A brilliant scientist was hired at a pharmaceutical company and was let go six months after landing. He was challenging throughout the qualification process, and I thoroughly coached him during the interview process. He ultimately lost the position because no one could work with him. His brilliance could not be properly leveraged to create value for the organization. Because of his failure to succeed, I was unable to place him anywhere else. Unfortunately, there are a lot of brilliant technically skilled people whose potential for creating value in this world is inhibited by their lack of ability to integrate and collaborate with others.
Soft skills such as time management, relationship building, and communication allow employees to effectively leverage their technical skills and knowledge. These skills are the unsung heroes of the working world and can make or break a job search. A lack of soft skills can cause an otherwise talented employee to lose a job. A good grasp of soft skills separates an above-average employee who constantly brings value to their company from an average employee who only performs their day-to-day tasks. There are numerous soft skills, but I’ve narrowed down the list to nine of the most important skills employers demand:
1. Time Management
Effectively managing time allows you to take other people’s busy schedules into consideration.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Give answers that stay within a reasonable limit of time for the details asked.
Demonstrating in your past experience: Promote your ability to deliver assignments or projects on time, even in challenging circumstances.
Communicating effectively allows you to connect interpersonally with others via written and verbal means.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Plan and practice what you will say before the interview. Speak clearly and concisely, and listen to your interviewer.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Provide examples of written material you created, such as a memo.
3. Relationship Building
Good relationships are built on trust, positivity, and communication.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Listen and be respectful of your interviewer, and ask questions in order to build rapport.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Talk positively about your previous employers and provide examples of teamwork.
Your attitude consists of a positive frame of mind that exudes hopeful optimism, and is focused on creating solutions.
Demonstrating it in the interview: You are positive and upbeat throughout the interview.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how your positive attitude raised morale, allowed you to easily participate in teamwork, and helped provide solutions.
Confidence is the belief in your own skills and the ability to take on new tasks.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer a firm handshake, make eye contact, and maintain good posture.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote your achievements, especially the successful completion of tasks that were new or difficult.
A good leader is constantly motivated to improve and acts decisively, even if you are not managing others.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Provide examples of how you faced a challenge and acted decisively to create a resolution.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Quantitatively speak about your accomplishments. How much money did you save the company with your actions?
Being flexible allows you to adapt to a variety of circumstances and people, and work through unexpected events.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Give your interviewer examples on how you quickly adapted to changing circumstances in the workplace.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you used your flexibility to step out of your comfort zone and to take on new tasks.
A creative employee offers suggestions or ideas on how to improve workflow, or increase work value.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Explain how you solved a productivity problem and how your solution benefited the company.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Promote the value you added to a company by introducing a more efficient work method.
Effective problem-solving takes into account how you encountered a problem, and how you persisted until the solution was found.
Demonstrating it in the interview: Walk an interviewer through your problem solving processes.
Demonstrating it in your past experience: Discuss how you solved a particularly difficult problem and how it positively impacted your employer.
Why soft skills matter
Employers use hard skills as criteria to ensure a candidate meets a job’s technical requirements. The interview determines a candidate’s soft skills. I spoke to Guy Fardone about how Evolve IP, a cloud services company, primarily hires candidates based on their emotional intelligence and aptitude. Questions the employer asks are “Do they look me in the eyes, and are they able to listen and then respond appropriately?” “Can they build rapport?” People who come in the door already having a baseline understanding of how to build relationships with people are going to be that much more successful in their career.
Many employers rate the importance of soft skills just as highly as technical skills. Your technical skills may open the door to interviews, but your ability to manage time, problem-solve, build relationships, and your creativity are what enable you to land and keep the job. Emphasize how your use of soft skills has to led success in the workplace, and how they can help you bring value to a potential employer. Successfully leveraging your soft skills and your technical skills can set you apart from other job seekers, and enable you to land faster.