Many yeas ago I was asked to advise a young woman on her interview presentation for a job with Coca-Cola as a regional sales representative. My advice to her was simple, “be distinguishable”. The following week I saw her for our follow-up session and she was excited to show me what she had come up with. We role-played the interview a bit standing at the counter at the gym where she currently worked. She was so positive and excited, I felt certain she had thought through this process and had a plan (but would it be good?). She started the interview by quite conspicuously placing an ornately designed tin box on the counter between us. She did very well at answered the standard questions like “why do you want to work here at Coke and what makes you think you will be the best candidate for this job” because she was prepared. But toward the end, when I was running out of questions, I happen to ask her “what’s in the box”? Her smile got bigger and she said “I was hoping you would ask me that”, opened the box, and took out a set of eight hand made cards. Each card had an adjective on it, one that was important in describing her qualities. The first card she dealt to me said “Conscientious”, and she talked about how she took care of small details, always cared and followed through on tasks. The second said “Independent”, and she elaborated on how she was able to work without supervision. On and on the cards were laid before me and by her fourth card I threw up my hands and said “you are DEFINITELY getting this job”. No one else is going to show that they care as much and are as prepared for this interview than you are. She got the job on the spot! She really wanted THIS job, and it showed. She had soft skills, and she knew how to use them. Do you?
Each company looks for a different mix of skills and experience depending on the business it’s in. Yet it’s no longer enough to be a functional expert. To complement these unique core competencies, there are certain “soft skills” every company looks for in a potential hire.
“Soft skills” refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with. Companies value soft skills because research suggests and experience shows that they can be just as important an indicator of job performance as hard skills.
Today’s service economy and the ascendance of work teams in large organizations puts a new premium on people skills and relationship-building,” Portland-based human resources expert Lori Kocon says. “And with business being done at an increasingly fast pace, employers also want people who are agile, adaptable and creative at solving problems.”
Kocon advises all job candidates — especially those who aspire to managerial positions — to get in touch with their soft sides. Some of the most common soft skills employers are looking for and will be assessing you on include:
1. Strong Work Ethic
Are you motivated and dedicated to getting the job done, no matter what? Will you be conscientious and do your best work?
2. Positive Attitude
Are you optimistic and upbeat? Will you generate good energy and good will?
3. Good Communication Skills
Are you both verbally articulate and a good listener? Can you make your case and express your needs in a way that builds bridges with colleagues, customers and vendors?
4. Time Management Abilities
Do you know how to prioritize tasks and work on a number of different projects at once? Will you use your time on the job wisely?
5. Problem-Solving Skills
Are you resourceful and able to creatively solve problems that will inevitably arise? Will you take ownership of problems or leave them for someone else?
6. Acting as a Team Player
Will you work well in groups and teams? Will you be cooperative and take a leadership role when appropriate?
Do you truly believe you can do the job? Will you project a sense of calm and inspire confidence in others? Will you have the courage to ask questions that need to be asked and to freely contribute your ideas?
8. Ability to Accept and Learn From Criticism
Will you be able to handle criticism? Are you coachable and open to learning and growing as a person and as a professional?
Are you able to adapt to new situations and challenges? Will you embrace change and be open to new ideas?
10. Working Well Under Pressure
Can you handle the stress that accompanies deadlines and crises? Will you be able to do your best work and come through in a pinch?