The soft skills training you need to become employable
We all know the importance of learning the teachable skills that can be defined and measured, which we commonly refer to as hard skills. However, it’s fair to say that the soft skills are an equally important skill to demonstrate if you want to impress your future employers and land that dream job. In this blog you will learn what soft skills are, and what soft skills employers value. Also some interview questions and techniques for answering competency questions, and how you can develop and demonstrate those amazing soft skills in interview.
During the job application and interview process employers will be looking for two valuable skill sets: these are hard skills and soft skills. Employers need both of these skills sets because they need to know that you have the necessary practical application to do the job, but also research suggests the importance of soft skills can be just as valuable as an indicator of job performance as hard skills.
The problem is if you are a young adult from the Y-Z generation (post-internet) entering into the labour force, it has become increasingly clear that the soft-skills gap has become wider, and you may need greater support than more mature candidates in acquiring these skills. Employers simply don’t have the time to teach, nor manpower to develop the soft skills required in the workplace. So if you’ve not attended an interview before, or for some time, then here are few things you need to be aware of.
Defining hard skills
Hard skills are a technical skill taught from pre-school age and are not interpersonal. They are specific and teachable abilities that are measurable and tangible. Here are some examples;
• Proficiency with software applications
• Foreign languages
• Operating machinery
• Data analysis
• Computer languages
• Cataloguing and indexing
• Graphic design
Defining soft skills
Soft skills (non-technical skills) are not so tangible and easy to measure, and by definition are much harder to quantify. You may have heard them described as ‘People skills’, and the reason these skills are not taught at school is because they are so difficult to quantify and measure. ‘Soft skills’ refer to a cluster of personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make someone a good employee and compatible to work with,” outlines Kate Lorenz, author of Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters. Here are some examples of soft skills;
• Communication skills
• Interpersonal skills
• Problem-solving and decision making skills
• Organisational skills
• Work ethic and attitude
• Time management
• Conflict management
• Emotional Intelligence
• Adaptability, versatility and flexibility
Competency based questioning
The most common way of assessing these soft skills is through competency based questioning (situational questioning) which are from real life situations. A good interviewer will explain this process and go through their reasons with you as to why they are asking these questions. Essentially the aim of this line of questioning is to find out how you have used these skills in your previous experience, which, in turn assesses how you approach problems, tasks and challenges.
What questions might I be asked?
To know this you will need to think about the post you are interested in applying for. For instance if you are interested in a post that may have a high degree of pressure and strict deadlines, then you will probably be asked when you have worked to a deadline and asked to explain how you managed your time. So make a list of competencies that you think are important for the post, and also look at the skills and attributes required. This will help you to decide what competency questions may be asked in interview. By doing this you can prepare your answers and improve your interview performance.
Common competency questions asked in interview
• Tell us about a time you had to adjust your communication approach to suit a particular audience. (Communication skills)
• Describe a situation in which you were working as part of a team. How did you make a contribution? (Teamwork)
• A time when you delivered excellent customer service (Customer Service)
• A time when you had to meet a deadline, what you were required to do, and what was the outcome? (Organisational skills, time management, decision-making)
• Tell us about a time you supported a member of your team who was struggling? (Empathy/ emotional intelligence)
• Tell us about a time in which you had to take an alternative approach to solving a problem. How did you develop this new approach? What challenges did you face and how did you address them? (Creativity)
A good approach to use when answering these questions is the STAR approach.
Situation: set the scene and describe the situation
Task: explain the specific task you were required to undertake
Action: tell the interviewer what action you had to take, and explain why
Result: finish by telling them the result of your actions and how it benefits the company
Role Playing and Mock Interviews
A good way to prepare for a job interview is to do a mock interview before the big day. You could use an experienced friend to help you with this, or you can conduct your own mock interview. If you have a video camera, a camera on your mobile, or a webcam on your computer, then you already have the necessary toolkit to do this. You can be your own interviewer if necessary – read the questions out to yourself before answering them on camera.
So now you know a little more about the interview process, the difference between hard and soft skills, the questions that may be asked in interview and how to anticipate those questions to make you an interview superstar.
I wish you every success in your career.
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