SKILLS DEVELOPMENT / 24 July 2020Soft Skills: Why They are Harder Than You Think and How You Can Acquire Them
This article is a collection of tips and best practices on how to ace your job interview from experienced hiring professionals.
Be Prepared to Demonstrate Your Claims
If you have done your homework, you should be able to anticipate some of the topics that will come up in the interview. Be prepared to illustrate your strengths with quantified examples, not just unsubstantiated claims.
Numbers are powerful and become even more impactful when supplied with adequate context to understand your performance in comparison with others in the company. For soft skills that cannot easily be quantified, be able to offer concrete examples of you demonstrating the skill resulting in positive outcomes.
Mike Cox- President Cox Innovations
It’s All About Your Vibe
It takes under 10 seconds to form first impressions. The most crucial portion of your interview is the first 10 seconds that you are seen. You will likely be seen first in the lobby, a doorway, hallway or another transitional area. It is normal to be nervous but if you appear nervous you will make a lackluster first impression.
Despite being nervous—combat your body’s natural inclination to close inward. Make aggressive eye contact, smile, use upright posture and take up territory. Open your body and take up nearby real estate. Open body language portrays confidence—and confidence wins.
Jaime Chapman- Founder and CEO of Begin Within
Perfect Your Elevator Pitch.
Your two-minute elevator pitch should consist of what you've done, what you're doing, and where you want to go. This means you should spend 30 seconds explaining your relevant experience, one-minute giving details about how your current position is helping you become a good fit for the job opening, and 30 seconds providing us a snapshot of your goals, which are presumably aligned with the duties of the job opening.
-Jason Patel- Founder of Transizion
Show Your Enthusiasm
Make sure the hiring managers know how excited you are about the opportunity to be considered by being vocal and understanding your body language. When it’s appropriate, openly discuss how the job fits in with your desired career trajectory. Occasionally, you may be expected to interview with multiple hiring managers separately.
It is important to remain energetic and enthusiastic about your conversations with each interviewer, no matter how many times you have been asked the same questions. Be as enthusiastic about the opportunity with your last interview of the day as you were with the first. Expect that the interviewers will be comparing notes. You want your first impression to be consistent among everyone you meet.
-Robin Schwartz- HR Director at Career Igniter
Send a Timely Response
Send thank you emails within 12 hours after the interview. That’s the golden time that they are deciding. Personalize each one. Do not send a blast. Keep it short and sweet and to the point. Let them know you are very interested in joining the team and BRIEFLY summarize why you think you are perfect for the role.
Jan Hudson- COO of Surf Search
Be Prepared to Discuss Past Work Experiences
It is important to talk about your past work experiences and the day-to-day requirements of your previous position and how it qualifies you for the role that you are interviewing for currently.
Since responses are often generic, be prepared with unique examples to help you stand-out. These examples should demonstrate your problem-solving abilities and present a clear portrayal of how you have worked to overcome obstacles or challenges in the workplace.
Christian Schauf – CEO/Founder of Uncharted Supply Co
Have Questions Prepared
Have questions prepared for their inevitable “Do you have any questions for us?”. These questions can include "If I were to step into this role tomorrow, what would be my first priority?”, "What improvements do you want the new hire to bring to the role?” and “What do you like about working here?”.
At the end of the interview, see if the interviewer has any potential concerns with your resume or interview answers. In some cases, you can get immediate feedback and you may be able to assuage any fears that the interviewer has that could prevent you from getting the job.
Rich Franklin- Founder/President of KBC Staffing
Make sure not to dwell on negative experiences, especially those at your old place of employment. Your interview should be filled with positive feelings of excitement to move forward somewhere new that you enjoy, not all the reasons you left your old employer.
Hiring managers remember the general feeling left in the air after an interview, and if your entire time together was spent complaining, they will likely unconsciously associate you with a less than pleasant experience. Stay smiling, stay optimistic and stay sharp to leave a lasting positive impression to your prospective manager.
Laura Gonzalez- Manager at Mercedes Benz Coconut Creek
Have Honest Answers to Why you Left the Previous Organization
If you aren't clear about leaving the previous job and searching for a new one, it unequivocally leads to the belief that money is the only thing that motivates you towards your profession. And you would rather be at any company than the company you are interviewing for if you got paid more in the former.
Don’t come off as a money-driven professional but work or passion-driven individual. Talk about your unaddressed needs in the previous organization that led you to leave it like not having enough professional challenges or no new tool or system to learn.
On an alternative premise, if you could show your professional commitment by way of continuous learning in the same field either by certifications or specific projects you took up in the previous organizations, it can be a great way to leave a lasting impression on the mind of the interviewers.
Gargi Rajan, Head HR of Mettl
Practice Out Loud
Conduct mock interviews with your friends. If you're too shy to ask your friends to mock interview you, doing it in front of a camera works too.
Practicing out loud and receiving feedback goes a long way in feeling more comfortable in the actual interview. Practice smiling and eye contact. You want to seem very engaged and excited during your interview process. Body language goes a long way.
Ettore Fantin- Director of Marketing at US.Jobs
Something my clients complain a lot about is candidates who bluff a question when they have no answer or experience in that specific area.
