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Soft skills: what are they and why do they matter?
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The key to interview success lies in effectively showcasing your personal skill set and demonstrating how it makes you perfect for the role. When doing this, it is easy to focus solely on qualifications, training and technical experience. However, interviewers are equally interested in soft skills. Read on to learn more about soft skills and why they are so valued by employers.
The difference between soft and hard skills
It is easy to sum up hard skills (sometimes referred to as technical skills) when writing a CV or responding to an interviewer. They are the things you have learned, perhaps on the job, at school or university, or through external training schemes – that allow you to meet the basic criteria of a given position. Examples include:
- Typing speed
- Fluency in a foreign language
- Certification from a professional body
It is far harder to define and demonstrate soft skills (sometimes referred to as people skills, or interpersonal skills). They speak more to your personality and the way you behave toward other people. Examples include:
- Time management
The importance of soft skills to employers
It is sometimes easy to dismiss soft skills as less important than hard skills. After all, anyone can say that they are organised and a good team player; far fewer can build a website from scratch or speak three languages.
But think of it another way. The vast majority of people applying for any given job will possess the basic hard skills to perform it effectively. If necessary, hard skills can be taught; it is simply a matter of time (and sometimes money). Candidates with the necessary soft skills to make them a perfect cultural fit are much harder to find.
Soft skills can therefore be a real game changer at the interview stage. They are highly valued by employers, because they demonstrate your ability to fit seamlessly into a different working environment and collaborate effectively with your new colleagues.
Which soft skills have been most valuable during the pandemic?
Different employers will naturally favour different soft skills and there are some soft skills that are more valuable than others. Our analytics and insights found that the top four soft skills for a candidate to possess are:
- Emotional Intelligence
Recruiting professionals believe soft skills are more important for senior positions than entry-level roles due to the need for senior positions to lead from the front. The further you progress in your career, the more important your soft skills become.
How to demonstrate your soft skills in a remote interview
The great thing about soft skills is that they are transferable. Possessing a strong set of these skills can boost your chances of employment, but it can be challenging to produce clear evidence. The recruiting managers expect you to support your claims with real-life examples, instances in which you've clearly demonstrated the skill in question. Preparation is key. Ahead of your remote interview take the time to identify three or four scenarios in which your soft skills helped you overcome challenges in your working life. Practice your delivery, and make sure you are clear on the key points you intend to make. Find a comfortable position from which to sit and consider your background setting– you will want it to look professional. Prepare your tech too – have a strong Wi-Fi signal, check the microphone levels on your laptop/computer are okay beforehand. Minimise the distractions.
When you discuss your skill set you must demonstrate your capability. For example, if communication is one of them, then be sure connect during your conversation with the recruiting manager. You only get one chance, so make sure you can present yourself in the best possible way. For more career tips, browse all of our advice here or get in touch with one of our expert consultants to discuss your career options.