You probably know that job interviews are a great way to see how well a candidate will fit into the company culture. But what you might not know is that soft skills are often the biggest differentiator between two candidates with similar experience and qualifications. We all know technical or “hard” skills are essential in any job. These are your knowledge, abilities and understandings of specific tasks or subject matter. They can usually be found on your resume under standard categories such as computer software, operating systems, databases or accounting procedures. But what about those non-technical attributes like honesty, integrity and work ethic? Do they really matter? Yes, because no matter how much experience you have or how many technological skills you have acquired, if you don’t also have certain soft skills it will be nearly impossible for you to succeed in the workplace.
What are Soft Skills? #
Soft skills are the non-technical skills that help to set you apart from your peers. They’re things that almost everyone can have to some degree, but are crucial to achieving success. When you’re applying for a job, your interviewers will be looking at your soft skills as much as your hard skills. Soft skills are commonly seen as the “people-skills” that help you perform well in any career path. These are qualities like empathy, adaptability, dependability, professionalism and more. These are the “transferable skills” that can be applied to any career or industry, no matter what your title or job description is.
Why Are Soft Skills Important? #
You can be the most qualified candidate for the job, but if you don’t also have the right soft skills, you’ll likely find yourself unemployed. If you aren’t able to communicate well with your co-workers or supervisors, for example, it could hinder the effectiveness of your entire department. If you struggle to collaborate with others, you could cause a lot of frustration and discontent. In the same way, if you aren’t reliable or dependable, your company could suffer. Your inability to be on time, or sustain a high level of productivity could significantly impact your organisation’s bottom line.
How to Develop Your Soft Skills #
A good place to start improving your soft skills is by becoming more self-aware. This means examining your own strengths and weaknesses and determining which areas need improvement. For example, let’s say you know you are a very detail-oriented person with a high attention to detail. You’re always making sure everything is correct and your work is finished to a high standard. But let’s say your team members don’t always share your attention to detail. This could put your company at risk. Your solution might be to start offering regular feedback and coaching sessions to help your co-workers improve their attention to detail as well. You could also make a point of hiring detail-oriented team members in the future, since these soft skills can be learned.
Communication Skills #
Communication is the foundation of all relationships, including your relationship with your co-workers, supervisors and clients. If these relationships aren’t strong, it can make your job a lot more difficult. If you want to improve your communication skills, start by recognising your communication style. How do you normally communicate with others? Are you more passive or aggressive? Do you prefer to give frequent updates or keep your conversations brief and to the point? Try to be more conscious of your communication style, and recognise when you are communicating in a way that negatively impacts those around you.
Networking Skills #
Networking is less about making one-off sales and more about building long-lasting relationships and partnerships. If you aren’t actively building your network, you are putting yourself at a significant disadvantage in almost every industry. If you don’t have a strong network, you likely won’t be the first person your company calls when they need a new hire. And you also likely won’t be the first person your customers recommend to their friends and family, either. So, what can you do to build your network? Start with the people already in your life — your family, friends and co-workers often know others in the industry you could potentially partner with, or can refer you to others.
Working Together in Teams #
If you are in a role that requires you to work with a team, or if you are part of a team, it is important for you to be aware of how your behaviour can positively or negatively impact your team members. Are you regularly showing appreciation for your team members? Are you making an effort to include everyone in your conversations and decision-making? Are you showing up to meetings on time and prepared? If you aren’t doing these things, it could negatively impact your team’s performance. And it could also hurt your own chances for career advancement.