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Don’t sell your soft skills short.
Rather, sell them during your next interview. By knowing how to describe yourself in an interview, you could be making a huge difference!
As professionals we focus on our best attributes and try to sell those skills to potential employers. Most focus on their areas of expertise and the special skill sets companies advertise in their job descriptions. Just be forewarned: almost every single person applying for the job has similar qualities and expertise. What sets you apart from the other candidates?
Soft skills are those bonus point qualities candidates bring to the table. They include the basic traits all professionals, regardless of industry or status, should hold. These traits help explain how well you work with others, whether you can communicate effectively with clients and teams or if you bring more to the table. Hard skills define your career specialties, while soft skills define your overall work ability.
Yet, interviews avoid soft skills interview questions and continuously focus more and more on hard skills and whether you can bring more revenue to the company. They’ve neglected the time-honored tradition that defines a true, worthy candidate. But hiring managers do want to learn about your soft skills. Your interview techniques can reiterate the importance that soft skills make in contract negotiations, sales pitches and other “bottom line” functions.
There’s a difference between showing how your soft skills complement your ability to perform better and throwing a bunch of keywords in your sentences. It starts with knowing how to describe yourself in an interview. Carefully select the top skills in your experience portfolio. Pay special attention to “people” skills. Working effectively with other team members is the single most important soft skill anyone can possess.
Some employers offer guidelines to help applicants determine the best soft skills to display. You'll likely see them listed in job descriptions, next to demands for technical qualifications. On the other hand, some hiring managers choose to see what the candidate brings to the table, without prompting from the job placement ad. Here are a few soft skills that fit with every job:
Communication. Communication comes in three types – verbal, written and body language. Learn to communicate effectively in one or more of these mediums. Allison offers training options for business and personal communications. The company’s Diploma in Business Communication is one of the more popular sessions.
Adaptability. Being adaptable means more than “going with the flow” or learning to work in an ever-changing environment. Adaptability requires you to think outside of the box and offer more innovative, creative ideas. This is especially important for more-seasoned professionals to demonstrate.
Problem Solving. Do you like logic or crossword puzzles? Those tasks take a patient, persistent mind. Most importantly, hiring managers seek problem solvers who can optimize their business services. Just be prepared to show them how you solved a problem. Bring a few examples to the interview.
Critical Observation. Learning to do a job and perform well isn’t enough. Companies see new ideas and recommendations as key to preventing business stagnation. Prove to the hiring manager you have ample critical thinking skills. Instead of showing results, show how you developed an idea or analyzed information.
Selecting which skills to show the hiring manager and knowing how to describe yourself in an interview is but one part of the process. Hiring managers appreciate your willingness to tell them about your traits. They also want proof you are telling the truth. Consider this as the “show and tell” part of the interview. This is the time to sell your skills to the company and show them how you are different from the candidates waiting for an interview.
Go over your list of soft skills. Compare those traits to experience, projects, accomplishments and notable contributions on your resume. Select one of the best examples for each soft skill you wish to sell. Focus on actual events from memory. During the interview, illustrate each example, paying attention to how each skill played a role in the accomplishment. For example, you could describe how you used conflict resolution and communication skills during a client escalation. Show how you worked with the client to deescalate the situation and what steps you took to help them.
Showing the hiring manager, you have soft skills is great. You still have to connect the dots for them. Just because you think your skills are important doesn’t mean the company needs or wants those skills. Prove to the hiring manager your soft skills are important to the company and show how you can help improve business relations. The simplest method connecting your skills with the company’s purpose is research. Learn what the company does, its mission and values, how it provides services and whether your skills complement these aspects or not.
Create two columns on a sheet of paper. On the right side, list each of the company’s values and business methods. On the left side, select a soft skill that directly correlates to this list. On a separate piece of paper write a two sentence statement showing how your soft skill complements or improves upon those values and methods.
What if you don’t have any of these, or any, important soft skills? There’s a scary thought. No worries; the good news is you can learn soft skills. Even better, improving or learning new soft skills increase your marketability and shows determination and commitment. Here are a few ideas to learn new soft skills:
Online courses. Learning soft skills online is one of the easiest, most convenient methods. Most courses offered teach students using webinars (video lectures), study material and assessment tools. While Allison offers personal development courses designed to improve career marketing initiatives, SkillKey.com offers only career advancement topics.
Lectures and seminars. Local colleges and career training centers also offer technology courses that combine hard skills with more versatile soft skills, like writing, public speaking and leadership. Some libraries offer free or inexpensive presentations delivered by community business leaders. These classes focus on a wide range of business skills. State and local governments increasingly are offering training classes to help reduce unemployment and job stagnation.
Mentors. Apprenticeships may be a long lost art for most industries, but seeking advice and guidance from a mentor in your field will help increase your marketable skills. Choose like minded mentors who have at least 10 years or more experience in your field. Human resources experts or people with management experience can provide a more detailed critique to help during the hiring process.
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