Top 10 soft skills you need to work in finance

5 mins read
Soft Skills

10 Oct, 2022

​When searching for a role in finance, it's often not what you know, but what you can offer. Job hunters have long been told to list, and give prominence to, technical skills on their CVs, but finance sector employers are increasingly looking for candidates with interpersonal abilities known as ‘soft skills'. Demonstrating these 10 characteristics will help candidates prove their value in the workplace.

​10 soft skills to help you prove your value in the workplace.

1. Communication

Earlier this year, analysis by LinkedIn showed that 57.9% of new hires who changed jobs in 2014-15 listed communication as one of their strong suits. Good communicators are in demand across a range of industries, and they're vital in fields that require employees to explain their specialist knowledge to others. An aptitude for number crunching won't get you far in finance if you can't justify and explain your calculations.

2. Negotiation

Whether you're closing a deal or managing expectations, it's important to know how to fight your corner without ruffling any feathers. An aptitude for negotiation will allow finance professionals to reach an agreement that benefits all parties. Failure to compromise effectively can create frustration and damage interpersonal relationships or, at worst, result in loss of revenue for a business. Having a demonstrable knack for negotiation will put you ahead in any financial enterprise.

3. Influencing

Finance professionals must be prepared to explain how their objectives are mutually beneficial and anticipate objections. If, for instance, an investment banker wants to sell off a stake in a joint venture, he or she must be able to show how this will benefit the bank – even if some colleagues disagree.

4. Critical thinking

A critical thinker objectively analyses or conceptualises a situation from a balanced perspective. Often, customers and clients will look to financial professionals to rationally evaluate a scenario – be it a ledger or the performance of a stock. In fast-paced business environments, a poorly thought-out decision can cost a company time and money. So the ability to make critically-informed choices is crucial for modern finance professionals.

5. Flexibility

Flexible employees are capable of weathering change and staying productive in high-pressure situations. Good stockbrokers provide the most dramatic example of this: their day-to-day work revolves around coping with constant fluctuation and determining the best course of action. However, cultivating a flexible mindset also means being able to see through the eyes of others and understand their motivations. A flexible finance professional will always ask: "Why might someone think this way?"

6. Resilience

Resilience refers to one's ability to bounce back after facing adversity. While this is an important skill in any workplace, it's especially important in high-pressure situations. Being able to cope with changing circumstances, having confidence in your ability to deliver and thinking carefully about what you're trying to achieve can prove valuable – particularly in financial roles.

7. Collaboration

It's no secret that top-level financiers are on the lookout for team players. A recent survey by Adaptive Insights showed that 70% of chief financial officers considered collaboration to be their top priority for 2016. In the financial sector, it has become increasingly common to work across multiple teams and geographies to achieve a shared goal. Someone who approaches group-working scenarios with an open mind and a willingness to listen will benefit any team.

8. Problem solving

Effective problem solvers identify the issue at hand, weigh up their options quickly and make a firm decision about the best course of action. Those who excel at problem solving can really drive an organisation forward and will earn the respect of their colleagues by offering meaningful input in even the toughest situations.

9. Dedication

Dedication is fierce commitment without the expectation of returns. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by a single task, dedicated workers will devote themselves from start to finish. Discipline, hard work and acceptance of delayed gratification are key ingredients in developing the dedication mindset.

10. Empathy

It's a common misconception that roles focused on data and numbers require a detached approach – empathy should never be undervalued in finance. Clients often seek financial advice during stressful life events, and dealing with someone who has suffered a loss requires a different approach from a couple seeking their first mortgage.

An empathetic person shows that he or she cares. In displaying understanding, finance professionals will also build trust in their relationships with co-workers and clients.

It's not enough to simply tell an employer you have the soft skills they're looking for. Instead, strive to demonstrate your skillset by offering up examples from previous job roles and highlighting talents you've developed outside of the workplace. Remember, employers are always seeking the right personality for the job – not just a list of positions and qualifications.

