How Highlighting Your Soft Skills in the Job Interview Can Lead to a Job Offer
Unlike the professional skills and experiences you gain through formal training or education, soft skills are those elusive interpersonal skills, personality traits, character attributes, or communication styles that will determine how you interact with your colleagues and the success or failure of the relationships you form in the workplace. Increasingly, employers are placing more emphasis on finding the right set of soft skills for their positions, as these can be direct indicators of how well the candidate will work with others and succeed in their careers.
The job interview is the most appropriate time to let your soft skills shine through. And although it may feel more informal than talking, say, about your research experience or education, you want your discussion around this aspect of your candidacy to be thorough, detailed, well-thought-out and supported by strong examples.
Here’s what you need to ask yourself before the job interview:
What are the most important soft skills employers look for in new hires?
From an employer’s perspective, soft skills are often just as (or sometimes even more) important than those “hard skills” like technical training or your degree history, because they can be a clear indicator of how well you will succeed in their team. And soft skills can be pretty necessary for you to thrive. Things like good communication and listening skills, ability to collaborate, emotional intelligence, personal drive and motivation, and empathy are all soft skills that can determine how successful you’ll be at work. Likely your employer will value those soft skills that ultimately indicate how well you’ll work with others (as well as your bosses) and fit into the culture of the organization.
How do you demonstrate your soft skills in the job interview?
When it comes to communicating your soft skills either in your application materials or in the job interview, examples are key. It’s not enough to simply say you are a great communicator or problem solver. You have to give the interviewer specific examples of instances when you bore those soft skills out and had positive outcomes at work as a result.
How do you know which soft skills to talk about in the job interview?
First of all, you have to know yourself to clearly understand what your strongest, most valuable soft skills really are. Don’t just make it up to impress your interviewer or because you think it’s what they want to hear, because your personality and character will ultimately reveal the truth.
Before you start interviewing with employers -- as part of your job search prep phase -- take a few moments to think about what your real strengths are and the (non-technical) value that you have brought to the teams you’ve been a part of. If you tell the truth and are completely authentic in the interview, this sincerity will come across, and you’ll also be able to think more easily of examples to back up your claims (because they will be true!)
Your demeanor and overall presence in the job interview shouldn’t undercut or call into question the soft skills you’re claiming to have. For example, if you say you’re a great listener, you shouldn’t interrupt the interviewer every time he or she tries to speak. So, tell the truth, and provide specific examples to back it up.