Did I tell you about my soft skills?

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! 

photo: pixabay.com

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So, what did you do to prepare for this interview?

Business writer and commentator, Suzy Welch, has a go-to question she always asks candidates; “What did you do to prepare for this interview?“.  While this question may seem a little unusual and not the typical question relating to candidate qualifications, it really zeros in on the candidate’s motivation and degree of dedication; not only for succeeding in the interview, but more importantly, for success in the job itself.

Anyone can show up at a designated time and place for a job interview.  What employers are looking for is a candidate that is willing to go the extra distance and put in the extra effort to get the job.  In a previous post, I addressed being prepared for the interview by doing “intel”, but that’s only half the solution.  Not only must you do your research before the interview, but you must be ready to tell the interviewer what you did and how you did it if you want to make the ultimate positive impression!

If I were interviewing a candidate and they could repeat back to me the qualifications for the position, I wouldn’t be too impressed.  If, on the other hand, they could articulate how their skill set would fit into the company’s upcoming new strategic direction and product line that they’d read about in an obscure trade journal – I’d definitely give them an up-check!

Employers are looking for candidates that are:

  • intellectually curious
  • willing to roll up their sleeves and do research
  • committed to seeking out a deep understanding of the job and the organization
  • able to recount their efforts during the interview, indicating their commitment to the job

So……..be ready to tell the interviewer how you got ready for the interview and you will move to the top of the hiring list!

 

photo: pixabay.com

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What time would you like?

It’s not often that we get to have an input into the parameters surrounding our job interview.  Usually, we are told when and where to show up.  On occasion, however, we may be given the option of when we would like to be interviewed.  This presents the candidate with an opportunity to put themselves in a favorable position but it requires some analysis.

Let’s look at the options.  First, let’s look at a typical day of the week from the interviewer’s perspective.  

  • Mondays are usually spent preparing for the upcoming week and possibly, finishing up tasks left over from the previous week.  Given the choice, I would steer clear of Mondays.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a better choice since the challenges of Monday have passed and the interviewer can focus more directly on the interview.  Also, if adjunct personnel will be participating in the interview, it’s more likely they will be available Tuesday and Wednesday!
  • Thursdays and Fridays are a tossup and can either work in the candidate’s favor or be very detrimental.  After “hump day” both the candidate and the interviewer may be a little burned out and looking toward the weekend.  
  • While Friday can put the interviewer in a “happy” mood since the week is drawing to a close, which could influence the overall good will in the interview, it could also irritate the interviewer who had hoped to leave early on Friday but has to do an interview instead!  If you are offered a Friday interview slot, never pick one after lunch.

What time of day is best?  Here again, there is no perfect answer, but think of your own experience.  Are you more “with it” in the morning, after lunch or at the end of the day?  All things being equal, I would shoot for a mid-morning slot when both you and the interviewer have had a cup of coffee, recovered from the commute, but are still fresh and alert.  

Try to avoid the time slot right after lunch for several reasons (post-meal drowsiness, spills during lunch, salad caught in your teeth, indigestion, etc).

Late in the day is much like late in the week – try to avoid it if possible.

So………………….. based on my analysis, I would go for an interview slot at 10:00 AM on a Tuesday or Wednesday!

What has your experience shown you?

   

photo: pixabay

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Sweaty Palms

Haven’t we all gotten sweaty palms from time to time when we are under stress? Nervousness and sweaty palms go hand-in-hand (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

Over the years, my go to book on interview prep has been Sweaty Palms the Neglected Art of Being Interviewed,  by H. Anthony Medley. This great book, first published in 1978, was very helpful when I retired from the Navy back in the ’90s. I read this book cover-to-cover and employed many of the author’s recommendations in my initial interviewing journey.

Since that time, I have referred to my well worn copy many times, and even loaned it to family and friends over the years. It’s one of the books in my library that I will probably never get rid of, simply because it is so useful. Now that I am blogging I will also refer to this book, from time to time, to share its insightful tips and advice with others.

