So what is a soft skill? Soft skills don’t cover any formal technical knowledge, or qualifications. Essentially, they’re personal attributes you have that allow you to communicate and interact as effectively as possible.
They are especially important in the graduate jobs world, as your lack of a proven work track record or swathes of technical experience mean employers are more likely to hire on instinct that you will be a strong worker.
More importantly, with the increased automation in today’s society, many business forecasters predict a divide between two types of workers in the near future. There will be highly technically skilled professionals on the one side and charismatic innovative people on the other, who can do the kind of network building that can’t be outsourced to machines.
However, many employers are concerned that Generation Y-ers, having grown up in the digital age, lack some of these key skills possessed by the generations before. So what skills should you be displaying to your potential employers?
Recently, a ZipRecruiter study found that over half of job applications required strong communication skills. It truly is the buzzword of recruiting nowadays, even if you think that your career path doesn’t need you to be a top orator or writer.
In the connected modern world, where so much of work is done by email and over the phone, the ability to communicate in a clear, concise and measured way is one of the most important skills any graduate can have.
The best way to show your stellar communication skills is, clearly, in the opportunities you have to communicate. Make sure your CV is completely clear of waffle or filler. If you get an interview, make sure that you’re explaining yourself clearly and confidently. If you think jargon will impress, think again; there’s nothing worse for an employer than when you open your mouth a lot without really saying anything.
It might seem like an obvious inclusion, but it’s shocking how many recent graduates underestimate the importance of being on time. Companies looking to hire a graduate are always on the lookout for their recruit’s time management, and it never hurts to turn up early and leave a little late for the first week or so.
Clearly, you need to show this in your interview. Traffic or a travel delay is never an excuse for being late for a job interview, barring something truly catastrophic. No matter how reasonable your delay may seem it’s never a good start, so get to where you need to be at least half an hour before, and plan for any potential travel nightmares.
While programs like ‘The Office’ might have ruined the term out-of-the-box thinking, it’s still as relevant today. One of the main things managers will want from a new graduate is the fresh thinking perspective of someone from a different background to them.
Consider a time you’ve had to solve a problem or a conflict, whether in your work or personal life, and outline it in your cover letter. Have an answer ready for your interview in case you get asked of a time that you were challenged and had to arrive at an innovative solution.
Resilience is a particularly applicable soft skill for people looking for graduate jobs in sales, where you’ll have lots of client contact. It’s important to be able to bounce back from rejection, and keep enthusiastic about the next big sale.
You may be asked in your interview about a time that you failed. It might sound like an attempt to dig out your weaknesses, but actually can be a great opportunity to show how good you are at persevering. If you can’t think of an example, consider your graduate job hunt; chances are you will have dealt with a rejected application, and talk about how you moved on and made the next phone call.
Even if you’re looking at an entry level graduate job, with no team that you’re in charge of, it’ll be important to your employers that they know you’re the kind of candidate who could go on to take charge in the future. It’s never in the interest of employers to take on a new recruit who they know has no chance of progression at their company.
Don’t be afraid to consider examples from your time at university or college. Being in charge of a sports team or taking a role on a committee will show you’ve got excellent time management skills and the ability to delegate and take charge of your responsibilities. Also, showing that you’re confident and strong in the interviewer will show you have the potential to take charge. Be confident, polite and look your interviewer in the eyes.
In many ways this is the culmination of the rest of the list. At almost all companies, the ability to work as part of a team is essential, regardless of whether that is departmentally, or with the entire company. This is where your top communication skills come in, as well as the leadership qualities you want to display.
How well you get on with your interviewer here is key, as well as simply displaying in your CV times that you’ve experienced successfully working as part of a team. From committee roles, to part time work or group projects, they can all go on there. Engage with your interviewer too and you’re on to a winner.
What techniques have you used to stand out from the crowd? Did it get you the interview? Share your success in the comments below.