What are ‘soft skills’ and why do they matter, you may ask. Let me ask you a different question; how is it possible for your interviewer to know if you are a good cultural fit for the company, just by looking at your CV and cover letter?
Hypnotism isn’t an option in an interview and neither are truth serums, so then how can they discover your true personality and what truly makes you tick?
Your interviewer is not a mind-reader, so finding out more about YOU may seem like an impossible task. In this article, we will delve into the soft skills you want to display and how they are assessed during your interview.
The big question is, what are soft skills?
Well, there are hard skills – which you can guess from the name is the opposite of soft skills. Hard skills are your technical abilities, which are tangible and can be measured.
Now, soft skills are nothing of the sort. They are your personal traits which are your key to building relationships, enhancing in your career and ultimately being successful.
Which soft skills are evaluated?
Don’t panic, you don’t need every soft skill in the book to get the job. It all depends on the position you are interested in. For example, a customer-service representative should be able to communicate well with others but does not necessarily need top-notch leadership skills.
Key soft skills are:
Adaptability – The ability to be flexible when faced with new situations is a great tool to have in the workplace. When things just don’t go your way and you get tied up in knots, you’ll need to know how to twist your way out. This tool helps you adapt to the changes your company makes and to new assignments you may be given.
Leadership – Being a leader means being able to step up to the plate when the time is right. Leaders are imperative within a company, they instill a sense of direction when everything’s down in the dumps. You can be an inspiration, especially during the most challenging times! Possessing this trait shows that you are confident enough to lead your team through hardships and achieve rewarding results.
Teamwork – Knowing how to work with a team makes the daily work life much more bearable. Even if you don’t get along with all your co-workers (after all, we’re all human), being a good ‘team player’ means swallowing your pride and focusing on the task as a whole. Never let your personal feelings get in the way of your work. A step up from that is to focus on each person’s strengths within the team and work through any conflicts.
Problem-solving – This skill is, without a doubt, one of the most important ones to have for your professional career. Being able to dig yourself out of a ditch requires having a sturdy shovel to get yourself out. Being creative and innovative can even get you some bonus points!
Communication – Being a successful team MEANS being able to communicate well with each other. Even if you have a personal goal and plan in mind, remember that your co-workers may have different ideas. Being able to communicate with customers, managers and most anyone who comes your way displays a high-level of interpersonal skills which will get you far.
Motivation – The ability to be driven helps you stay goal-oriented and get the job done. This will lead you to be passionate about whatever task you set out to do. You don’t see problems, you see opportunities to hit the gas pedal and zoom through at full speed. However, you don’t just want to win the race; you want to enjoy the ride.
Why are soft skills so important?
Most employers believe that soft skills are crucial when finding an ‘ideal candidate’ – someone who uses critical thinking and can communicate well. In fact, Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends reported that 92% of respondents stated that these skills are the most important factor when choosing suitable candidates.
Soft skills are the core of who you are and employers understand this; they want to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are. They want to break down your walls, brick by brick, to find out what’s inside that makes you the best candidate for the job. Knowing this, you may want to know how your interviewer will judge these traits.
The answer … by asking competency-based interview questions, of course!
All about competency-based interviews
Your interviewer is going to ask competency-based interview questions, using your past experiences to see how you deal with day-to-day activities and challenges. You will want to think of personal TRUE situations that put you in the best light and really showcase how you used a specific soft skill to come out on top.
Giving a clear answer may seem difficult – where should you start? How do you talk about such a personal experience in a professional and positive way?
The STAR method is known to be a great tool for answering both behavioural and competency-based interview questions. You start with describing the situation, outlining the task involved, explaining the action you took and then discussing the end result.
And finally … practise makes perfect!
Do some research on the company and the position you’re applying for, so that you know what skills especially matter to employers. Put your foot in the door and be one step ahead of your interviewer so that YOU are the mind-reader now.