Mr. Medley’s book has been revised and updated over the years and is still available! If you only want to get one book on interviewing, get this one!

Sweaty Palms is currently available from Amazon – here’s the link

photo: amazon.com

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Conducting Interview Intel

So, you got the interview…congratulations! Now the real work begins.

It’s time to dig in and conduct some intelligence operations.  By the time you are done, you will have put yourself in the best position possible to ace the interview and get the job you have been working so hard to land.

It’s no surprise that military organizations, governments, law enforcement agencies and corporations all conduct intelligence operations.  They all seek to know as much as they can about their competition and to stack the deck in their favor; whether it’s in a military conflict, criminal investigation or business development, knowing everything possible about the key actors you will operate against (or with) is vital to success.

The interview is just such a situation, where you want to discover everything there is to know about the organization you are seeking to join, as well as about the person, or people who will be interviewing you.  Does this sound a bit shady or devious?  Don’t worry, it’s all above board if you use publicly available information and don’t engage in stalking or other nefarious activities!  Besides, the organization you will be interviewing with has already done their intelligence operations on you!

Where do you start?  The key things you will want to know going into the interview are significant facts and figures relating to the organization such as:

  • company mission/values/history
  • products or services they make/sell
  • who are their customers
  • who are their competitors
  • sales figures/stock valuation and trends
  • recent news stories
  • upcoming acquisitions/mergers/plans for expansion or consolidation
  • who’s who in the company
  • what are the company’s “pain points”

Once you have researched and answered all these issues you are ready to move on to the next area of your intelligence operations…….the interviewer.  As you already know, if you’ve been reading this blog, much of the interview involves personality, chemistry, and whether or not you are a “fit” for the position and the organization.  Presenting yourself as a person who is engaged, knowledgeable, and connected will give you a head start in the interview and show the interviewer that you are someone they want on their team.

The interviewer has a huge advantage over you in that they already know quite a bit about you from your resume; but it doesn’t stop there.  You must assume that the interviewer has done a search for you on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and other social media sites.

Hint – if you haven’t already cleaned up your social media, do it now.  We’ll talk more about this in a future post. 

The first step is to find out who will be interviewing you.  This is not always possible as the information may be guarded by the company or may not be known ahead of the interview.  Often, however, the person that arranged your interview will know who will conduct the interview and will be willing to give you their name(s).  Once you have this information it’s time to find out as much as you can about the individual to help level the playing field and leverage your position.

Things you will want to know are:

  • how old is the person?
  • where are they from (region/state)?
  • where did they go to school?
  • what hobbies or interests do they have?
  • where have they worked before?
  • how long they have been at the company?
  • do you have any mutual friends?
  • what organizations are they a member of?
  • have they been in the news?
  • have they recently achieved something (degree/certification/promotion)?
  • have they recently suffered a loss?

Once you have answers to the above questions you will be in a very favorable position to engage the interviewer on a personal basis and connect in ways which will leave other candidates in the dust!

What sources do I like to use for conducting intel?  

 

For company background:

 

For interviewer background:

  • various social media sites (check them all), especially LinkedIn and Facebook (do you have any mutual friends?)
  • once you have some info on the person’s favorite hobbies  /activities/charities/schools/organizations, do a search on these linked to the person’s name
  • search linking both the company and the person
  • contact anyone you already know at the organization, or who once worked there, and enlist them as a “secret agent”
  • visit local establishments near the company and meet people that may be willing to discuss the company with you (restaurants/bars/shops); try hanging out at lunchtime or after work to meet employees who will be willing to talk 
  • ask the person setting up your interview for some “background” on the person who will be interviewing you (you’d be surprised what people are willing to share – just keep it confidential)

Bottom line………………you don’t have to be a huge three-letter government agency to conduct some very good intelligence operations and dramatically increase your odds of acing your next interview; so get out there and start digging!

 

photo: pixabay

 

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