Winning ways to display soft skills

Virginia Williams,

Soft skills, interpersonal skills, personal brand. The names given to this skill set can sometimes betray their importance.

The term ‘soft’ should by no means be interpreted as ‘optional’.

Decades of recruitment experience in the technical field has confirmed employers often prioritise soft skills over technical ability. So, what exactly are soft skills and how can you put yours on display?

 

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Soft skills vs hard skills

Soft skills are the non-technical abilities you bring to the workplace. They are often viewed as character traits that you possess rather than skills you have been explicitly taught.

They encompass the way you interact with other team members and the way you handle your workload. Some of the most commonly cited soft skills are:

  • Active listening
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Organisational skills.

Hard skills are teachable abilities that can be easily demonstrated and quantified. They are often taught in formal educational settings and may form part of a qualification.

Hard skills are the technical skills required to perform a task such as programming, database management and engineering.

In the soft skills pecking order, active listening is king. It is a rare skill sought out by employers in the gig economy as teams move to a non-hierarchical structure. As the traditional no-questions-asked style of management fades away all team members are expected to listen to each other in a genuine way.

Demonstrating active listening involves listening intently while someone else speaks and offering verbal and non-verbal signs of engagement such as paraphrasing and asking for clarification. This style of listening should be employed when interacting with everyone in a team, regardless of their leadership status or length of tenure in order to bring forth innovation and new ideas.

Writing about your soft skills

When applying for a new technical role, it can be assumed that other candidates will have a similar set of hard skills and perhaps even a similar number of years of experience.

It will be soft skills that differentiate the candidates and potentially be the deciding factor in which applicant is successful. That's why you should that every opportunity to showcase your soft skills and to give you a leading edge.

An application or cover letter and resume provide the first chance to showcase your personal brand. It’s important to be specific and use examples of scenarios in which your soft skill set led to a successful outcome.

Numbers are a great way to highlight tangible outcomes. For example;

I leveraged my personal relationship with the client to negotiate a 12-month extension to our contract which resulted in the hiring of two new employees to help with the new work.”

Demonstrating soft skills in an interview

Face-to-face interviews are where soft skills can really shine. From the moment you arrive at the interview your soft skills are on display.

The opportunity must be seized to display your communication skills and highlight the personal attributes you will bring to a new role. Before the interview, prepare some stories of times you have displayed problem-solving skills or handled a setback well. Even if you haven’t been specifically asked, find a way of weaving these stories into the answer of another question.

It can be helpful to rehearse answers in front of the mirror or even employ a trusted friend to role-play the interviewer for you.

Most job advertisements will list some soft skills that are particularly pertinent to the role. Prepare ahead of time how you will demonstrate these skills and be as specific as possible.

If organisational skills are required, name the software or processes you use to keep on top of your workload. Specific answers will be more memorable and give you a better chance of landing the new role.

Soft skills throughout your career

Job seeking is not the only time soft skills are a priority. It’s important to regularly reflect on how you present to your colleagues and invest time in working on your personal brand.

The first step is to identify your values and passions and prioritise them in your career decision-making. If you value integrity, this will impact how you conduct yourself in the workplace. Take some time to consider the way your actions are perceived by team members. If you value ambition, are you pursuing new opportunities and seeking out leadership roles?

Once you have identified your values and passions take time to consider your unique selling points.

Are you a confident public speaker?

Do you have an eye for design detail?

In the day-to-day busyness of operations, it can be easy to overlook the unique contribution you can make to a team. Taking the time to reflect on this and take action can create an opportunity for you to inject new life and momentum into your role.

 

The most successful team members understand that soft skills are never truly perfected. There is always room for improvement in the way that you present and interact in the workplace. It can be helpful to regularly ask a trusted colleague for feedback on how your communication is received.

Another helpful way to focus on soft skills is to engage a career coach. Embedded Expertise offer career coaching through their unique wellness program which is designed to hone soft skills and bring continual improvement to workplace interactions.

For details on how to access the Embedded Expertise wellness program book a phone chat today.