What Are ‘Soft Skills’ and How Can You Improve Yours?

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Employers are hungry for these.

Hands of a woman writing notes in her personal planner.

You’re up on Word, you struggle through Excel, you’re vague acquaintances with Photoshop and you’re basically besties with SEO. But what else have you got to offer?

Before you wonder what else there is in a modern workplace to master, ask yourself these questions: how comfortable are you with changing tact with a project after you’ve already started? Would you say you’re pretty good at getting your point across, without any confusion from colleagues? Are you into playing as part of a team?

Don’t worry – this isn’t an interview, but if you’re gearing up for one, this is pretty important prep. Employers want to know you possess these skills, which are harder to teach, and yet are no less important in the ideal candidate. In other words, they’re not something you can typically take a Dummies crash course in and come out firing – which makes them more indispensable than your average ‘can-do’ competence.

So, what are some of the most sought after soft skills?

Read More: In Defence of the Good, Old Fashioned CV

Good, clear communication, a strong sense of teamwork and openness for collaboration, an ability to problem solve and think critically, as well as some pretty solid adaptability.

If there are any on this list you think could use a little top up, here are the best ways to make sure you’re putting across your best in the areas of…

Communication

From the first email to the last handshake, you need to be clear in your communication with any new employer. Of course, that goes for checking thoroughly for typos and whether the name of whom you’re emailing is correct. It also means being straightforward in your answers to questions – asking for clarification if you don’t understand a question, being aware of your body language and also asking questions of your employer. You’re trying to figure out if you’re right for each other and, despite appearance, this isn’t a one-way street.

Adaptability

According to a survey of LinkedIn, almost 70 per cent of hiring managers agree that adaptability is the most important soft skill, so you better pull this to the forefront.

A key part of adaptability is being open to the possibility of adaptation – you don’t have to already be good at it, you just need to show you’re ready to give it a try. If asked what your weaknesses are, or what you still need to learn, your response is really about how willing you are to take on new tasks and grow your skills.

Sense of teamwork

Trent Innes from Xero has a pretty interesting way that he evaluates potential candidates.

“I do 6-8 interviews every week, and I almost force everyone I interview out to the kitchen area,” he explains. The clincher is in his offering the candidate a glass of water or a cup of tea. “And then we go and sit in a room and have a bit of a chat. It’s always interesting to see who offers to take back their empty cup to the kitchen. About 70-80 per cent do.”

It’s about pulling your weight and showing how willing you are to chip in whenever needed.

Read More: Should You Check A Candidate’s Social Media Channels As Well As Their CV?

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