The job post of today reads something like this:

20 year company seeking sales professional with 5 years of a proven sales success in increasing new business, expanding sales territory, categories of new business, increase existing account spending, displays a high level of loyalty, plays and works well with others, is a creative thinker, entrepreneurial thinker, has a sense of humor and can wear many hats”. Making a killer apple pie and loving canines a plus!

In this Harvard Business Review article, Hire for Personality, then Train for Skill, the case is made for hiring people with the right characteristics, then train them for delivering their skills better. Makes very smart sense.

“You can develop competencies with the right training, mentoring, coaching, support, and motivation programs. But to get characteristics, you have to hire the right individuals. In the words of one sales leader, You can’t send a duck to eagle school.” According to another, Although you can teach a turkey to climb a tree, it’s much easier to hire a squirrel.”

Employers are looking for a holistic group of qualifications in hiring people. The workplace and the world is shifting demographically, socially and generationally. We are already seeing this in corporate America with the emergence of women and ethnic workers.

It’s not enough to just deliver core skills. What makes people most valuable and attractive are a combination of core skills, personal skills and intangible or soft skills.

Intangible skills are so imperative in today’s world and workplace. Every job, volunteer experience, internship, mentorship, playing sports, joining a community group and hobbies all contribute to ones skill sets. They all offer different situations and circumstances for learning and developing capacities and capabilities. Every person we have struggled to get along with, situations we would rather not have had to deal with, and pushing through learning plateaus, have all help us to tap into and develop our intangible skills.

These intangible skills are what set us apart and will ultimately make us the attractive candidate and best fit for a job culture. People who not only have the competencies to use the widgit, but are very well liked by their co-workers and have great empathy and the ability to mobilize and motivate others are gold.

Never underestimate “likeability”. It’s a magnet. Check out these 5 Qualities of Charismatic People. How many do you have?

Branding your competencies, characteristics and intangible skills is a smart, holistic way to present and brand yourself and can secure your future in the work world. Computer skills are a competency, ability to work independently is a characteristic, adaptability to change is an intangible.

Be a constant learner no matter how young or old you are. Identify key skill gaps that you need to close and close them. Tap and use your best intangibles or soft skills that make you attractive, likeable and position you as a must keep or hire.

Think about two jobs where you took on a project, made it your own and made it successful. Ask some of your current or past colleagues to tell you what they think your best intangible skills are. Volunteer outside of work, join an initiative or committee at your current company, or ask your boss to give you a small project that can stretch you!

What are your competencies, characteristics and most charismatic qualities and how are you branding and using them?


Deborah Shane is Top 100 Small Business Champion 2012, Career Author, branding/media strategist, writer and speaker. She hosts her Toolbox Blogand a popular weekly Business Radio Show that has over 108K downloads! She is a regular contributor to, Monster, Blogher,, Her book Career Transition-make the shift is available on and all major book sellers. Deborah delivers smart ideas and solutions, which make her a popular go-to resource for CNN, CBS, Fox and Forbes.