Most interviewees have the idea that they need to know the answer to every question. In reality, if a hiring manager is looking to fill a position that requires 5 skills, they do so with the expectation that most candidates will be good at 3 skills and will need to be trained in the remaining 2.
So, if you do not have an answer, it is better to say so and explain how, if that came up in the job, you would use your problem-solving skills to find a solution.
Chris Chancey- Founder & CEO of Amplio Recruiting
Ask for clarification if needed
Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification when going through an interview process. Employers are fully aware that you may not yet be a specialist on the subject. So, use this opportunity to learn from your potential future employer.
The person you are interviewing with will see this as you being thoughtful, persistent, and that you care enough to understand the job entirely.
Sanem Ahearn- Head of Marketing at Colorescience
Make a personal connection with your interviewers.
Hiring is ultimately an emotional decision. The tiebreaker will always go to the candidate with whom employees have a connection. Internally referred candidates are more likely to get hired because the personal connection is already there, so do some recon before the meeting.
Forging a connection can be as simple as agreeing with someone on leadership philosophies or identifying with someone’s personal story about why they joined the company.
Jordan Wan- Founder and CEO of CloserIQ
My advice to job seekers is to ask relevant, non-boilerplate questions to the interviewer. One story, in particular, stands out in my memory. I interviewed a confident, but not arrogant candidate who answered my questions in a thorough and not over-rehearsed manner. The way he truly aced the interview, though, is that he took advantage of the time to interview me about my client's company.
The candidate won me over because he didn't ask questions that can easily be researched on the internet. Instead, he asked what I might change about the company, what would make him successful in the company, and wanted to connect with some current employees. He ended the interview by asking if I had any hesitations about him that he could address in that very moment. I appreciated his extreme willingness to be vulnerable, which doesn't happen often in interviews. He put me in the hot seat, but he clearly showed his interest in this position.
This candidate was not just in any job interview. He demonstrated that was in an interview for the exact position he wanted, and he wanted to make sure that the company would be the best fit for him and vice versa.
Matt Dodgson- Director at Market Recruitment
For a Phone Interview
Eliminate distractions. Select or create a clean, spartan room in your home for the call. Remove all projects and messes from this room. Lock the door before the interview and ask family members to remain quiet and keep their distance. Postpone any landscaper visits scheduled for that day.
If deliveries are expected, post a note on the door asking that packages be left without ringing the bell. If you have a dog prone to barking or whining, ask a friend to take the dog elsewhere during the interview, or at least put it in a part of your home far from where you will be taking the call.
Paul J. Bailo- Global Head of Digital Strategy and Innovation Infosys Digital
Interview the Person Interviewing You
Interviews should be a conversation between you and the person conducting the interview on behalf of the business. It can be easy to forget that when you walk into a room, facing a stony-faced group of managers with notepads in front of them. You should be interviewing them and finding out if the job is a good fit for you, as much as they should be interviewing you.
Do your research on the company and come up with a list of questions that are uniquely tailored to that business and its situation. As well as giving you a much better idea of the demands of the role and what the company is like to work for, this approach is really useful at leaving a good first impression.
Stephen Hart- CEO of Cardswitcher
Be mindful of asking any questions that are going to make you look like a flight risk or someone who's going to be hard to work with. If you're only worried about the number of days off or the slight increase in salary that you want, you're not going to be perceived as a team player or someone who's applying for this job for reasons other than a paycheck. And in today's world, companies will not settle for that.
Tracy Timm- Founder of Tracy Timm, LLC
Even if you don’t normally exercise, try to get some sort of short, aerobic exercise in before your interview. Exercising before your interview will help you to de-stress and have a clear head. Exercising can also help to increase your confidence, another important trait to convey during an interview. Exercising can also help keep your mind clear and help you think on your feet. All of these benefits will help to aid you in acing your interview.
Matt Edstrom- CMO of GoodLife Home Loans
Ask for the Position
The biggest mistake interviewers can make is not asking for the position. Especially in a sales environment, we want the interviewer to close the "proverbial sale" and ask for the job at the end of the interview. This is a mistake that many make when it comes to solidifying themselves as a front runner for a position.
Interviewees should ask this question at the end of the interview. "Based on your experience, what are some of the characteristics that successful individuals demonstrate in this position?"
The interviewer should then spout off a few of the characteristics they are looking for in their ideal candidate. Then, the interviewee should close the interview by responding: "Having talked about my strengths earlier in the interview and what you just described as needing to be successful in this role, is there a reason why you would not recommend me for this position?"
Gene Caballero- Co-founder of GreenPal
It is almost a given that an interviewer will ask about your strengths and weaknesses. Prepare ahead of time by thinking of strengths that are unique to you. Many people are proficient at excel or consider themselves a “people person”.
Make your strengths stand out by highlighting something about you that is different and memorable- like your willingness to start the morning pot of coffee in the break room. While it may not be an exceptional or challenging skill, it will differentiate you from others and make you seem kind and considerate while also lightening the intensity of the interview.
Sacha Ferrandi- CEO of Source Capital Funding
Emily Banks is a bay area native who got tired of San Francisco’s cold beaches, so she moved to San Diego. She is currently the HR editor for 365 Business. When she is not typing away on her keyboard, she can be found eating street tacos in the sunshine.