SKILLS / AUG. 30, 2016
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Hard and Soft Skill Interviewers Look For

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Interviewers look for specific personality traits and skills in their candidates, knowing what they look for helps. These are the things they look for.

First, we should define what hard and soft skills are. Hard skills generally pertain to your knowledge base, experience and education. In a more broad sense they things that can be measured or proven with documentation. Soft skills, also known as an individual’s Emotional Quotient are personality attributes that affect their interaction with other people. Increasingly organisations and companies are seeking individuals with a high Emotional Quotient even if their hard skills are lacking slightly.

Of course having highly developed social skills will not make recruiters overlook a complete lack of hard skills that pertain to the position you are applying for. A combination of the two though will increase your chance of getting hired exponentially. Here are some of the soft and hard skills interviewers are looking for.

Hard Skills

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One of the most frequently mentioned hard skills employers are looking for in new hires is the ability to use and contextualise data. This makes complete sense too since we are currently living in the “big data” era. Numerous business software solutions allow companies to extrapolate everything from consumer trends to their buying tendencies. Due to big data being such an indispensable tool, data mining is also a very desirable skill for new hires to possess.

Data mining is the process of sourcing information and distilling or digesting it into pertinent and useful information for the company or organisation. Of course, to gather this data a candidate should have at least a working knowledge of data mining tools and software. One of the companies making waves in the data mining industry is Hadoop, the reason being that it is an open-source data mining solution, which allows for scalability and is considered extremely stable. Because of this Hadoop is used by some huge industry names, including Amazon, Adobe and Facebook.

Almost across the board, no matter what the industry, hiring managers practically expect new hires and candidates to have in-depth knowledge of computer software, especially programs and applications that are frequently used in most offices. Beyond that, it is expected that a candidate has a working knowledge of programs that are specific and widely used in their industry, such as Adobe’s Creative Suite for anyone in Marketing and Design and Autodesk’s AutoCad program for people in Design, Implementation and Engineering.

Finally, another useful skill recruiters are looking for in their candidates, is SEO/SEM knowledge. SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization and involves formatting a website to work well with numerous search engines and get onto the first page. The reason for this is because most users seldom go beyond the first page of results, and being on the first page can increase the amount of visitors to the page. SEM is an acronym for Search Engine Marketing which is an offshoot of SEO, plans out strategies to optimise a website’s content so it can reach the first page of search results.

Soft Skills

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Many hiring managers and recruiters agree that soft skills have become an increasingly important consideration when assessing new hires. The reason that soft skills have come to the forefront of recruiting strategies is that they cannot be taught, but are inherent to a person’s personality. I say to an extent because some soft skills can be improved, but someone that is a natural team player, natural communicator or leader doesn’t need any training and is ready to integrate into a team or a company immediately.

Some of the most sought after soft skills interviewers and hiring managers look for are effective communicators, people that can work within a team, problem solvers and individuals that are highly adaptable. The reason that recruiters and companies look for these attributes in candidates is simple. Somebody that cannot work within a team will create friction, damaging morale that ultimately leads to a loss of productivity. Ineffective communicators can convolute the feedback loop between teams and administration or management, resulting in frustration, a drop in morale and again a loss of productivity.

Problem-solving and adaptable individuals have additional value for a company because these attributes can help the business and increase productivity. Allow me to elaborate; employers are becoming increasingly aware that problem solvers and adaptable employees will frequently take the initiative to overcome an obstacle, instead of burdening administration, or completely shutting down.

Another soft skill that employers inevitably seek is work ethic. The merits of hiring a candidate with a good work ethic shouldn’t be mentioned but according to many hiring managers has become exceedingly rare.

Leadership

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Many companies have noticed that the soft skills that hiring managers and recruiters frequently look for correlate with attributes commonly seen in management and people with leadership abilities. This is just another reason why hiring managers prefer individuals with soft skills because they have the potential to be promoted and take on a leadership role in the future.

If you think about what makes and effective leader, the list is usually filled with soft skills. Clear and effective communication which allows a leader to keep their team in the right direction to achieve their goals, the ability to adapt not only to the changing parameters of a project but also adapt to the vast array of individuals they must work with.

Chief amongst the abilities a leader must possess is highly developed interpersonal skills, not only so they can communicate internally, but so they can also communicate externally, with associates, clients and other organisational leaders.

Can You Hack Skills?

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Ultimately there is no silver bullet or proverbial “hack” that will guarantee you will be hired. Although in recent years hiring managers have been increasingly interested in a candidate’s soft skills. It is because from experience they have found that although a candidate might have the ideal hard skills when they lack the soft skill to implement them, they are ineffectual. On the other hand, if they have a candidate with highly developed soft skills who doesn’t have the core knowledge to meet the offered position’s responsibilities then they are also ineffectual.

Ideally, what highly develop soft skills will do is distinguish you amongst many other candidates with similar if not better hard skills than you. Even if you do have an exceedingly high emotional quotient, that doesn’t mean that they will allow you to apply for jobs outside your knowledge base. A combination of appropriate and applicable hard skills and well developed soft skills will set you above the rest of the candidates.

Have you ever used soft skills to distinguish yourself from other candidates? Have a lack of soft skills ever cost you a job? Let us know your experience in the comment section below.

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