In preparing for a job interview we are usually focused on our education, experience and specific accomplishments. This is to be expected and is certainly the basis for a thorough preparation. There is another area, however, that is often overlooked or marginally considered, and that is our soft skills.
What are soft skills? Before we address that, let’s look at hard skills. Hard skills consist of measurable and testable metrics that are usually acquired through education, certification and licensure. These may include educational degrees, technical or organizational certifications or licenses in a particular trade or profession. Hard skills are certainly required for most professional positions and form the basis for much of the job interview. Questions such as where did you receive your degree, or how many MicroSoft certifications do you hold, or when did you receive your master plumbers license, or how many words a minute can you type, are all types of hard skill questions you may encounter.
While the ability to meet the hard skills required for a position are certainly important, the interviewer also needs to hear about your soft skills and how they make you the best candidate for the position in question. OK………what are soft skills and how does one obtain them? Soft skills include many personal attributes that are hard to measure or quantify but are invaluable to any organization. They include such things as punctuality, teamwork, integrity, persistence, sense of humor, optimism, friendliness, loyalty, helpfulness, courage and curiosity. This is not an all-inclusive list but I think you get the point. Candidates with superlative soft skills bring great value to any organization and the astute interviewer will be looking for those skills. It may, however, be up to you to highlight your soft skills if you are dealing with an inexperienced interviewer who is sticking closely to a set of questions that typically focus on the hard skills.
As you answer questions relating to your hard skills, be sure and amplify your answers by introducing your soft skills into your response. For example, when you are discussing your educational degree be sure to explain how you persevered over several years while holding down a fulltime job. Or when asked about a technical certification, be sure to mention how you tutored several others to help them get certified also. Share with the interviewer how you took on a task at a former job that nobody else wanted and improved the entire organization.
Soft skills are the heart and soul of your professional self and are acquired over a lifetime of experiences. Always seek out new soft skills and continuously hone the ones you already have. Soft skills are also critically important to job seekers who are just joining the workforce or who have been out of work for a period of time. Your impressive soft skills can often make up for shortcomings as you improve your hard skills.
So………..don’t hesitate to highlight your soft skills during your next interview and make yourself the candidate of choice for that great job!