In a competitive job market, you’ll often find yourself competing with others who have the same technical skills as you. In these cases, your resume, cover letter and interviewing skills can only get you so far. However, being able to demonstrate strong soft skills could be what sets you apart from other candidates.
Why? Soft skills are in high demand from businesses as our world becomes more globalised, teams operate across departments and employees work more closely with clients and partners.
So what soft skills should you focus on developing? And how can you cultivate them in your everyday work tasks? Finally, how can you demonstrate these skills when interviewing with companies? Here’s what you should focus on when it comes to soft skills and helping you get a job.
1. Enthusiasm and attitude
Without being over-the-top in your job interview, a dose of enthusiasm and passion for the role can make you stand out from other candidates. It’s important to demonstrate to employers you are keen right from the early stages of interviewing, and that you’ll carry this same enthusiasm through to the workplace if you’re the chosen applicant.
Arriving early, actively asking questions during the interview and intently listening are all strong indicators that you’re an enthusiastic applicant and display the right attitude to this job opportunity.
Enthusiasm and attitude can further be broken down:
Culture fit. This one varies by organisation and is one of the few soft skills that is tougher to learn or develop. When looking at a company’s culture, strive to understand the underlying values that make it what it is. If you value the same things, then it should be a good culture fit to join that organisation.
Dependability. It’s easily overlooked, but if your team or colleague needs help, can they count on you to be there? Dependability is about delivering what you promise in the time frame that it is needed, but also going above and beyond for your team when you can.
Emotional intelligence. Aside from book smarts, what’s your EQ? Emotional intelligence has to do with whether or not you have empathy, are self-aware and are able to self-regulate. Having high emotional intelligence can make you easier to work with, as you are more sensitive to the needs and communication styles of your coworkers.
Adaptability. This quality is all about how flexible you are, and how well you are able to change and pivot to new situations and circumstances, especially when you’re under pressure. Are you agile enough to change course if something isn’t working, or if circumstances require it? Employers value someone who can change and find success.
Strong communication is essential in any role, in one way or another. Businesses value employees who have established communication skills and can get their point across easily and diplomatically. Additionally, companies are looking for talent who can communicate clearly with stakeholders and other senior leaders of the team.
With this in mind, being able to confidently communicate your points during a job interview will impress your interviewer. Add to this active listening and responding with well-prepared responses means you have strong abilities in engaging in two-way communication, not just one-way.
Many roles involve a level of problem-solving and lateral thinking, and often this needs to be done independently with little help from your peers or manager. Interviewers will generally ask for some examples of when you’ve been able to work independently – as well as part of a team – to solve challenging situations in previous roles. They’ll also be keen to know how your actions influenced those around you.
Prepare several examples of your best problem-solving experiences before your interview. This could include times when you’ve developed a methodology for doing something, or scenarios when you thought outside the box to find a solution, known as critical thinking.
4. Leadership and initiative
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t have to be in a management position to show leadership skills. These skills can simply be something like stepping up during a meeting to contribute ideas, taking initiative to get something done, or being the one that people turn to in the team for advice when times get tough.
Being able to work cohesively within a group and offer a helping hand when needed is part-and-parcel with good leadership. If leadership is one of your goals and plays well to your personality, again, make it known and back it up with examples.
Make soft skills work for you in an interview
Soft skills are subjective – but that subjectivity is also what makes them so valuable. If a hiring manager interviews two people with the same background and education, soft skills become a strong deciding factor. They are the traits that define one individual from another.
Like any skill, the way to acquire soft skills is to identify what you want to improve on. This may mean exposing yourself to situations where you have to learn quickly, or setting up one-on-one sessions with a mentor, or seeking out formal training courses.
Then, in an interview, beyond simply listing what soft skills you have (because every hiring manager has heard it before), use clear examples of situations in which you demonstrated that specific soft skill. In most job interviews, the interviewer will want to gauge your entire thought process, rather than just looking for the “right” answer.
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