When thinking of marketable assets and accolades that you want to highlight during an interview or showcase on your resume, you may be — without even knowing it — limiting yourself to “hard skills.” These can be things such as awards you’ve won, a track record of successful sales, or an advanced degree from a prestigious university. However, now more than ever, employers are interested in seeing not only these concrete accomplishments, but also what are commonly known as “soft skills.”
Soft skills are social-emotional character traits, and they are just as important as your list of technical skills. Why? Every employer knows that no matter how well-educated you are or how many achievements you’ve garnered over the course of your career, you will only be a good fit at a company if you are able to work with others. Many eager job-seekers realize this, and pad their resumes with vague descriptions of their exceptional communication skills and ability to resolve conflict.
Yet that isn’t what employers are looking for, either. Soft skills must be applicable, sure, but above all else, you have to be able to show an employer how you successfully utilized this trait in the workplace. Talk won’t convince anyone. Below are the three most unexpected traits that employers look for — as well as sure-fire strategies to show, and not just tell, during your interview process.
Being a Team Player
Right off the bat, using the phrase “I’m a great team player,” may cause some interviewers to tune out. What’s important is how you introduce this trait and how you’ve used it in the past to your advantage. Being a team player doesn’t mean following along with what everyone’s doing; extraordinary team players are able to collaborate, communicate, and also take on a leadership role when necessary.
On the day of the interview, come prepared with examples of how you’ve worked on projects with others as well as times when you’ve taken initiative while the rest of the team stalled.
Problem-solving is something that every adept adult is capable of, but creative problem-solving stands out to potential employers as a sought-after trait. This skill demonstrates the ability to adapt or change plans when unanticipated issues or interruptions occur. It also shows that you’re able to come up with innovative modifications to current projects, and at times even start anew, finding alternative solutions.
During your interview or in your cover letter, mention set-backs you’ve faced and how you’ve responded to them. This will display not only your creativity and ability to problem-solve but also your sense of resilience when faced with challenges.
Being a Good Listener
This is one of the least-talked-about soft skill out there, yet it is undoubtedly the most important. And the research certainly exists to back up such a claim. “A recent study…showed that listening can influence up to 40% of a leader’s job performance.” Furthermore, a different study surveyed more than 8,000 people, and almost all rated themselves as better listeners than their colleagues. Obviously we can’t all be the best listener in the room.
But learning how to listen better is something you can work on and it’s a skill worth practicing every day until it becomes habit. A good listener hears what the other person is saying, thinks about it, and then responds. A bad (or normal) listener doesn’t fully hear what’s being said; instead, we’re too busy making connections to our own lives or coming up with what we’ll say next.
Being a good listener is also one of the easier skills to show off — whether your interview is in person, by phone, or via video conference. Take your time to truly take in what is being said, and don’t rush to reply. Ask questions of your interviewer and don’t feign interest; only inquire about things you have genuine interest in and want to hear about. This trait is doubly desirable to employers because it illustrates your willingness to hear, accept, and even seek out feedback, a vital part of any working relationship.