person. We’ll discuss good writing and give tips for how to write better.


Hosts Dr. Tobin Porterfield and Bob Graham talk about the important soft skill of written communication in this episode. Among the topics they cover are:

  • How our writing is often where people first encounter us
  • Why writing conveys what’s inside our minds
  • Writing tells us about how someone sees the world, sees his or her role in the world and what he wants to accomplish.
  • Understanding audience and its role in writing well
  • How writing in our own language may not be the best way to write
  • The writer’s role as a “reader’s advocate” and taking the reader’s perspective on your writing
  • Putting actions steps early in writing
  • Good writing encourages reader action
  • How writers inadvertently discourage their readers
  • Why the pile of emails to get to exists and why it’s the email writer’s fault
  • The 3-sentence and 4-sentence email pledge
  • How getting away from typewriters has spawned worse writing
  • The deadly action of Reply All and what it says to your reader
  • Respecting and using your awareness of your audience to improve your writing
  • No matter where you are in your writing life, a list of easy ways to dramatically improve your writing today
  • The value of spell checkers and grammar checkers
  • Why big words might not be your writing friend
  • Why great words should not be overused
  • How verbs really do drive sentences
  • Self-editing and outside editing help
  • An easy, fun way to edit your writing
  • The financial equivalent of wasted words in your writing
  • Tips for helping readers find key information
  • Making your writing “sticky”
  • How subject lines and file names can help the recipient of your communication
  • The number one worst thing to do with email

Next Week

We’ll be looking at another soft skill on our list of 55 soft skills. Email us at podcast

Soft skills are the true differentiator that helps people with strong technical skills earn jobs and transform their organizations, the hosts explain while answering listener questions.


Bob Graham (‘0:20’): Welcome to Serious Soft Skills, Episode 16. With me is Dr. Tobin Porterfield.  For you newcomers and those of you who have been with us for a while, you may or may not know we have uncovered a list of 55 soft skills. We dug this list up though academic research and our teaching of college students and work in various industries. Paying really close attention to these soft skills we are now doing this podcast to discover what each of these soft skills means and how they fit into our lives. Today we are going to extend that into a new direction and take some listener questions. It’s always exciting. We’re picked some really hard ones. Hopefully, we can find our way through them.

Soft Skills Are Not Teachable

Graham (‘1:16’): The first one comes from Anonymous, and you are going to see why in a second. Anonymous says, “Why do you guys care so much about soft skills? We either have them or don’t so why are you spending so much time on them?” 

Dr. Tobin Porterfield (‘1:46”): I like to question things. I have a skeptical mind. I want to ask if this is real. The argument that sets it up most. We kind of tee this up in the beginning of our book. The business environment has really changed. The business world is hyper competitive. Things are changing quickly. Technology change is coming on. The workplace has changed. The type of work we do has changed. It has made soft skills more important. It’s not that they haven’t existed. There are ones of us that have stronger sets of soft skills, stronger in some areas. But it’s something that we need to bring to the workplace these days. A recognition of what they are is critical, as is a solid, honest self-reflection of where we each are on those soft skills is essential to the success of organizations. We have to say soft skills are there in the workplace, and if an individual has been able to avoid developing soft skills for a long time, that avoidance time is passed.

If we are going to be effective in the workplace today, soft skills are not optional.

Graham (‘3:02’): I would agree with all of that. I would add that you and I have countless examples of students we have taught who performed better when looking for a job and get the job because they have more soft skills. They are more in demand. We know that from research, and not just our research. Employers are looking for soft skills like problem-solving, written and oral communication. When they see people that can offer those skills, those are the people who are getting hired. I tell my students all the time that there are thousands of people just like you with that same engineering or writing degree, or whatever degree. How do you differentiate yourself? 

You all know the same technical expertise. It’s the soft skills, how you are going to apply them, how you are going to interact with people, that ultimately separates some from the pack.

Porterfield (‘3:57’): You said it and that is how we position soft skills. They are not in place of technical skills. It’s how we implement and integrate those technical skills in the workplace. The people and the organizations that have valued and strengthened soft skills are better performers. They are able to take the same engineering skills, which we can hire into any organization if we have the money to hire people, but whether we are actually able to innovate, solve problems or transform an organization using those soft skills, that’s where the soft skills are going to come in and make a huge difference. Soft skills are the differentiator between who gets the job and who doesn’t, between whose successful and who is not, and which organizations are successful and which ones are not.  

Did You Guys Make Up that List of 55 Soft Skills?

Graham (‘5:00’): Our next question comes from BiBi. I don’t know if that’s a man or woman, boy or girl. You talk about your list of 55 soft skills. Where did your list come from really? I think that question is code for, I think you guys are making this list up and just doing a podcast on stuff you made up. Can you walk us through how that list came about because you did the hard work on that list?

Porterfield (5:27′): I was at the same place. I’d heard of soft skills. I felt like this was soft skills. Then I  heard that that was soft skills and that was soft skills and other things were soft skills. We came together to do soft skills research out of frustration. We wanted to really figure out what soft skills are. We made the decision that we should look into the research, starting with academic research and books that have been published related to soft skills to see what all of these soft skills perspectives are. We went back through. I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember the number of articles, publications, journal articles, papers going back into the 1970s that somehow mentioned soft skills.

