When employers complain about having trouble filling open positions because of a lack of necessary skills, are they always talking about an inadequate number of math, science, technology, engineering or math experts? Not necessarily. “Soft” skills—a professional attitude, the ability to be punctual, answering the phone politely—can be an equally important factor in deciding if a job seeker is right for the position.
From the moment you apply for a job, you’re being judged on more than just what your résumé says. Imagine you send in a cover letter with your résumé but accidentally misspell a few words. This may not be a big deal to some employers, but you’ve already demonstrated that you don’t pay attention to details and may lack professionalism.
Having great soft skills makes you an extremely desirable job candidate and gives you an edge over other job-seekers. When you focus on your attitude, presentation and demonstrating that you’re prepared to take on a professional role, hiring managers will see you as a welcome addition to their team.
Personality can play a lot into how others perceive you. Even if you’ve got the experience necessary for the job, being spacey, standoffish or rude can put a damper on your hirability, and the job market is too competitive right now to allow for any mistakes. Practice making a good impression by focusing on a positive and friendly attitude with others, be it family, friends, the person serving you coffee or anybody else you interact with. Impress your potential employer with your great attitude and interpersonal skills by:
- Being polite and friendly
- Showing enthusiasm and motivation for your career
- Sharing why you’re prepared for this job with specific details
- Acting professionally
- Demonstrating a good work ethic
- Paying attention and actively listening
- Having self-confidence
Throughout the application process there are plenty of opportunities for hiring managers to see what you’d really be like as an employee, even before you’re asked to come in for an interview. Present yourself as a well-prepared candidate by staying organized and paying attention to details, including:
- An organized résumé and other application materials. Is your résumé customized to the job you’re applying for? Did you follow the application instructions and include all requested materials and provide answers for any questions asked? Although applying for jobs can sometimes feel like a mind-numbing experience, you have to pay attention to the details of each application or you’re potentially throwing away that opportunity.
- Being appropriately dressed at the interview and on the job. Hiring managers rarely judge job seekers on their sense of fashion when coming in for an interview—but they do notice how you dress because it’s an indicator of your sense of judgment. Dressing simply and professionally when coming in for an interview shows the hiring manager you understand what a work environment is.
- Speaking clearly and answering questions completely. Not only does this show that you can follow a conversation and provide your own opinion, but articulating yourself well demonstrates good communication skills—something every worker in every industry needs.
- Being punctual. Showing up late to an interview or responding slowly to an email conversation you’re having with a hiring manager is unprofessional and makes it seem like you don’t care. Make the effort to arrive early for your interview and promptly answer emails, which expresses your interest in this relationship.
The HBO hit show “Girls” is a treasure chest of quotes on the struggles of every-day life. When the show’s main character, Hannah, is interviewing for a job, she begins to explain why she’s the right candidate for the job, continuing with, “I’m also responsible, decisive, and also all of the other qualities that you’re allowed to weirdly name in a job interview.” Although she’s right that it feels like the most boring form of bragging, it’s essential that you convey to the hiring manager that you are in fact ready for this position by possessing the job-ready basics:
- Time management abilities
- Problem-solving skills
- Good communication skills, including phone and email etiquette
- Acting as a team player
- Strong work ethic
- Ability to accept and learn from criticism
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Working well under pressure
- Spelling and grammar
Remember that hiring managers like to meet well-rounded job-seekers who have the experience to do the job and the personality that will fit into their team. Know the company’s work culture, research the role and company for your cover letter and interview, and demonstrate your soft skills to highlight that you have everything the hiring manager is looking for.