How to identify your own skills:

Reflect on your reactions to tense situations at work and compare them to those of managers and co-workers you admire.

Prepare answers to interview questions that screen for soft skills, such as those about workplace experience in problem solving and collaboration.

Ask current or past colleagues to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. They may be able to offer insights you hadn't previously considered.

Consider your strengths in relation to the job you want to apply for so you can be confident about the criteria you already fulfil and areas that you can develop on the job.

How to acquire new skills:

  • Make a conscious effort to improve your soft skills every day – remember, they're attributes to develop, not innate qualities.

  • Take up skill-building hobbies in your leisure time. Something as simple as a cooking class might prepare you to prioritise tasks and work under pressure.

  • Ask for help and feedback from colleagues and senior staff in your workplace.

  • Enrol in a course designed to build soft skills, such as those offered by Reed.

You may also be interested in...

Ask James Reed: how to write a stand-out CV
1 mins read

Ask James Reed: how to write a stand-out CV

​It takes just seven seconds for an employer to save or reject a job applicant’s CV. This seven-second rule inspired James Reed’s book on how to optimise your CV to land an interview.This webinar was the first instalment of a two-part series, in which James shares insight from his 25 years in recruitment, and two of his books:- The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview- Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear AgainJames presented his ideas and advice on creating a CV to impress. This was followed by a 30-minute Q&A session in which the audience put their CV questions to the expert himself and got his invaluable advice first hand.Speaker profile: James Reed, CEO and Chairman, ReedJames Reed has worked in recruitment and careers for more than 25 years. Reed receives forty million job applications a year and has delivered over one hundred programmes to help more than 200,000 people who had been long-term unemployed back into work.The Reed Group currently employs more than 3,800 people across the globe helping to improve lives through work. James Reed was voted Top CEO by employee-ratings platform Glassdoor in both 2018 and 2019, and Reed won a coveted Best Places to Work Award from the same company in 2019 and 2020. This means it is the top-ranked recruiter on the list of all organisations voted as excellent workplaces by employees on Glassdoor.​

Ask James Reed: how to ace the job interview
1 mins read

Ask James Reed: how to ace the job interview

​​Questions employers ask at interview can range from the standard ‘What are your weaknesses?’ to out-of-the-box questions like ‘How many traffic lights are there in London?’ – James Reed can help you decipher what they are really asking.Find out how to pass your next interview with flying colours with this free webinar, in which James shared insight from his 25 years in recruitment and answered your burning questions.This webinar was the second instalment of a two-part series based on two of his books:- The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview- Why You? 101 Interview Questions You’ll Never Fear AgainIn case you missed the first one on CV-writing tips, you can watch it back here.Speaker profile: James Reed, CEO and Chairman, ReedJames Reed has worked in recruitment and careers for more than 25 years. Reed receives forty million job applications a year and has delivered over one hundred programmes to help more than 200,000 people who had been long-term unemployed back into work.The Reed Group currently employs more than 3,800 people across the globe helping to improve lives through work. James Reed was voted Top CEO by employee-ratings platform Glassdoor in both 2018 and 2019, and Reed won a coveted Best Places to Work Award from the same company in 2019 and 2020. This means it is the top-ranked recruiter on the list of all organisations voted as excellent workplaces by employees on Glassdoor.

