More and more companies are weighing soft skills heavily in the job interview process. While one candidate may have looked great on paper with all the right education and work experience, a company may have come to find that they didn’t mesh well with the rest of the team. Or they may have had little understanding of how to communicate about their work to outside teams or even customers.
That’s right, young job seekers or career changers are in luck because these days, companies are tired of making hires that simply don’t function well within their workplace. And with cool job platforms *cough* Scouted *cough* that take your soft skills into account and advocate on your behalf to hiring managers, why not put a little more effort into flaunting what you’ve got?
But first of all, let’s answer a few questions.
What are soft skills, exactly?
While hard skills are learned, soft skills are the things you bring to a job naturally. Things like your personality, natural talents, personal attributes, and insights. They shape how a person interacts with others effectively and cooperatively as well as how they go about solving new problems. However, that’s not to say that a person can’t improve on their soft skills (more on that below).
Here’s a list of some of our favorite attributes:
- Emotional Intelligence
- Intellectual horsepower (one’s processing speed)
- Analytical thinking
Why employers care about soft skills/why are they important?
According to ICIMS, “Ninety-four percent of recruiting professionals believe an employee with stronger soft skills has a better chance of being promoted to a leadership position than an employee with more years of experience but weaker soft skills.”
Soft skills can be the differentiator between whether or not you or someone slightly more qualified lands a job. If you have all the job requirements on paper, but lack the skills to connect with your team and communicate your ideas, the job may go to someone who can. Using your soft skills, you’ll also hopefully be able to build a rapport with the hiring manager during your interview. However, these skills aren’t just important for intercommunication.
Different roles will require different types of soft skills that are extremely important for customer-facing positions as well. For examples, a sales representative will use their communication skills daily on the job while a product manager will use many technical skills as well as soft skills like organization, communication, problem-solving, and even evangelism.
Can I improve on my soft skills?
Although soft skills are considered to be those useful on-the-job traits that come naturally to us, we can improve them. Anyone can practice and improve their written and oral communication skills. Other skills like emotional intelligence, being a self-starter, or adaptability may take more effort to improve, but if you’re able to commit to developing a new habit that will enhance your job-related skills, then go for it! Skills like tenacity, energy, and creativity, on the other hand, may be harder to develop; instead of trying to gain more soft skills, try working on improving the ones that come naturally to you.
How to show off your soft skills
If you’re a young job-seeker that doesn’t have much by the way of experience yet, your shining personality may come in handy, especially if a company is looking to fill a role and is willing to train “the right person.” First, narrow down the soft skills you believe you’re best at and confirm your list with a friend or colleague (the soft skills you’re not so great at may be examples of what to mention when the question “What are your weaknesses?” comes up. Because it will). Instead of simply including a bulleted list on your resume of your soft skills, during an interview try to reference times when you used them in past work environments. In your cover letter, allude to some of the soft skills you use regularly in your current position.
Overall, you’ll want to talk about your soft skills in a way that highlights what you can bring to a role and how they’ll help you improve the company. Give real-life examples and don’t try to convince anyone you have personality traits that you really just don’t. Sooner or later, someone will be able to tell.
What are your top soft skills? Have you ever tried to improve them? Leave your tips in the comments below and share the post with someone who may need an extra oomph to their cover letter.