Almost every job seeker has made the mistake of ignoring soft skills once, just to realise its importance later on in career. Soft skills can make or break your dream opportunity
Soft skills are instrumental to an individual’s success. They are more challenging to learn than hard and quantifiable skills like coding, accounting, or Python.
It’s easy to undermine soft skills and think of them as just another keyword to slap on your CV. You should not make that mistake. Interviewers do test your soft skills without you knowing it, specially the ones written in your resume.
Soft skills can be the differentiating factor in a job interview. They can help you land your dream job. So what are soft skills, and how do you identify and develop your soft skills? In this article, we will walk you through it all.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are non-technical abilities like interpersonal skills, conflict management, listening skills, leadership, to name a few. These skills are related to a person’s personality, how he/she works with other people and deals with difficult situations. They are tough to assess and subjective. Hard skills are developed through education and training, while soft skills are developed through experience.
Importance of Soft Skills
Job candidates need to establish a rapport with the interviewer. For that, you will need good soft skills. You need to complement your technical qualifications with soft skills. If you don’t have the requisite soft skills, interviewers are compelled to think that you will not communicate and collaborate properly with teammates (which is a huge negative).
On the other hand, even if you fall a little short of the qualifications but know how to work with people, you might land the job. This is because companies want to build teams where people can work with each other efficiently. They want to have a culture where employees communicate openly and directly. For example, Computer science is an area that requires substantial hard skills. Even in this area of work, companies want people who can collaborate so that teams can innovate and meet deadlines collectively.
• A recent report from the International Association of Administrative Professionals found that 67% of hiring managers said they would hire a person with good soft skills even if his qualifications were lacking.
• On the flip side, the report noted that only 9% of HR managers were willing to hire someone who had all the qualifications but lacked soft skills.
• Interviewers tend to focus more on soft skills than technical ones. According to a study by LeadershipIQ, 89% of people get rejected on interviews because of soft skills.
• In the LinkedIn Global Trends Report, it was found that 92% of hiring managers said that essential soft skills are crucial in interviewees. Soft skills are vital to have.
• Google conducted studies to understand required skills for its top performing employees and found that top 7 skills were all soft skills, whereas technical skills came in last. Also, the study showed that the best performing teams at Google were the ones which had people with good soft skills instead of the ones with very highly technical people.
Such stats showcase the real importance of soft skills in the industry today. Now, you know, why all companies prioritize and actively look for candidates with great soft skills.
You now know for sure that soft skills are a deciding factor while interviewing for a job. They can be the difference between those who get the job and those who don’t.
How do the Interviewers Test Your Soft Skills?
There is a wide range of soft skills. Companies look for different skill sets depending on the job profile and responsibilities. For example, an assistant should pay attention to detail but do not need strong leadership skills.
Often, different job profiles require the same skill sets but for entirely different reasons. For example, both accountants and salespersons need to have strong interpersonal skills. Accountants need these skills to collaborate, present data and execute plans. At the same time, salespersons need them to persuade people and increase sales.
There are some soft skills that most companies look for regardless of the job role and responsibilities. Here are some of the top soft skills that employers look for:
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Emotional Intelligence
- Interpersonal skills
- Patience and Teamwork
- Curiosity and Learning Desire
- Positive Attitude
The soft skills needed differ from company to company as well. For example, some characteristics to gain success at Google are: communicating well, having insights on others, empathy, critical thinking, and the ability to make connections. On the other hand, Apple looks for three characteristics when interviewing people. It wants people to be confident, know how to talk to people, and be nice.
Interviewers ask a wide range of questions to test your soft skills. They post questions that are primarily about the candidate’s experiences. Here are some examples of questions asked in a behavioural interview:
- Tell us about a time when it was crucial to impress a client. What did you do?
- How have you dealt with demanding customers in the past?
You can answer questions in the behavioural interview with the STAR approach:
- Describe the situation with the relevant details.
- Identify the tasks you had to perform to deal with the situations.
- Describe the actions you took.
- Tell them about the results of your actions.
Interviewers also ask situational questions in the behavioural interview. These are hypothetical but realistic situations that happen in one’s work life.
- What would you do if you conflict with a co-worker?
- How would you deal with failure?
Situational questions are crucial in a behavioural interview because interviewers look to startle you by asking difficult questions. They want to see how you deal with difficult situations as work life is tough, and an individual comes across demanding situations ever so often. You can prepare for these questions by signing up for Mock interview programs offered by various companies such as Preplaced.