Five top tips to attract talent in a candidate-short market
5 mins read

Five top tips to attract talent in a candidate-short market

​​With salaries fluctuating, increased demand for flexibility and professionals difficult to come by, organisations are finding themselves battling for talent.To discuss this acutely candidate-driven jobs market, Reed held a webinar with four of its recruitment experts: ‘The great flirtation: how to attract the best professionals in 2022’. The event featured Reed Chairman and CEO James Reed, as well as Claire Harvey, Managing Director, UK Network, Chris Adcock, Managing Director, Reed Technology, and Lucie Daluiso, Divisional Managing Director, Further Education.The quartet used their industry experience and expertise to analyse the current jobs market, while also providing advice to businesses looking to hire in this environment. Here are five of their most prominent recommendations.1. Benchmark salaries to stay competitiveWith salaries fluctuating, knowing what the market rate is for jobs in your sector and region is critical for attracting talent.While professionals’ priorities have changed over the course of the pandemic, salary is still a critical factor. James noted that a Reed.co.uk workforce study from last autumn found that 39% of professionals rated salary as their number one priority when looking to move role, while over half suggested that their current employer raising their salary would make them less inclined to move.When it comes to using salaries to attract candidates, he added: “I would say to those companies looking to encourage people to move that they will have to pay a premium of 10% on salaries. What I mean by that is that if you find a good candidate who’s already in a job, you’ll get their attention by paying 10% above what they’re currently earning, or 10% above the market rate.”2. Tailor benefits packagesBenefits are an increasingly important part of any compensation package, helping organisations to stand out if their offering exceeds that of their competitors. Chris argued that the way to create eye-catching benefits packages is to be flexible and have individual preferences in mind when formulating them:“While people list salary as their number one motivator, benefits and rewards are very close behind. Benefits packages are really exciting for candidates because they will be looking at things specific to them.“It’s important to have a diverse and flexible benefits package, and to understand what drives individual candidates, so you can put the perfect package to them – there’s no point selling something to somebody which is going to fall on deaf ears.”3. Provide some form of flexibilityFlexibility has shifted dramatically due to the pandemic. Where remote working and other forms of flexibility were once seen as rare perks, they’re now playing a huge part in jobseekers’ considerations when looking for new roles.“We have some fabulous clients – some top companies - who are insisting on everyone going into the office, yet quite a lot of applicants are saying they don’t want to work for them, as they want to work flexibly,” James noted.For those roles which cannot be done remotely, Claire suggested that there are ways companies can incorporate flexibility to satisfy prospective employees, such as operating core hours-style models:“Something we were trialling at Reed, even before the pandemic, was our dynamic working model. It isn’t full hybrid working, but allows people to do the school run or go to the gym in the morning – adding some flexibility within the working day.”4. Engage candidates through the whole process – even after they’ve accepted an offerOne feature of the current talent market has been a huge increase in organisations issuing counteroffers to retain staff. These can range from significant salary increases through to a change of job title or increased responsibility.Claire outlined how to mitigate for this challenge and nurture people through their resignation, especially for professionals who are on longer notice periods: “You must treat that candidate like they have already joined your organisation and really involve them.“You really have to make sure that the candidate is engaged with you from the moment they enter the recruitment process through to the job offer. It’s never been more important to sell your business, so the whole experience must be good – from replying to their application promptly through to keeping in touch before and after interviews and giving them accurate feedback.”Lucie highlighted strategies used to keep candidates engaged while they wait for approval – as sometimes when applying for a job in the prison education sector it can take up to 12 weeks to go through all the security clearance:“We’ve implemented plans where candidates will have calls with the prison they’re going to work in at least once every two weeks, maybe even once a week. For ourselves, we’re trying to encourage a lunch or for people to come into the office – something a little more warm and friendly so that people know where they’re going to be working.”5. Offer a great place to workFor those organisations where workers are fully onsite or working hybridly, offering a wonderful place to work is an excellent way to attract professionals – particularly where people are unable to work remotely.“You need to think about how to make it more attractive to be in the office and how to make it a great place to work,” stated James. “I think being with groups of people, especially for younger candidates, is attractive – if you can create the environment and culture that makes it exciting.”Chris added that creating a fantastic culture and sense of togetherness, particularly in SMEs, is a way organisations can stand apart from their competitors – even if they are unable to match the compensation packages being offered by other companies.To benchmark salaries and benefits in your sector and region, download our 2022 salary guides now.