When employers say they're having trouble filling open positions because of a lack of necessary skills, they aren't always talking about an inadequate number of math, science, technology, engineering or math experts. Soft skills — a professional attitude, the ability to be punctual, answering the phone politely — can be equally important in deciding if a job seeker is right for a position.
From the moment you apply for a job, you're being judged on more than just your résumé. Imagine you send 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 strong soft skills makes you a desirable job candidate and gives you an edge over other job seekers. When you focus on your attitude, presentation and demonstration of professionalism, hiring managers will see you as a welcome addition to their team.
Personality plays a role in how you're perceived by others. Even if you have the right experience, being spacey, standoffish or rude can put a damper on your "hirability," and the job market is too competitive to allow for any mistakes. Practice making a good impression by focusing on a positive attitude with others, be it family, friends, the person serving you coffee or anybody else with whom you interact.
Impress your potential employer with your great attitude and interpersonal skills by:
- Being polite and friendly
- Showing enthusiasm and motivation for your career
- Sharing specifics as to why you're prepared for the job
- 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 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:
Having an organized résumé.
Is your résumé customized? Did you follow the application instructions and include all requested materials and answer all questions asked? Although applying for jobs can sometimes seem like a mind-numbing experience, you must pay attention to the details of each application, or you're potentially throwing away that opportunity.
Dressing appropriately for the interview.
Hiring managers rarely judge job seekers on their sense of fashion in an interview, but they do notice how you dress because it's an indicator of your sense of judgment. Dressing professionally when interviewing shows the hiring manager that 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 needs.
Showing up late to an interview or responding slowly to an email from a hiring manager is unprofessional and makes it seem like you don't care. Arrive early for your interview and promptly answer emails; doing so expresses your interest in this relationship.
The hit HBO show "Girls" is a treasure chest of quotes on the struggles of everyday life. When the show's main character, Hannah, is interviewing for a job, she explains why she's the right candidate, saying, "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 seems like the most boring form of bragging, it's essential that you convey to the hiring manager that you are ready for this position.
Let the hiring manager know that you possess any of these job-ready basics:
- Time-management abilities
- Problem-solving skills
- 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 expertise
Hiring managers like to meet well-rounded job seekers who have the experience to do the job and the right personality. 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 wants.