Nearly every job today requires two distinct types of skill sets. The first is your ability to handle the role. Programmers, for example, must be proficient at writing code. Demonstrating your competency in those types of skills can be as simple as showing your degree or taking an exam.
However, the second skill set is equally important to landing a job. According to LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report, the top five soft skills that employers want to see all center around your ability to come up with new ideas and work with others. They are:
- Emotional intelligence
These present a much greater challenge during interviews, especially if you are early in your career. For one, you might not understand what employers mean when they value, say, creativity. Are they asking for someone who paints pretty pictures? Second, even if you do understand what they mean, how can you demonstrate your soft skills during an interview.
We’ll take a look at each of these soft skills, define them through a corporate lens, and offer tips for how to get these across in your interview.
In a professional environment, creativity reflects your ability to view situations from different angles. That’s good news for candidates who have always associated creativity with artistic ability. You don’t need to be able to draw, paint, or sculpt to be creative.
Before your interview, think of challenges that you were able to overcome by changing the way you approached the situation. It can be from an internship where you offered a better way to do something or a college paper where you took a topic and went in a completely unexpected direction.
The great thing about demonstrating creativity is it doesn’t have to be big. Your story needs to show that you were expected to do things one way, and you found a different approach that led to a different, or possibly innovative, result.
Your interviewer isn’t interested in whether or not you can convince your neighbor to vote like you; they want to know if you can convince others in the workplace to believe in your vision. Stories of how you persuaded others to follow your lead might help, but your conduct throughout the interview will be a far better indicator of your persuasive ability.
Study up on the company and role you want. The more you know, the more persuasive you can be as you talk about how your skills align with the needs of the role.
Body language is important, too. A confident smile and strong handshake will further the impression that you know what you’re doing.
Your responses to questions will show off your persuasive ability as well. Avoid phrases like “I think,” “I feel like,” or “I’m pretty sure,” and don’t end your response in a way that it sounds like a question.
Finally, persuasive people understand the need to connect and get buy in from those around them. They ask appropriate questions and show that they genuinely care about the responses.
Most jobs you apply for require collaboration between team members. The nature of collaboration changes within different organizations. Some teams require timely handoffs to ensure projects are completed on time, while other team members work closely together to develop materials.
During the interview, try giving answers that demonstrate teamwork. Provide some context to the response you are about to give, including the number of people involved, your specific role, and the ultimate goal. Then, share some of the actions that you took in working with others, as well as the results.
Again, your goal here is to demonstrate your skill, so if you don’t have a collaboration story that took place in a work setting, you can talk about other areas of your life, including athletic events where you contributed as part of a team.
Paradoxically, the only constant in most workplaces is change. Personnel, budgets, and goals frequently change, which is one of the reasons your ability to adapt to changing circumstances is so important to your interviewer.
As with all the soft skills, the interviewer needs to see your entire skill set, even if you haven’t dealt with this in an office setting, although answers that show workplace adaptability are best.
Describe a situation where you were confronted with a major, unexpected change. Explain how this change impacted your role, and if any new expectations that were placed on you. Finish off by describing the action you took and the results that came from your action. For example, if COVID-19 forced you to adapt to different circumstances, you could describe what you had been doing, what changed, and how you responded to your new situation.
It might seem odd that employers would value your ability to perceive and respond to emotional needs of self and others, yet that is one of the most sought-after soft skills in 2020.
If you have a high degree of emotional intelligence, your empathy enables you to collaborate with others and persuade people of your ideas. The self-awareness and self-confidence engendered by emotional intelligence allows you to think creatively and adapt to changing environments.
Like persuasion, your interviewer should perceive your emotional intelligence based on your conduct during the interview. Start by actively listening and give thoughtful responses to questions. Smile, and show enthusiasm when responding with an exciting story. Don’t be afraid to talk about self-improvement, handling conflict, or sharing credit with others for achievements. These are all signs of emotional intelligence.
Landing that Job
The world of work continues to evolve, which has changed the soft skills employers are looking for. As you prepare for any interview, think about the events in your life when you have demonstrated soft skills that employers are looking for. That way, when you walk into the interview, you’ll be prepared to put your best foot forward.