From the ability to work in a team to showing eagerness to take initiative, it’s soft skills and life experiences that define the ultimate team member.
Soft skills, we’ve all got them, and if you’re looking to get hired, they should be your favourite topic of conversation. Because if you think that it’s just the “work history” section of your profile that counts, you’ve got another thing coming.
Nowadays, companies are interested in the skills that you DON’T learn in formal education, the ones that come with life experience – things like critical thinking or attention to detail.
And shouting out about your soft skills shouldn’t be reserved just for talent, it’s important for employers to show their cards too. In today’s competitive yet picky world, finding the right employer is as important as finding the right fit for your team - a matchmaking process that should involve a rigorous Q&A where both parties ask AND answer.
But finding the right match may actually be a lot simpler than one would think. We’ve broken it down to three core questions, that if answered correctly, we think the results can be magical.
Question 1: Going back 12 months, what has this year looked like for you?
There’s no point in beating around the bush – this question cuts straight to the point and will most definitely be an ice breaker. Both candidate and employer should use this as an opportunity to compare notes – personally and professionally. If either struggle to answer a question like this, especially when it comes to talking about work experience, it’s probably not meant to be.
Without realising, you’ll be activating, and showcase, your critical thinking skills – not to mention the ability to stick to a story and deliver it constructively. Answers shouldn’t be focused on boring details or out-of-date job descriptions, and if you’re a candidate, there should be more focus on learnings and development of skills.
TALENT: Use your own words, don’t try and sound clever. If you had some sort of meaningful contribution at some point in your career, this is the time to point it out – chances are you’re being asked for things that can’t be found in your CV.
EMPLOYERS: This is the part where you talk about how your company has evolved over the last year. But don’t just talk about the good stuff – be transparent and discuss the bad too. Honesty and showing progress will instill confidence in your prospect, but also make them want the job even more.
Question 2: How would you describe this job to a 6 year-old?
Think of a 6 year-old asking you to explain your job. If you can deliver an explanation that the kid can process, then it’s safe to assume that you know what you’re talking about. Try to wow your listener with information that’s been simplified, but not reduced in importance. And try to throw in some personal details too, like how this job relates to you as a person and why you’ve chosen to work there.
TALENT: The finer details may seem unimportant but they will help give a clear insight into your soft skills. It will show how quickly you can process a simple question. Not only that, but your answer will prove your ability (or inability) to talk in a clear and concise manner when trying to relay a point.
EMPLOYER: Breaking down a job description in a simple-to-understand way is as important as the job itself. Talk about things that aren’t generic, but are unique to your company. For example, if you’re looking to hire an Account Director, try to describe the perfect fit for your team, not a general overview of the role.
Question 3: What would you want to do if you didn’t have to work?
A question like this may seem off-piste, but it can actually tell you a lot about a person. And the most obvious things it reveals is drive and productivity. You can’t really judge someone for saying they’d like to lay on a beach all day, but it does show what to expect from who you’re bringing into your team.
TALENT: Try to give an answer that leads to a conversation – don’t blurt answers out without giving them some thought. And remember to state your reasons why. A question like this is designed to get you thinking outside the box, but also to gauge your attention to detail. Ultimately how you reply will boil down to quick thinking, and the ability to debate your points.
EMPLOYERS: Accept that there’s no right or wrong answer, and try to keep judgement at a minimum if you hear something you don’t like. It’s also a good time to start a more personal conversation, to find out more about the person sitting across from you – it’s essential to give as much as you get.
It takes a lot more than hard skills developed through years of schooling, and past job experiences to make someone suitable in a workplace. Life shapes us, and personality shouldn’t be overlooked in the hiring process. From the ability to work in a team to showing eagerness to take initiative, it’s the soft skills and life experience that should define the ultimate team member.