Soft Skills: What are they (and why do employers like them?)

You’ve probably heard that the job market is very competitive right now. You’ve worked incredibly hard to overcome all obstacles and get the best grades possible to give yourselves every chance of success- but how do you get that foot in the door? 

Luckily, there is a way of helping you stand out from the crowd- and it’s got nothing to do with academics: it’s called soft skills

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are a combination of skills that allow you to thrive in the working environment, helping you to do things like work well as part of a team, understand how people are feeling as well as communicate and engage with people in a way which helps productivity and performance. These are usually described as things like ‘people skills’ or ‘social skills’- but what’s tricky about soft skills is that they’re unquantifiable professional attributes (unlike ‘hard skills’ which are learned abilities acquired through repetition and education, like languages, education certificates etc.). This means you don’t always see them on job specs, but that doesn’t mean employers don’t want or need them!

In this blog, we’re going to walk you through three key soft skills, explaining what they are, how they make you more employable, and what you can do to develop them.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand how yourself and others are feeling, and adapt your behaviour accordingly. Those with strong emotional intelligence skills are often able to ‘read between the lines’ of a situation and resolve any issues in a positive way. This is invaluable for employers, because the workplace can often play host to stressful situations or moments of tension between different people- and it’s not always clear what the problems really are. For instance, someone could be very irritable and short in a meeting about a new project, and it may not be clear why or what the problem is. However, it may be that they’ve got more on their plate than they can handle, and they’re worried this project will add more to their workload. By working to understand the individual circumstances of your colleague in a sensitive manner, you may be able to offer support and ease their stress and office tensions. Being able to demonstrate emotional intelligence helps an employer see how you’re going to be able to contribute positively to the atmosphere in the office. 

How can I demonstrate emotional intelligence at an interview?

You’re likely to be asked some questions at an interview which will allow you to show your emotional intelligence, for instance, questions about how you handle difficult customers, or conflict within a team. The employer wants to see that you’re adept at problem-solving, and good at adapting in difficult situations. Remember, it’s also okay to say that you’re not afraid to ask for help or support from supervisors or team members when facing a challenging situation. That shows you’re less likely to make a mistake in an attempt to do everything yourself, as well as demonstrating self-awareness. 

COMMUNICATION SKILLS

Strong communication skills are about more than writing emails without any typos. It’s about being able to convey ideas, instructions or requests in a way that motivates others, and gets them on board with what you need. This is crucial in any workplace, in almost any role. For instance, if your role involves writing briefs for external agencies or different departments in the same business, you need to be able to communicate creative concepts for someone else to do their job. If this isn’t communicated properly, their interpretation of what you or your team needs could be wrong, causing a lot of extra work and hassle. Being a strong communicator is a crucial asset all employers look for. 

How can I demonstrate communication skills at interview?

Demonstrating communications skills will start before you even step through the door to an interview. Your CV, cover letter, and the conversation when being invited to interview are all times your prospective employer will be assessing your communication skills. Are you confident and eloquent, without being arrogant? Are you articulate, and bringing warmth to the conversation? Practicing interviews with friends and family is the single best thing you can do to ensure you’re communicating effectively and bringing as much of your personality into the interview as possible. 

PEOPLE SKILLS

‘People skills’ is a sweeping term that covers your general ability to work and connect with people in a positive way. Things like demonstrating confidence when meeting new people, being able to talk to anyone you meet and really engage with them, as well as being someone that people like having around are all qualities of those with good people skills. Often when you meet someone with good people skills it comes across as second nature- but these are skills you can learn. Challenge yourself to put yourself out there in networking situations; start everything with a smile and a firm handshake- these two simple things work wonders! And when you’re talking to someone new, get them talking about themselves by asking them open-ended questions you seem genuinely interested in. People love to talk about themselves! It’s a sure-fire way of making sure the conversation doesn’t run dry, and by showing sincere interest in that person, they’re likely to remember you positively. 

How can I demonstrate people skills at interview?

Your interaction with the interviewer will be the ultimate test of your people skills! The person interviewing you will know you’re probably nervous, so being able to show that even in uncomfortable situations you’re able to be cool, calm, collected and personable will do wonders for your chances at getting the job. If you know who will be interviewing you in advance, do some research on them beforehand. LinkedIn is a great source for this; identify any areas of common ground between their experience and yours and use that as a means of trying to connect with them. When preparing questions to ask your interviewer (you should always do this!) include a couple about their personal experience at the company, or in the industry. Not only does it show that you’ve done your research, but it’ll help them see you as someone who’s interested in more than just the job- but the people, too. 

If you’re looking for the support and tools you need to land that first job, YourGamePlan is here to help. We provide free access to online courses and industry-proven tools to help you stand out from the competitive crowd. Explore courses, gain certificates and open up career opportunities with industry-proven tools and insights directly from leading UK organisations. 

Click here to register for free, and get started today!

Categories: life