How to Identify Your Soft Skills - Strengths and Weaknesses
Having good soft skills is one thing but knowing them and being able to showcase them in an interview is something only few people do well. You should know your soft skills and be able to provide examples of them in your interview.
To excel at showcasing your soft skills, you must first start at identifying them. Inspite of having amazing skills, most candidates are not sure what are they good at. Not a good sign for a skilled candidate!
Besides this, it is equally important to understand your weaknesses. This will help you to protect your guard in awkward situations and handle them well.
Identifying your soft skills is not as easy as it seems. Unlike other skills where a simple test can show you clear results, soft skills are subjective & relative. Hence, the ways to identify them are not straightforward.
Let's see some of the useful ways that you can use to identify your soft skills:
1. Self Awareness
Be self-aware. Notice how you behave and perform in crunch situations. Think back on some challenging periods and ask yourself: what could have I done better?
Before applying for a job, you might have interned at different places before. How did you collaborate with your teammates before? How did you manage your team when the workload was massive? Did you show problem-solving abilities? By answering questions like these, you will be able to identify your soft skills.
You can also try to understand each of the soft skill previously mentioned in the examples and rate yourself on a scale of 10. Maintaining such scale of what you think of your skills, greatly helps in indentifying your strengths and weaknesses. It will even help you to track your progress by understanding how your rating has grown over time.
Even if you have been up to the mark in various situations, there’s always areas where you can do better. Self-awareness is key. It is one of the most essential tools you have to identify soft skills. Utilize it effectively.
2. Ask Your Colleagues and Managers
The people you worked with can quickly help you identify your soft skills. A person’s ability is truly tested in stressful situations. Colleagues and managers will have worked with you on tough projects and with tough clients. Ask them how you performed during those phases. They will help you in identifying weak areas you can work on. For people that are applying for a job for the first time, they can ask the associates and managers they worked with during their internships.
3. Ask your Friends
A person usually behaves a lot differently in the workplace. Therefore, you can take help of your friends to know how you are around them. To identify your soft skills, ask your friends, relatives, and acquaintances about what soft skills you possess.
You should then request them to talk about a situation where you displayed the soft skills you have. You can get valuable insights through this process. For example, your friends might tell you that you stutter when you get nervous. They can also tell you about your weaknesses and how you can improve on them.
4. Take help from Professional Interviewers / Coaches
Finally, you can take the help of coaches. Coaches are experienced and skilled professionals. They can help you identify your soft skills quickly. This is especially beneficial when you don't have much time to contact colleagues, evaluate and work on their feedback. You definitely don't want to take a chance when you have interviews lined up in few week's time.
Moreover, Coaches are experts in deciphering the strengths and weaknesses of individuals. They can be instrumental to your success. Sometimes, we are too close to the situation to understand our skills objectively. Self awareness and other techniques might not help in some scenarios.
Besides this, you can't get a brutal & honest feedback from colleagues as they might avoid hurting your feelings. Hence, most interviewers recommend to atleast take few mock interview session with real-life HRs. They can help you by giving you constructive criticism. Hearing about your strengths and weaknesses from a reputed interviewer can be a true testament for your skills.
Mentors who are domain experts can even help you know the most probable questions asked for your job profile. This will help you to prepare even better for the interviews.
At Preplaced, we get hundreds of requests for HR professionals every month. More and more candidates are now taking help from HR interviewers to identify their skills and better understand their lacking areas. Taking help from mentors is quickly becoming an easy and quick way to master your soft skills.
Take a Session with Soft Skills Mentor
Soft skills are rated as top skills to acquire in the 21st century. Master your soft skills by taking mock interviews with HR interviewers from top companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft. Receive actionable feedback and tips to improve your soft skills.
How to Develop Your Soft Skills
Now that you have identified your soft skills, we will now focus on how we can develop them. If you have weak, soft skills, you don’t need to worry. Here are a few things that you can try to develop them:
1. Self Reflection
We talked about using self-awareness to identify your soft skills. Even though mentioned before, we would like to recommend it again. Even for the development of soft skills!
No one can help a person more than himself. Every person can recognise and realise their weaknesses if they introspect. But sometimes, it all comes down to breaking that mental barrier. It can be the case that you might be aware of them, but you might not be ready to accept them.
To overcome this problem and develop your soft skills, you should realise that every person has some weaknesses. It doesn’t mean that you are behind others in any way. Self-reflection is a massive tool to develop soft skills that most people ignore. Trust us, it can do wonders for you
2. Take Courses
Education is a lifelong journey. You should never stop learning. Educating yourself with the help of self-learning courses and seminars can be useful to you. Actively participate in courses and learn new exercises and tips to improve your soft skills. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to your instructor. Try to get honest feedback from them. You can get constructive criticism by taking courses. It will make it a lot easier to work on your weaknesses.
