While employers are still making sure job candidates “check all the boxes” in terms of crucial qualifications, they’re focusing more on the soft skills that may differentiate you from the competition. These soft skills are less tangible than proficiency with a specific tech stack or expertise with a coding language, but they’re every bit as valuable. A soft skill can be anything from adaptability to reading body language. More and more, we’re hearing from companies that they want candidates who will thrive in the fast-paced environment of a startup–that means they’re looking for exceptional communication skills, flexibility, creativity, and a knack for working with others. Showcasing those soft skills when you’re applying for and interviewing with a start-up is a great way to get on a company’s shortlist.
What should I highlight?
You’ve probably heard this advice a million times—tailor your résumé and cover letter to each job you apply for. When it comes to highlighting your soft skills, whether in those documents or during an interview, you’re going to do the same thing: Read the job description while considering the types of skills that might help someone thrive in the environment the employer is describing. It may be appropriate to focus on your team player attitude when applying for one job but highlight your experience and ability to work independently when applying for another. Be honest about what you’re bringing to the table, and do your best to showcase them as you would a more traditional skillset.
What if some of my soft skills come from outside my work experience?
The great thing about soft skills is that they don’t have to be tied to your previous jobs. Maybe you come from a big family that taught you to be highly organized, a skilled delegator, and focus in a hectic environment. Speaking to these strengths acquired outside of your professional life is a great way to give employers a peek at who you are outside of the office while remaining professional. You can also bring your education into the conversation by highlighting skills you learned in the academic world.
How can I make sure employers notice?
You can showcase your soft skills in various ways, including talking to your reference or referrer about them. If you’re hoping to get a job by word of mouth or a direct referral, remind the people who are likely to help you network what you bring to the table. When you’re asking someone to be your reference, let them know what kind of job you’re applying for and which of your soft skills you’re excited to use in that position. Ask them to mention these skills when they speak with your potential employer.
As a hiring manager, how do I assess for soft skills?
When you’re in charge of interviewing and hiring, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a full picture of each candidate. As you question a candidate about the jobs they’ve included on their résumé, ask leading questions about the soft skills they used in each role. Then, run them through some of the qualifications you’re looking for in an ideal candidate, and ask them what other types of soft skills or experiences they believe would help them flourish in the role you’re hiring for. Encourage them to share anecdotes about how they’ve developed and used those in previous roles.
Whether you’re applying for a job or hiring new employees, soft skills are a vital part of the conversation. Highlighting your soft skills as an applicant will help you stand out from other candidates as you apply for jobs that will help you reach your goals. Step away from the idea that getting a job is all about the hard skills you bring to the table, and start marketing yourself as someone who can do more than just meet the requirements on the job listing. As an employer, assessing a candidate’s soft skills will help you find the right person for the job.
Encourage your network to signup as referrers with Candidate! They have the opportunity to help highlight skills their connections have not typically featured on a resume via our unique referral process. Employers post open roles, approved referrers submit candidates for consideration, if their referral is hired they receive a reward!