Soft skills are sizzling hot these days. Numerous studies, news articles, and career-advice websites trumpet employers’ needs for staff possessing soft skills—those personal attributes and habits that help an individual communicate, collaborate, think critically, and lead. However, soft skills by their very nature may be difficult to demonstrate, especially during an interview.
LinkedIn’s vice president of global talent, Brendan Browne, says that some companies find soft skills so important they use predictive software to identify potential new hires’ characteristics before even meeting the candidate. The very fact that such software exists epitomizes the importance firms put on soft skills. Not surprisingly, Browne urges job seekers to come to an interview armed with anecdotes that illustrate those attributes.
One of the most important soft skills to emphasize during an interview, says Browne, is grit, the ability to keep going when the going gets tough. Employers want workers who can persevere during difficult times, so candidates should be prepared to tell a story that illustrates this skill.
Another desired soft skill is adaptability, demonstrating how well an individual handles change. Job seekers can help their chances for landing a position by relating an instance during which they faced a major change and came through it on top. In fact, many organizations prefer a person with less experience who can demonstrate adaptability over others with years of experience.
Job seekers should also go into an interview armed with brief stories that illustrate their ability to make decisions and respond during various scenarios. Today’s employers may even stage a crisis during an interview to see how the candidate reacts.
Preparation is the key to any good interview, but coming in with anecdotes that illustrate important soft skills can make the difference in landing the job.
- What is critical thinking, and why do you think employers seek new hires who possess this skill?
- How might you demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills during an interview?
- Why is it a bad idea to exaggerate a soft skill during an interview?
It’s bad enough when a well-known global company such as Volkswagen commits an egregious ethical transgression by blatantly lying to its customers. But when the company also lies to governments and is caught, the lapse is not only an ethical dilemma—it’s a felony.
The Volkswagen emissions scandal first erupted in 2015, when it was discovered that the German automotive company had intentionally programmed some of its models to evade EPA emissions standards. About eleven million cars—500,000 sold in the U.S.—were programmed to pass laboratory testing of emissions to meet regulatory standards. However, once the cars were in use, their emissions went far above those standards.
The fraud was made public by a group of scientists at West Virginia University who revealed how VW, the world’s largest automaker, was using software in its diesel models to subvert pollution regulations. Since then, the rigging of the results has had wide ranging repercussions. After the initial discovery, the Volkswagen CEO stepped down. As recently as January of this year, six VW executives were indicted, and the FBI arrested Volkswagen’s head of regulatory compliance. One VW executive is being held without bail.
The company faces legal fines, consumer backlash, and investor woes. Some say the aftermath of the scandal can have even wider-ranging effects on other German carmakers and even the auto industry at large.
What were they thinking?
- Should corporations have a moral responsibility to be honest about regulations that affect the environment, not people? Why or why not? Was anyone hurt by Volkswagen’s misdeeds?
- What do you think about the mindset that infers anything that an organization does is okay as long as no one is caught?
- Do you think executives who systematically deceived regulators and consumers should serve prison terms?
Interviewing can be an intimidating experience that renders many job seekers tongue-tied. However, new research shows that applicants who make small talk or find a commonality with the interviewer during the first few minutes of the meeting are more successful than those who don’t.
The researchers conducted 163 mock interviews and rated the candidates on how well they did in two areas: building rapport during the initial three minutes of conversation, and their responses to 12 questions about the job. The results showed that those who had initially built a degree of trust with the interviewer scored higher overall than those who had answered the questions equally well but had not created that initial rapport.
The researchers concluded that candidates should find common ground with an interviewer as soon as possible: The moments between the initial handshake and the beginning of the interview can be the sweet spot during which that rapport is established.
But how to do this if you’re not a natural? One of the ways job seekers can work on this skill is to practice outside of interviews, says the study’s lead researcher. Chatting with a barista while ordering coffee or a sales clerk when shopping are great ways to learn how to build a connection quickly. Another way to prepare for those initial moments when achieving rapport is so important is to conduct research about the organization or interviewer and ask a question that gets things rolling immediately.
- What are some topics you can bring up to start an informal conversation prior to the beginning of a formal interview?
- How do you think the ability to chat informally can positively affect not just your performance in interviews, but your career?
- Why do you think some firms help their employees learn to build rapport by having them work with comedians?