Traditionally, interviewers look at hard skills on an applicant’s resume, such as design and technical abilities and decide whether he or she has the expertise and experience for the job. However, soft skills are now becoming more desirable and considered just as important. Soft skills focus on human interactions and emotional intelligence.
You may have skills that you are not aware of or have failed to tap into until now. Once you recognize these skills, you can highlight them in an interview and stand out from the crowd.
What is a soft skill?
Soft skills refer to talents that involve human emotions and perceptions. While a computer programmer requires skills in coding and building websites, he or she may also possess soft skills, such as critical thinking and being adaptable.
Soft skills are rooted in your personality and often grouped under the term emotional intelligence. The way you approach business, interact with colleagues or operate in a team are skills that are becoming more and more valuable in the workplace.
The number of jobs being performed by computers has subsequently created roles that are more complex for humans that computers cannot execute. These roles may require communication and leadership skills previously not needed. Below are a few of the most common soft skills:
- Great work ethic
- Critical thinking
- Working well under pressure
- Working well in a team
Although there has been much debate over the teachability of a soft skill, focusing on the skills you already have and bringing them into the interview room will help you present the best version of yourself to prospective employers. Your soft skills may work well with the company’s culture.
Know Which Soft Skill to Highlight
While fellow applicants may have similar hard skills, your soft skills are what sets you apart. Look through your resume and pay close attention to the jobs or projects that required people skills.
Learning how to describe yourself is part of the process. Do not just use generic terms and phrases. Instead, search for specific talents that are reflected in your previous work. Adaptability, critical thinking and problem-solving are all soft skills that may not apply to all candidates. If you are particularly good at problem-solving, focus on highlighting that skill over others.
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Providing evidence of your soft skill is important in an interview. Using buzzwords that are not grounded in real events may not be enough to set you apart from other applicants. If you tell a potential employer how your best attributes will benefit his or her own company, they may be more likely to hire you.
Find specific examples in your employment history that illustrate your skills. Perhaps your communication skills helped close a deal or your problem-solving skills helped your team fix an issue. Give detailed accounts of these examples and link their importance to the job you are applying for.
Highlight Your Soft Skills During the Interview
From the moment you walk in you are using your soft skills. Make sure you research the role and the company before you arrive, be prepared and take notes. Maintain eye contact and be confident in your experience and expertise. All of these actions will help support your claim to any soft skills listed on your resume.
Communication skills are a key part of any interview, as well as being an important soft skill to have. Typically, there are three types of communication skills:
- Verbal – If you are a clear, concise speaker, conveying your point or explaining complex issues during the interview will highlight this form of communication.
- Written – If you are a great writer, make sure you include a comprehensive cover letter and bring any examples of your work that may be relevant to the job you are applying for.
- Physical – If your body language is confident and engaging, interviewers will be able to see how you may be a great leader. Try to refrain from fidgeting as this may come across as nervousness. Lean forward and stay engaged with your interviewer.
Important Soft Skills to Highlight
Although some soft skills are more important for different roles, there are a few skills that serve most situations. Below are four top soft skills to highlight in any interview.
- Time management – Using your time wisely and meeting deadlines are crucial elements to any position. One way to show your time management skills is to arrive at your interview on time. Being late will not only reflect badly on your ability to keep to a schedule but also to your commitment to the job.
- Collaboration – Teamwork is required for most jobs. Whether you are working with colleagues or managing teams from outsourced companies, your ability to work well with others reflects a sense of comradery and respect. This is especially important for work-from-home positions.
- Leadership – Not all positions require applicants to lead other team members. However, leadership skills are also relevant to your own work. Showing initiative to complete tasks, conduct thorough research and be flexible demonstrates the ability to be a leader in your own field.
- Communication – As mentioned in previous sections, having great verbal, written and physical communication skills are important for most roles. You do not have to possess all three. However, make sure you highlight the ones you excel at.
Previous colleagues and bosses may validate any soft skills you have from working in other companies. Make sure your referrals are detailed and talk about any relevant soft skills. For example, a referral may mention how easy you are to work with, how you excel at working on a team or how you take the initiative when given a project.
Learn a New Soft Skill
Not all applicants have soft skills. These skills are generally based on years of learned experience and personal habits. They may originate from childhood or develop over years of working in different companies. You can learn soft skills if you are willing to assess and modify natural personality traits. Adjusting how you combat conflict, solve problems or engage with others will help you learn a new soft skill or develop an existing one.
There are online courses and in-person lectures available to help improve and hone certain soft skills. Once you have decided which skill you want to cultivate, find a course or exercise that focusses on that skill. Unlike most hard skills, learning a new soft skill requires the employee to want to change. You must be one hundred percent committed to adapting and altering the way you operate under certain environments to learn a new soft skill.
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