On paper, you look perfect for the job. You have all of the experience and qualifications the job requires. But do you have the soft skills necessary to succeed?
Soft skills are those qualities and attributes, such as communication and teamwork, which help employees work well with others and enhance productivity. And they matter to employers.
According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 63 percent of US employers said one of the top questions they’re trying to answer when looking for candidates is “what are their soft skills?” What’s more, Google recently conducted a study which found that “among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills.”
So, what are some of the softer skills employers think are important for their current and future workers to have? Here, career experts share a list of six soft skills companies are seeking in a successful employee:
1. A thirst for knowledge. Adrian Ridner, CEO and co-founder of online learning platform Study.com, says that employers place a high value on candidates who have an ability to learn. “Workplace needs are constantly changing, so we need employees who will be willing to learn and adapt along the way to meet those changes. During the hiring process, it’s important to assess if candidates have learning agility and the hunger to develop professionally.”
2. Team mentality. “Many jobs are teamwork driven and rely on each team member to get the project completed,” says Carrie-Anne McGrath, partner and manager at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman. “It’s not enough to robotically say ‘I’m a team player.’ Focus the discussion on your work with teams and the important role you played. Give specific examples of a team-focused project – share some interesting details of the work and describe how it was completed successfully.”
3. Flexibility and commitment. McGrath also says that being flexible and showing your commitment are often hard to convey during an interview, but it’s still important to prove you possess these qualities. “Describe your flexibility by talking about a project that was changed just before a due date and how you adapted to meet the new requirements. Discuss an assignment that required a great deal of time and lasted longer than anticipated and how you stuck with it until its successful completion. When things move quickly and deadlines and scope change frequently, hiring managers want to know their new employee is flexible and able to adapt easily.”
4. Project management. No matter what type of role you’re seeking, hiring managers will be looking for a candidate who is organized, can stay on task and can work under pressure. “Team members should hit deadlines and let others know where there are on project timelines,” says Jason Patel, former career ambassador at George Washington University and the founder of Transizion, a college and career prep company. “You need to be able to update others and give alerts when trouble arises.”
5. Self-awareness. “People perceive us by how we carry ourselves,” says Christopher K. Lee, founder and career consultant at PurposeRedeemed.com. “Being aware of how your words and actions come across, whether intended or not, is a foundation for successful leadership.”
6. Communication skills. Ada Chen Rekhi, founder and COO of Notejoy, says that when she’s hiring, she looks for communication skills, because she wants to create a team that can collaborate together effectively. “They need to be able to explain the motivation for their decisions, and persuade others in the team to come along with their viewpoint,” she says. “There’s a huge difference in execution when the entire team is bought in and believes in doing what you’ve asked them to do, rather than being tasked with work where they don’t understand or agree with the significance. The result of a highly communicative team is that information is shared more quickly and the entire team can act with more conviction and speed.”
Here’s how to answer the dreaded “What’s your weakness” question in the interview.