To help you out, here are some of the best soft skills courses from highly rated companies available on the internet today:
- Soft skill courses by Udemy
- Soft skill courses by Edx
- Soft skill courses by Coursera
- Soft skill course with real HR professionals by Preplaced
Once you have identified your weaknesses, devise ways to work on them. For example, you might have trouble talking to people when you meet them for the first time. For this, you can try complimenting people and talking to them about something in the open. You can start making conscious efforts towards it.
Furthermore, if you get nervous during interviews, practice the answers to commonly asked questions in front of a mirror. Answering the standard questions confidently and with charm can boost your confidence. It can help you answer the tough questions asked during interviews.
There are many such examples. Everyday, we see so many candidates take control of their weaknesses and master them. Like all skills, practice is key with soft skills as well. Along with self-practice, try taking practice mock interviews regularly. This will keep your efforts on track and help you analyse your mistakes better.
Also, some candidates face problems specifically in interviews. They are great with soft skills in general, but falter under the pressure of interviews. For such scenarios, give more preference to simulating real-life interview experience through mock interview practice.
4. Get a Mentor
Mentors can make you more self-aware about your soft skills. First, they will identify your strengths and weaknesses. A mentor can develop a learning process designed especially for you. Every individual is different and needs specific training. A mentor will design many exercises for you that will help you in developing. For example, STAR approach to answer to situational questions, the Welcome, Overcome, and Question approach to object to an idea, etc.
Here are a couple of key reasons why having a mentor to develop your soft skills is considered to be the best mechanism:
• Constructive Criticism
Criticism is essential so that you can work on your weaknesses. However, having your weaknesses revealed to you in an actual HR interview can destroy your confidence and possibly cost you the job. Mentors can offer you constructive criticism by analysing your behaviour. They can help you develop your weak areas into your strong suits. Having an expert by your side to point out your mistakes provides you a perfect opportunity to develop your soft skills.
• Mock Interviews
Mentor can help you through mock interviews. Mock interviews can prove immensely useful to you. They are the closest thing you can experience in an HR interview. Therefore, you can experience beforehand how the interview will feel like. Getting used to an interview atmosphere can calm your nerves when you appear for the actual interview. With your mock interview, mentor will help you draft questions that an interviewer will ask you based on your career field and the job role. After the interview, you can work with the mentor to understand your mistakes and work on it to develop your soft skills.
• Increase Your Confidence
Mentors will identify your strengths after taking your mock interview. They can suggest ways to answer commonly asked questions. This will increase your confidence and help you answer questions without a hitch in the actual interview. Interviewers look for candidates that display confidence. You must appear to be knowledgeable and inspire confidence.
• Know the Commonly Asked Questions
Mentors that have cracked the HR interview of top companies and sit in interview panels can tell you the highly probable and expected questions that are asked for your job profile. Therefore, it is essential to have mentors that have experience working in big companies like Amazon, Uber, Intel, etc.
• Frame Answers of FAQs
Some common questions are asked in many HR interviews. You should prepare the answers to these questions beforehand. Show the answers to your mentor and get them approved. Furthermore, practice answering these questions in the mock interview so that you don’t have to think twice when answering them in the actual interview.
Finding the Right Mentor
Getting a right mentor is equally important. Not everyone will suite you. You should have a mentor who knows how to crack the HR interviews of top companies. They should have an insight into how top companies analyze candidates and the different criteria that they set. They should be able to provide fresh insights and new perspectives on your soft skills.
There are various ways of finding a right mentor for yourself. Apart from using platforms like LinkedIn, Quora you can also try out various mentoring platforms. Preplaced is working towards making this process easy. Preplaced understands your background, requirements, dream company and experiences to find perfect mentor for you. With Preplaced's unique preparation programs, you get a personal mentor that will guide you through your soft skill development journey.
Soft skills cannot be underestimated. They are not an option. They are crucial for your success. You can have all the necessary qualifications for a job, but you will need soft skills to land the job. Soft skills are hard to develop, but not impossible. You can identify and develop them using various techniques. The best would be the one where you can take help from highly acclaimed professioanals and mentors.
Most people have some weak areas that they can work on. Soft skills may be tough to learn but not impossible. If you work on problematic areas, you will see positive results quickly.