If you’ve secured a job interview, odds are your resume shows you have the basic skills to handle the position. But more often than not, people are hired for personality over skill set. As an interviewee, what are those crucial traits and how do you showcase them during your interview? Here are the commonly desired soft skills and proven ways to convey them:
Most interviewers will make a judgment call in the first few minutes of the meeting. As human beings, we tend to evaluate quickly and you have to be ready to make a favorable first impression. Looking the part with proper business attire is an obvious component. Pay attention to the details – a fresh haircut, a clean-shaven face or well-groomed facial hair for men; for women, a style you won’t be tempted to play with or touch. For men and women, keeping fragrances light and greeting the interviewer with a firm handshake and warm smile help set the stage for a positive meeting. Follow with an eagerness to engage. Quickly look around the office to find a connection – a picture or sports poster that could be a conversation starter. Recognize that sometimes the interviewer can be as nervous as you are, so help find ways to make the first three minutes easier. Something as simple as the weather can be a good segue into the interview.
Hiring managers are frequently looking to add friendly, confident, high-energy people to their organization. This is a natural state for some people, but if you tend to be more reserved, there are things you can do to “turn it on” for your interview. Do your research and find something exciting about the company or position and bring that feeling into the meeting. Do what athletes do before a game and listen to your favorite band. Find something to pump yourself up and carry that energy into your interview. Show passion for what you do and what the company does. Then convey how that excitement will translate into you doing a great job in the position. Hiring managers love candidates who have that “fire in the belly“ and who come across as very promotable.
The concept of “attitude over aptitude” applies here. Organizations are looking for people with solid skills, but they want you to apply them with a positive, open-minded approach. Avoid bad-mouthing your former employer, boss, or job. Instead highlight the positives in those situations in an engaging way. Show you’re open to different opportunities by sharing examples of when you took on a project outside of your job description or perhaps out of your comfort zone. Display a “do what it takes” attitude and “willingness to do anything, nothing is beneath you” type of mentality.
4. Culture Fit
Even with an impeccable skill set, you need to convince the interviewer you can operate within the company’s established culture. Find out what the organizational workplace is like and refer to aspects of it during the meeting. Share examples that demonstrate how your work style and accomplishments match the company’s environment. Pick something about the culture and talk about why it resonates with you. Show the hiring manager that culture matters and how their culture is an ideal fit.
5. Team Work
Many jobs are team-work driven and rely on each team member to get the project completed. It’s not enough to robotically say “I’m a team player.” Focus the discussion on your work with teams and the important role you played. Give specific examples of a team-focused project – share some interesting details of the work and describe how it was completed successfully. Don’t forget, they are hiring you – not your team. Show you have experience with, are comfortable in, and have had individual success in a team-centered environment.
6. Flexibility and Commitment
These traits and others like them are often difficult to convey during an interview, but it’s important to show the hiring manager you possess them. Describe your flexibility by talking about a project that was changed just before a due date and how you adapted to meet the new requirements. Discuss an assignment that required a great deal of time and lasted longer than anticipated and how you stuck with it until its successful completion. When things move quickly and deadlines and scope change frequently, hiring managers want to know their new employee is flexible and able to adapt easily.
At some point in the interview, you’ll likely be asked about your personal goals and how they fit in with those of the company and the position you’re looking to fill. Make sure you understand the company’s mission and vision statement and describe how your contribution aligns with them. Share your short-term personal goals like going back to school, attaining a certification or learning new skills. Longer-term goals could involve developing or strengthening your leadership capabilities in the company and wanting to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. The key is to demonstrate you have seriously thought about your future as well as the future of the company and how you can make a positive impact within that organization.
Being well prepared for an interview shows the hiring manager you will be a well-prepared employee. Spend time rehearsing before your meeting. While you don’t want to go into an interview with a “canned” script, you should have a good idea of what you are going to say and the examples you are going to use. Practicing with a family member or friend can help. In particular, get comfortable with your opening “commercial” about yourself. The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to present it. Once you get comfortably through it, the entire interview process will improve. You’ll gain confidence, which will lead to an enhanced overall performance – and the interviewer will be impressed.
Remember, the interview is a sales situation. You need to differentiate yourself from all the candidates and make the interviewer believe you’re the “best.” Be sure to take every opportunity to let the hiring manager know that in addition to all the skills, you have those intangible traits that will help make you an ideal fit for the job and the company.
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