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9 soft skills employers are looking for - and how to develop them
When it comes to standing out from other professionals who are aiming to land the same role as you, traditional factors such as your CV, cover letter and interviewing skills can only get you so far. In many cases, especially in today’s hiring landscape, a candidate’s soft skills will become as important as education or prior experience.
Everything else being equal, soft skills will be the element that sets one candidate apart from another.
So what soft skills should you focus on developing? And how can you cultivate them in your everyday work tasks? Finally, how can you demonstrate these skills when interviewing with companies? Here’s what you should focus on when it comes to soft skills and helping you get a job.
First, here are some of the soft skills that employers are always looking for. They fit into 4 different categories:
1. Your enthusiasm for and attitude at work
This one varies by organisation and is one of the few soft skills that is tougher to learn or develop. When looking at a company’s culture, strive to understand the underlying values that make it what it is. If you value the same things, then it would be a good culture fit to join that organisation.
It’s easily overlooked, but if your team needs help, can they count on you to be there? Dependability is about delivering what you promise to deliver in the time frame that it is needed.
Aside from book smarts, what’s your EQ? Emotional intelligence has to do with whether or not you have empathy, are self-aware and are able to self-regulate. Having high emotional intelligence can make you easier to work with, and more sensitive to the needs and communication styles of your coworkers.
Adaptability is all about how flexible you are, and how well you are able to adapt to new situations and circumstances. Are you agile enough to change course if something isn’t working, or if circumstances require it? Especially in the future workplace, employers value someone who can change and find success - as many times as needed. As we’ve seen with the recent COVID-19 situation around the world, professionals who can adapt are the ones who will thrive in the future workplace.
2. Your communication skills
Strong communication skills
This soft skill is a major one, as strong communication is essential in any role, in one way or another. Companies value those who have good communication skills and can get their point across easily and diplomatically. Additionally, companies are looking for people who can communicate well with stakeholders and other senior members of the team.
3. Your problem-solving skills
When faced with a challenge, what’s your thought process and capability for solving that challenge or problem? Even if creative problem solving doesn’t come naturally to you, you can develop a methodology to approaching problems that will lead you to an effective solution.
Critical thinking skills
Similar to good problem solving skills, good critical thinking means you are able to think outside of the box and approach problems and other issues with a critical eye.
4. Your leadership qualities
You don’t have to be in a direct position of leadership to show leadership skills. Leadership skills can simply be something like stepping up during a meeting to contribute ideas, to be the one that people turn to in the team when times get tough.
Like the old adage goes, there’s no I in team. Professionals who value teamwork and are able to foster a sense of being part of a team will be highly valued over someone who only thinks and acts in an individualistic way.
Subjectivity of soft skills
The thing about soft skills is that they are subjective, as opposed to technical skills, experience and education. But that subjectivity is also what makes them so valuable. If a hiring manager interviews two people with the same background and education, soft skills will be the next deciding factor. They are the traits that define each individual who is interviewing.
How to acquire soft skills
Like any skill, the way to acquiring soft skills is to simply identify those that you want to try to improve on and practice. This may mean exposing yourself to situations in which you have to learn quickly, or seek out formal training courses.
Some soft skills, such as leadership or communication can be greatly improved through practice and training - whether in person or online. Seek feedback on other soft skills, so that you know which ones you’re already strong in and which can use a little work.
How to demonstrate soft skills in an interview
In an interview, beyond simply listing what soft skills you have (because every hiring manager has heard it before), try to use specific examples of situations in which you demonstrated that soft skill. If that situation also helps demonstrate your experience or superior knowledge as well, then even better. In many instances of behavioural based interviews, the interviewer is looking at the entire thought process, rather than just hearing the “right” answer.
Soft skills for the win
The job market is volatile right now, and while it will be difficult to predict how things will go in the next few months, it’s clear that there are many talented professionals on the market looking for their next opportunity. By focusing on soft skills, you can find your way in, and stand out from the talented and experienced crowd.
For more advice on how to fly through the hiring process, have a read through our advice articles.