Chasing Down Our List of 55 Soft Skills

Porterfield (6:02′): The wonders of technology today enable us to search for the key words like “soft skills,” “professional skills,” “non-technical skills” and do these searches. We got back 10s of thousands of resources, but we wanted to find the best resources to explain what soft skills are and are not.  Let’s not look at blog posts and things like that. Let’s look at academic research that’s been done at credible universities and books that have been written by credible authors. Typical of research, as we started to accumulate that list, we started to see duplication of the terms — oral communication, speaking skills, being able to speak clearly. We saw that different terms meant the same thing so we had to link together the synonymous terms. We also had to separate the terms when they were new. We had to make those judgments. This one talks about presentation skills, which is a little different because it brings in the technology and the visual aspects. We parsed all of that and were left with a list of 55 soft skills. But as often happens when you are doing research, when you are searching for a topic, you find repetition. We got to a point where we said we think we have the full list. We got to a point where we saw repetition and nothing new coming in. We felt we had a good, comprehensive list of soft skills. But we also recognized that when we go forward with this list, someone’s going to read what we are writing or hear what we are saying, they are going to tell us that we forgot about this or that. I know there are probably more than 55 soft skills. I hope we get to that point. We are willing to add to that list of 55 soft skills. I think we have the most full view of soft skills that we have ever found. People came at them from different angles from their needs and their interests. We wanted to cut across that and come up with the real portfolio, because the list of soft skills is so large. Out of that set of soft skills, different people and different organizations need to say we need strengths in these areas and those other ones are not as important to us right now. The ability to treat it like a Chinese menu and pick off what you want is important.

Which Soft Skill Will Help My Career Most?

Graham (‘8:42’): That leads me now to the next questions. Trevor asks, If I want to improve my career, which soft skills should I work on first? Do you mind, Toby, if I take a stab answering that one?

Porterfield (8:56′): I was hoping you would take a stab at answering that one.

Graham (9:05′): Any one soft skill isn’t going to make all the difference in the world because we have that portfolio of 55 soft skills. As we discuss in earlier episodes, we talk about different groupings of soft skills. We talked about Individual soft skills, Nexus or one-on-one communication soft skills, Group soft skills and Enterprise soft skills. You could go back and listen to those episodes and you might do best to start with the Individual category that includes things like empathy, patience, respect, perseverance. Those soft skills are the ones I would think of as foundational. They are the ones we really need to have inside us to go on to the next level and really expand. If I was going to pick one to start with, I would start with the one Individual soft skill I am weakest at, then the next one and the next one after that. Even the ones I am really good at, I would ask people about how you are with them. The feedback can be that you aren’t excellent at it. They might tell you that you are not the worst or okay at it. That’s the thing about this list of 55. There’s always improvement to make. It’s like running. You can always come up with another personal record. If you shave 5 seconds off your time today, that means you get up tomorrow and you hope to shave off another second off that day. 

Porterfield (’11:03′): That really gets at the root of the issue. Do you have another listener question?

Should Soft Skills Be the Focus in Interviews?

Graham (’11:23′): Our last question comes from Evan K. If soft skills are so important, why aren’t they the focus of job interviews? And he asks the logical next question. Should they be?

Porterfield (’11:37′): We are starting to see soft skills being more of a focus of job interviews. Certainly, we have a lot of different types of organizations out there that are starting to focus more heavily on soft skills. With our research, we looked at job descriptions as a way to vet our list of 55 soft skills. We found them out there in job descriptions, online job postings, prevalently. It’s a process. Soft skills are recognized now. We are seeing them in the job descriptions. I know when we talk to our students when they come back from job interviews, they are often amazed that soft skills came up. They expected to be talking about their knowledge of marketing, or the case they worked on, or this supply chain problem I solved. They come back and tell us that you won’t believe that they asked a situational question. They asked the student to tell them a time that you had to persevere to get through to what you wanted to accomplish? The student says she wasn’t ready for that kind of question. I say cheers to the company. That’s great. Recognizing that those soft skills are important, even when it’s in the job description, and teasing them out in the interview process is difficult. Now, we are faced with the challenge in our classrooms to prepare our students to be able to articulate those soft skills in the interview. They can’t say that they are really uncomfortable with that question and not answer it at an interview. Not answering is the ticket to the door. The company wants to hear you think on your feet and really be able to respond to questions like tell me a time when you had to deal with conflict or tell me a time when you had to come up with an innovative solution. How did you drive that and motivate your group? We not only need to know what our strengths are with soft skills, but we have to be able to story tell.

Graham (’13:20′): With the students, it’s often about helping them to understand what soft skills are in the first place. If you are not aware of soft skills, it’s really hard to have that storytelling around them. It’s awareness of soft skills and their role in organizational growth that comes first, then how do soft skills fit into what I am doing now. 

Forecasting the Future 

Graham (’14:00′) Frankly, as we have evolve with soft skills, we are going to get to that place where people will seek out internships and opportunities to boost their soft skills, maybe as much, if not more than their technical skills. Typically, we choose internships and jobs on the technical skills. Wouldn’t it be interesting to choose a job based on your soft skills. If you have the ability to manage projects and solve problems, those are transferrable skills. Some people call soft skills transferrable skills. If you could take those skills to another job. You can learn how to make the widgets at a different company, but if you can manage projects, pretty much once you know what they are doing, you can manage a project. That’s part of the beauty of soft skills. They are no longer confined to one company. It’s no longer only what you learned at that company about how they make products or deliver their specific services that matters. When you go to a new company, you are no longer a blank slate. You are someone who has all that experience and all those opportunities to build your soft skills portfolio, and now you have the chance to leverage them at the new company.

Porterfield (’15:00′): That thinking is right on track with how we see soft skills and soft skills development., A lot of what you bring is experience to a job is your ability to apply your knowledge to the discipline. You have done that marketing campaign, you have done month close in accounting. Those are awesome experiences. But those experiences related to working in a group, teamwork, innovation, problem-solving, those are the ones that really bring great benefit to your current and next organization.

Next Week

Next week, we will dig into another one of the 55 soft skills. Look for that and more next week on the Serious Soft Skills Podcast.