When you fill out an application or update your resume for a new job, chances are you’re thinking about adding the technical skills and abilities that you have that make you a great candidate for the role. These are the skills you’ve learned through education, training, and on-the-job experience.
However, while these skills are important, employers are also looking for specific “soft” skills when hiring people.
Soft skills are non-technical skills — also referred to as interpersonal skills — that relate to how you do your job. They range from how you interact with coworkers to the way you solve problems to how you prioritize your time at work. Hiring managers want job candidates with soft skills because they make their employees more successful in the workplace. Having the technical know-how is great, but if you can’t manage your time or don’t like working in a team, you may not be that successful at your job.
The following are common soft skills, or traits, that hiring managers look for when interviewing candidates:
When someone exudes confidence, people want to work with them. And, if two job candidates have similar experience and credentials, the job often goes to the person who has a more confident presence. What if you’re not really that self-assured? Try thinking about how much you want the job. Your excitement about the position and knowing you have the experience to succeed can often translate into a confidence you never realized you had.
Your body language says a lot about who you are and how you behave in the workplace. In addition to listening to what you say during an interview, managers read your body language: your posture, facial expressions, the tone of your voice, and whether or not you make eye contact. Managers want to hire (and later promote) workers who are self-assured and composed — and having negative body language (slumping in your seat, avoiding eye contact, biting your nails, fidgeting) can break a job interview. Your goal is to use positive body language and gestures to show employers you’re the right candidate for the job, that you’re confident, and fully capable and trustworthy to be successful as an employee. This is especially important in a virtual interview, where an interviewer will be paying special attention to your posture and tone of voice on the screen to determine your fit.
It’s great if you walk into an interview armed with the relevant experience and the right skills for a job. But what your application doesn’t show is that you are hard-working, reliable, and responsible. How do you show interviewers that you have a strong work ethic? Provide real-life examples of going the extra mile that made you proud. Maybe you stayed later to help a coworker finish a big project or you filled in for your manager when they needed some time off. If you’re asked “Why are you a good candidate for this position?”, say something like “I’m an enthusiastic worker who’s dedicated to completing tasks.” Then give an example of when you completed a difficult task that made you work extra hard. These examples will provide the manager evidence that you have a strong work ethic.
The way you present yourself during the interview is one of the main factors that sets you apart from other candidates. In addition to wearing clean, neat clothes, you should also arrive early to the interview (or dial in if it’s online), be polite and respectful to everyone you meet, not chew gum or answer your phone, and avoid talking about former employers in a negative way— these are examples of presenting a more professional, positive image to the hiring manager. (And, make you a better candidate!)
Empathy is an important soft skill in work and life. Empathy is the capability to understand and feel emotions that others experience. It also allows you to embrace differences — different ideas, different perspectives, different strengths and weaknesses. Managers want to hire empathetic candidates because they make better workers overall — they have a better rapport with coworkers and people generally enjoy working with them, making for a better company. Important empathetic traits include attention to deal (taking the time to focus on details), problem solving skills (the ability to step back and analyze a situation), a desire to lend a hand (proactively offering to help even though it’s not part of their job description), and an overall positive attitude (indicates you can get along with people and not get caught up in drama).
Even if soft skills are not a strength of yours, it’s never too late to develop them. You can learn a lot just by observing other people who do excel in these areas. Another way to work on soft skills is by answering practice questions like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”, “What kind of things inspire you?”, “What are your career goals?” Have a friend or family member “interview” you so you can get feedback on how you did. Many soft skills can be built with persistence and practice. And, in the end, these skills not only set you apart from other candidates, but they also enhance your overall employability.
What's your opinion on soft skills? Share your thoughts and experiences below!