Soft Skills

Soft Skills for a Job-Seeking Student

Soft skills can be characterized as a combination of traits such as personal habits, interpersonal skills, social graces, communication, language, leadership abilities, etc. that distinguish how you interact with other people.

When it comes to looking for a job, soft skills can be overlooked as something that doesn’t need much focus and that is where you would be wrong!  When you are spending 8 hours a day or more with your fellow co-workers soft skills are the areas that smooth the path for the actual work to be done.

What are some of the top soft skills employers are looking for?

  1. Networking Skills: What better way than to enhance your interpersonal skills? You learn to make appropriate small talk, improve your listening skills, work on your information recall, etc., all while adding to your skill set.
  2. Social Graces
    • Punctuality – from the interview to the first day on the job and beyond. If you are going to be held up due to unforeseen circumstances ensure you notify your employer or client BEFORE the set time (you did get their name and number when they called, right?)
    • Ability to leave technology behind when required – turn off your phone when in any meeting or let the organizer know that you may need to leave the room to take a call that you are expecting and then be sure to do that when the call comes in.
    • Fashion Sense – Dress appropriately for the job, ensuring clothing is clean and current with the market.
    • Personal Grooming – Aspects like: non-sweaty hands or obvious body areas, tidy hair, clean teeth and fresh breath.
    • Confidence – When meeting someone, provide a confident opening greeting and if not able to make direct eye contact then at least face the person in the direction they are in. It is important that when you are given the ability to ask a question in a meeting, be sure to ask one.
    • Honesty – Be yourself and be honest. Remember that everything these days can be easily verified (e.g., social media profiles, transcripts).
    • Be personable Employers are looking for individuals who can not only do the job, but also fit in with other employees. So, when asked a question, don’t over share, but also don’t respond with short answers – personalize your responses and let others know who you are.
  3. Research Skills: Whether researching a company that you are interested in applying to or using that information to your advantage during an interview research skills are valuable as most organizations engage in project work that requires these same skills.
  4. Ability to Admit You Don’t Know the Answer: No one is able to know everything and it is always better to admit it than to try to muddle through. A simple statement of: “I really don’t know the answer to that question, but this would be my best guess …or… these would be the steps I would take to find out the answer”, would serve you better.
  5. Capability to Not Under-Sell Yourself:  Whether you have a little or a lot of work experience, volunteer experience or a combination of both, there are probably many kinds of skills you already have.
    • Aspects of teamwork and leadership
    • Clear communicator (written, verbal or both)
    • Being self-motivated
    • Taking responsibility for your actions
    • Ability to collaborate
    • Decision making skills
    • Ability to deal with conflicting personalities
    • Administrative and/or financial skills
    • IT skills
    • Having a positive or optimistic attitude,
    • Being able to show empathy,
    • Having good manners (please and thank you, pardon me, knowing when to not interrupt others),
    • Being inclusive
    • Correct tone of voice (business-like and professional, – you don’t know what disabilities others have, may be hard of hearing);
    • Public speaking skills

Soft skills are increasingly sought by employers as an additional way to sort through candidates.  When an organization hires employees with the correct skill set, both hard and soft, they are setting themselves up for success.  Consider this scenario given the current state of the economy:

ABC Company is restructuring. Some staff have to be laid off.  Who would you choose to let go?

  1. The friendly employee with great presentation skills, an excellent work ethic, and is well-liked or;
  2. The technically perfect employee who doesn’t like to admit he makes mistakes, who treats those who work for him rudely, and is inflexible.

While it may seem that technical skills were the only reason someone was hired, it is generally a combination of hard and soft skills that opened that door and will continue to open more doors in the future. All of us have the ability to improve our soft skills…make yours shine and be that individual that everyone wants to hire and keep!

Articles on Soft Skills:

Communication Skills

Interview Tips