Skills employers look for regardless of the job
After months of studying, you’ll be excited to embark on your new career path with a degree in hand. But there’s still one more hurdle to clear before you can proudly say you love your work: landing a job.
You’re confident your education will give you the technical skills you’ll need, but the interview process still concerns you. Positions at the best companies can be competitive, even in growing industries—so what can you do to make yourself stand out as a qualified job candidate?
When you’ve got the technical skills covered, you can make a good impression by showing that you also have the broad, “soft” skills employers look for when hiring a new team member. We spoke with hiring managers across a variety of fields to discover the high-value broad skills you can highlight in order to stand out.
Soft skills employers look for when hiring
When it comes to what employers look for when trying to fill a vacancy, it’s about more than just the technical skills. Those abilities are expected in order to fulfill the job duties. But it’s often the soft skills that separate an average employee from a great employee.
Soft skills are traits like teamwork, listening and communication, which may not seem as important as technical skills, but they make a big impact in the workplace. “Companies can train employees in technical skills, but soft skills are much harder to teach,” says Sophie Miles, cofounder of elMejorTrato. You can grab an employer’s attention right off the bat if you walk in the door with in-demand soft skills that can’t be easily taught.
Take a look at these high-value soft skills so you’re prepared when you embark on the job hunt. You might even discover you already have many of these top skills employers look for when hiring.
You won’t get far in the workplace if you don’t have the ability to communicate well with those around you. “Most problems that have occurred in the past probably could have been resolved with the proper communication,” says Cornelius Charles, co-owner of Dream Home Property Solutions, LLC. Charles adds that employers value this skill because it allows them to mitigate risk and avoid problems before they arise.
Having strong communication skills in the digital age means solid writing and speaking skills, both in person and over the web with tools like video conferencing and email. You can demonstrate your communication prowess in an interview by practicing active listening, asking questions, remembering the interviewer’s name and sending a thank-you note.
- Time management
Meeting deadlines and staying efficient are important to companies in every industry. That makes time management a valuable skill for employees who are often juggling multiple projects at a time. Employers want to know they have employees who can manage their time well so managers don’t have to look over their shoulders to ensure they’re staying on track.
“The ability to manage time successfully is often demonstrated during the interview process,” Miles says. You can start your interview on the right foot simply by being on time. Beyond that, try talking about times in your life where you clearly had competing priorities and explain what you did to stay on top of deadlines.
- Critical thinking and problem solving
Critical thinking is a skill that allows you to objectively examine information to determine the best way to move forward, and it’s a key component of problem solving. “In any job and any company, employees are bound to run into unexpected challenges and setbacks. Companies rely on employees who take action and find creative solutions to problems the company is facing,” says Eleonora Israele, hiring manager at Clutch.co.
You can brush up on your critical-thinking skills by practicing on problems you encounter in your daily life. Why did your cat stop using the litter box? How can you save enough money to take a vacation next year? What does your community baseball team need to work on in order to win their next game? Ask smart questions, conduct research and make an educated guess to solve the problem.
No career path is exempt when it comes to the ability to work well on a team. Even positions with a lot of independent work will still require you to collaborate with others. “Every role in a company is connected to other roles and teams,” Israele says. “Employees that are able to work well with others and understand their points of view often come up with creative solutions efficiently and effectively.”
The importance of teamwork can’t be overstated, so it’s a skill you’ll want to communicate to employers during your interview. Be sure to mention specific instances where you worked well with a team, either in school or in a past job, and share the positive outcomes that resulted from your group’s effort.
- Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand both your own emotions and the emotions of those around you. This is especially helpful in the workplace, where teams work together to keep companies functioning successfully. If teamwork is a vital component of a successful company, then emotional intelligence is the glue that makes all that collaboration possible.
There are many signs you may have high emotional intelligence, but one of the biggest is empathy. “To become a valuable employee, it’s important to sense facts from a peer’s perspective,” says Ketan Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Mettl. “This single shift of perspective helps build a thriving, positive company culture.”
- Digital literacy
We live in a technology-driven age that demands digital literacy in nearly every profession. Being comfortable with computers, online research and apps—not to mention industry-specific software—is expected in the workplace today.
There are plenty of ways to develop your digital literacy if mastering technology doesn’t come easily to you. If this soft skill seems out of your reach, make sure to convey your willingness to go the extra mile to learn new skills and follow your natural curiosity. “People who are curious make a conscious effort to explore, investigate and learn without needing an external person to persuade them. Such people are always a part of the solution,” Kapoor says.
Employers are always on the lookout for hard-working employees who take initiative and are proactive about finding new ways to help the company do its work. Employees with initiative don’t just wait around for their boss to assign them tasks. They’re self-motivated and driven to do whatever they can to improve their company from their current position.
As you might guess, employees with this kind of inner drive can add huge value to a company. “A strong work ethic is an indispensable factor for any employee as they take ownership for their work and are self-driven to aim for results,” Kapoor says. “They become a well of motivation for others at workplace.” Share with your interviewer an instance where you brought initiative to the workplace to demonstrate that you have experience with this soft skill.
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