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  • Tara Thurber

Job Search Differentiator: Demonstrate Soft Skills

Whether you have been a college student, an intern, or an apprentice—studying and training for “hard skills” has become a prerequisite when being hired. Increased competition in the job search has forced candidates to promote their “soft skills” in order to stand out. Recognizing, working to improve, and promoting soft skills will be the difference between landing a job, or continuing the search. #softskills #gethired #wearehiring

Not only is the average job search very competitive, but new digital automation has freed up employees of old responsibilities. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—automation is meant to increase efficiency. However, managers and employees both must recognize that job descriptions will change with digital automation. This combination of greater competition and an ever changing workforce has put more emphasis on soft skills. As digital automation takes on more of the American workload, businesses will notice “skill gaps.” People with soft skills will not only notice less of a skill gap, but they will also be able to transition to new tasks when a job description changes.

For example, the coronavirus pandemic has issued one of the vastest changes to the standard American employee: working from home. A person with great soft skills (no matter what hard skills their jobs requires) can figure out how to work effectively from home. Whether you’re being hired or hoping to move up within a company, soft skills can lessen the gap that occurs when job descriptions change.

“Hard skills” define the work one can produce and “soft skills” define how a person does that work. Hard skills are what typically make up a person’s resume… The job candidate is fluent in Spanish. The job candidate is proficient in Adobe Photoshop. These hard skills describe the baseline, or skills necessary to apply. On the other hand, a candidate’s soft skills are personality traits and behaviors that can be applied to any job or an evolving job description.

For hiring managers, some of the most sought-after soft skills include communication, problem-solving, creativity, adaptability, and work-ethic, according to Indeed. Job seekers must showcase soft skills like these on their resume, cover letter, during an interview, and when posting on digital platforms.

A perfect 2020 resume would weave a person’s soft skills into his or her past job descriptions. Instead of simply writing the tasks performed during a job, a candidate can shed light on how their soft skills came into play when performing a certain task. For example, anyone can say that their last job required them to utilize spreadsheets. However, not everyone can say that their creativity led to a new spreadsheet layout that positively impacted an entire team’s workflow. #hiring #teamworkflow

A cover letter should be tailored to the job description at hand. It’s usually best to write the cover letter while referencing the employer’s job description. Job seekers must outline their soft and hard skills and how their abilities apply to that specific work opportunity. A customized cover letter of this type will allow a hiring manager to see what work the applicant can produce and how the applicant’s soft skills will positively effect production.

Soft skills must shine through during an interview. To ensure that soft skills are noticed during the interview process, job seekers should make a list of instances where they’ve shown certain soft and technical skills. It’s a good idea for job seekers to make note of potential questions so they can effectively answer in the moment. For example, a hiring manager might say, “Tell me about a time where you had to ‘put out a fire’ at work?” A job seeker will have a better answer if they’ve made note of times when they’ve showcased the ability to solve problems, communicate effectively, manage conflict, etc.

When promoting soft skills, a job seeker should also utilize digital platforms like social media or a personal website. Candidates should post work samples and descriptions of their applicable skills on social media sites like LinkedIn or via blog posts on their personal site. Having these samples of work on a digital platform is nice for employers to see, and additionally these posts act as a helpful reference for the job seeker.

Recognizing the difference between soft and hard skills is the first step to being more marketable as a job candidate. Once a person understands what they have to offer to employers, they are also more likely to be able to improve upon certain skills or replicate instances of success. YouTube videos and Spotify podcasts are great places to conduct some research into improving skills of any type—listening to one Jocko Willink podcast will have you excited to improve your leadership skills. No matter what soft or hard skills a person possesses, one must recognize, work to improve, and promote these talents on their path to landing a new job, promotion, or salary bump. #bealeader

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