You know all about soft skills but how do you really convey them? Whoever reads your application or conducts your interview needs more than just “I’m a fast learner” to believe you. Besides, why would an interviewer just take your word for it? You need to give them the juicy stuff. Don’t know how? You came to the right place.
From advice on what not to say to tips from professionals, this guide tells you everything you need to know about flaunting your soft skills.
1. SHOW THEM, DON’T TELL THEM
“I resolved a last-minute conflict between two members of the club I lead by…” resonates more with an interviewer than “I am a great problem-solver and leader” does. Cover letters and interviews give you room to really show off. Unlike a resume, listing skills doesn’t cut it. Instead, use anecdotes and examples that really showcase the qualities that employers want. “Stories are what hook us in. Many students make the mistake of simply repeating the information on their resume in the cover letter. Use the cover letter to tell your success stories,” career coach Meg Radunich said. Keyword: success stories.
2. MAKE YOURSELF STAND OUT
Avoid being a copy cat in an interview or written application and make sure you demonstrate soft skills in unique ways. “The thing to steer clear of is talking with too much generality. It’s tempting when you can’t think of an example to say ‘people always tell me I’m good at this,’” said Ryan Braun, lecturer and curriculum coordinator at the University of Florida. When you share an example, try to share one that people wouldn’t generally solve in the same way that you did. Show them that you took care of things more efficiently and successfully than your average college kid. Make it known that they need someone with your unique soft skills, not the other way around.
3. SHARE APPROPRIATE STORIES
Don’t say too much and remember that some examples don’t merit a mention in an interview. The time where you illegally bought a keg to save the day at a student organization-hosted charity event might raise a few eyebrows from an interviewer. What went wrong in the first place? Why didn’t an adult buy the keg? “Be mindful that the person listening to you may perceive your strength in a particular soft skill as a potential weakness or problem,” Radunich said. Keep your stories clean and interesting for a successful interview.
4. STAY HONEST
Never lie in an interview or cover letter. They’ll see right through you. Highlight your best qualities and avoid your flaws, but never make up an experience to show off soft skills you lack in reality. “[Highlight] whatever are your true and best skills and [the ones] that you can convey best,” Braun said. Talk to your professors and past superiors about their take on your strongest skills. Look for inspiration and reminders of good stories to share. Remember, you can always find room for improvement.
5. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Don’t go into an interview without researching the position, the company and your interviewer. Depending on the company, the preferred soft skills might differ. “It’s also good to know how your major prepares you with skills. For instance, physics might be heavy on problem solving. Public relations might build abilities in communication,” Ariel Torres, University of Arizona Career Educator said. The way you present yourself to an employer varies by your experiences, major and the position you want. Consider your background and the company’s background prior to going in. Don’t walk into an interview without knowing them better than the back of your hand.
6. PREPARE BEFOREHAND
Aside from researching, make sure you prepare most, if not all, of your answers to typical interview questions. Know your strengths and weaknesses with regard to soft skills and make sure you know how to present them to your interviewer. “Practice your answers to become comfortable telling the stories, and remember the key points where you want to emphasize a particular soft skill,” Torres said. Know which stories fit which soft skills. To get the nerves out of the way, try rehearsing in the mirror or practicing with a friend.
QUICK ADVICE FROM THE PROS
“You can figure out through research or the posting that they are soft skills they value and you can focus on those,” Braun said.
“Instead of declaring ‘I have strong communication skills’ or ‘I am a strong public speaker,’ tell the story and make them feel something. For example, if you want the interviewer to know you can navigate conflict, tell the story using vivid language. ‘I can navigate conflict well, which was evident in my last position when I was the guest services manager at a hotel. An angry client was upset that their room was double booked and I was able to resolve the conflict quickly in 3 steps. First, I began to…,’” Radunich said.
“Before going into an interview, it’s a good idea to look over the job description and pick out some of the key skills they are looking for or which are needed to do the responsibilities listed. Identify those which you can definitely bring to the position,” Torres said.
“Most employers don’t have the time or resources to sit down and teach you every aspect of your job, especially since the tasks associated with your job are always in flux. ‘I can teach myself’ is one of the greatest phrases a hiring manager could hear,” Radunich said.
QUICK ADVICE FROM STUDENTS
“It is much easier for an interviewer to grasp your leadership skills if you tell them specifics. The example can be funny, it can be a little old. More than anything, it should highlight your soft skills,” sophomore at the University of Notre Dame Yanik Ariste said.
“I think a really great tip about talking to prospective employers is to really get a sense of their vibe. If they’re talking to you professionally, respond professionally. If they’re talking to you in a casual tone, respond casually. It’s important to read the environment and the room whether you’re in an interview or just talking to an employer,” sophomore at New York University Marissa Singer-Rosenberg said.
SOFT SKILLS YOU NEED TO HIGHLIGHT
Written communication skills. You made it through college applications and tons of essays so far. Use those formal writing skills and that killer vocabulary to convey yourself in the best way.
Teamworking skills. That group project you got an A on comes in handy for this one. Think of a time in which you had to collaborate with others that often disagreed with you. Did you power through it? Probably. Talk about how you prioritized the project’s end result over your pride.
Problem–solving skills. Things go wrong last minute all the time. Show your interviewers how you acted quick on your feet and fixed the issue.