The world of work is ever-changing. Many people no longer want to climb the job ladder in hopes of having a 40-year career in the same company, and this workplace shift has resulted in a fast paced, competitive job market. So now more than ever, it’s important to stand out amongst the crowd by learning new skills and expanding on the ones you already have.
This leads me onto the topic of today’s post: Soft skills.
In this article we will discuss the key differences between soft skills and hard skills, the importance of these when applying for a new job and hints and tips on how to draw attention to your soft skills during an interview.
Hard vs Soft skills
Hard skills can be defined as abilities that are measurable, often learned in education , books or training. Things such as coding, data analysis, business planning and search engine optimization are all examples of hard skills.
On the other hand, soft skills are usually acquired through experience or come naturally to you. Some examples of soft skills could be empathy, adaptability, self-awareness, determination, and so on. These skills are often more subjective and difficult to measure.
Unfortunately, due to hard skills being easily demonstrated through things like diplomas, certifications and tests, many employers will consider candidates with hard skills more capable than those with soft skills. However, soft skills are just as valuable as hard skills, but how do you prove this to potential employers?
Why do Soft skills matter?
Start with understanding why soft skills are important.
Hard skills are often what secures you an interview. The recruiter will first look at your CV and assess your education, experience and skills. However, hard skills don’t guarantee your success. It’s your soft skills that will help you stand out amongst other candidates.
A 2018 study from LiveCareer found that soft skills play an essential role for employers in the recruitment process. Even when hiring for more technical positions, such as an accountant or software developers, soft skills such as reliability and flexibility are high up on the list of requirements.
Successfully working as a team on a day to day basis often relies on a variety of soft skills, such as being able to communicate clearly, supporting your colleagues and being reliable. If a company operated solely on employees with hard skills and no soft skills, there would be a breakdown in communication and in turn, the work would suffer and so would the company’s results.
With hard skills first landing you an interview, the next challenge is proving to a potential employer that you possess these skills in the space of a thirty minute interview. The first step in this process is identifying your unique set of soft skills.
Identifying your soft skills
Just as everyone is different, so are everyone’s individual set of soft skills. One great way to identify your personal soft skills is to ask those closest to you, this may be a family member, close friend or partner. Ask what they appreciate about you or what they consider to be some of your greatest attributes. From this, you can begin to make a list of your own soft skills that you can adapt and use to your advantage in your interview.
Another great method is to analyse yourself. What do you like to do? What sort of environment do you work best in? Is it fast paced with multiple projects, or do you prefer to work on bigger projects over a longer period of time? If you struggle to self analyse, personality tests can also be a quick and easy way to figure out your strengths and defining qualities.
What are employers looking for?
It’s clear that companies value soft skills, but with more than 50,000 professional skills worldwide, it can be a daunting task trying to figure out what specific skills companies are looking for.
Studies have found that there is a disconnect between the soft skills companies search for when hiring and what job seekers believe these soft skills are. The LiveCareer Study states that only 62% of soft skills listed on resumes meet the criteria of soft skills specified on employers job adverts.
So what soft skills are recruiters actually looking for?
When applying for a specific role, it’s often best to consider the company and requirements of the job when deciding what soft skills to highlight on your resume. For example, a role in finance would require different soft skills than a job in customer service. However, there are a number of common and recurring soft skills that employers look for when hiring.
1 Communication skills
Your ability to work well and communicate within a team is one of the most desirable soft skills amongst potential employers.
Having the ability to express yourself clearly, while also being able to listen to others and collaborate well within your team, is essential.
Additionally, being able to speak confidently and clearly in front of large groups is another particularly sought after skill. Warren Buffet states that, in his opinion, if someone can master the art of public speaking, their value to potential employers will rise by 50%. If this is an area you’d like to improve on, be sure to look at our article on public speaking.
2 Positive attitude
When a problem arises at work, companies value employees who look for solutions, rather than focusing on the negatives. A positive, can-do attitude will help you stand out amongst your colleagues and make a good impression with management.
Many think the only way to showcase their leadership skills is to manage a team, but this isn’t always the case.
Be proactive. Demonstrate that you have the ability to work alone, while also being able to assist others with their tasks during busy periods. By showing your great work ethic within a team and individually, it implies that you’re self motivated as well as being able to use your initiative when helping your colleagues.
Being self aware is a key skill that employers look for when hiring. Being self aware means knowing your strengths, while understanding that there’s always room for improvement. Always accept constructive feedback in a professional way, taking responsibility if you’ve made a mistake and understanding where you could improve.
5 Being a team player
Employers value people who can easily work as part of a team. Almost every job will require you to work as part of a team, so it’s important to have the ability to listen, discuss and collaborate comfortably as a group.
However, working as a team isn’t always easy. There may be differences in opinions or clashing personalities. If this happens, it’s important to be able to set your differences aside and stay professional, focusing on the work at hand rather than personal differences.
6 Managing your stress and time.
Having employees who can stay calm and prioritise tasks under pressure is invaluable to management. Be sure to demonstrate your ability to prioritize your workload, plan your schedules accordingly and delegate tasks if necessary.
A great example of how to manage your workload is the Eisenhower Matrix. This is a useful method that helps prioritise tasks according to their urgency and importance, which can be extremely helpful when trying to meet tight deadlines for multiple projects.
A company is made up of a number of different teams, projects and goals. As a result of this, your workload may change unexpectedly and companies need employees who can adapt easily to last minute projects. Being comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone and embracing change will make you a valuable asset to any business.
8 Creative Problem-solving
Demonstrating your ability to think creatively when facing a problem is a great way to stand out in the recruitment process. Think of examples of when you thought outside the box and used your initiative to solve an issue, this could be professionally or in your personal life.
Even if you’re applying for a more technical position, employers still value creativity when it comes to problem solving. Without creativity, there would be no new ideas or projects, and without this a company would not survive.
So how do you talk about soft skills in an interview?
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, soft skills can be more subjective than hard skills. So, if you want to ace your interview and really showcase your soft skills to potential employers, it’s important to show don’t tell.
Look at your own personal list of soft skills and think of each one as a sales pitch. Don’t just say “I’m a creative problem solver”, utilize specific examples, figures and your achievements to prove your point. Seeing as you can’t show your soft skills through degrees or certificates, you need to convince the interviewer that your set of soft skills makes you perfect for this job.
Another great way to highlight your soft skills is through a cover letter, where you can go into further detail about how and when you’ve demonstrated your skills.
Rest assured it’s normal not to tick the box for every soft skill on this list. However, it’s important to understand your unique set of soft skills and how to highlight these to potential employers.
Even if your skills aren’t exactly what a certain company is looking for at that moment, each time you identify and practice speaking about soft skills in an interview, the better you’ll get at showcasing them for the next employer.
With 57% of executives saying that soft skills are more important than hard skills, be sure to identify your individual soft skills to help you become an invaluable member of any workplace.