According to the December 2020 Innovation Economy Council Report, one bright light in the otherwise devastating economy of 2020, was the “remarkable resilience” of the knowledge economy. Not only have lost jobs been recovered but the tech job market continues to grow. In 2021, Shopify alone is planning to hire over 2,000 engineers.
It may be a tech talent’s market, but it is still highly competitive. When many applicants have similar IT skills, it is challenging to figure out how to stand out from the crowd. So, how should you prepare for an interview to give yourself the best chance of landing that coveted job? Focus on your soft skills. What are soft skills? These are the people skills, the personal skills, organizing and thinking skills that make you unique and really good at what you do.
Focus on soft skills.
In addition to the required tech skills, employers are looking for people, humans, individuals. They want more than just a computer jockey. They want people with an appetite for learning, people who can ask good questions, who are passionate about what they do, who can work with other people and who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is these so-called ‘soft skills’ combined with your hard technical skills that will help elevate you to the “must hire” category.
Research which soft skills are most in demand for your particular field of work. Assess which of these are strengths of yours. Capture specific examples that will highlight these skills. Look for opportunities to weave these into your CV, your LinkedIn profile and your interview.
Use social media to show your soft skills.
According to a Penn State study, 70% of employers research prospective employees on social media. How can you use this to your favour? Decide how you want to be seen as a professional, which soft skills you want to highlight, and create your own communication strategy that aligns. Use social media to provide evidence of your communication skills, your curiosity, your initiative, your interests, your ability to network and connect with people.
Show your soft skills while you research.
Demonstrate your appetite for learning by learning everything you can about the prospective employer. Look in the usual places, like their website, LinkedIn and news feed. After that, challenge yourself to research the leadership and team members on LinkedIn and Twitter. What they are posting about? Take the opportunity to comment or ask questions on their posts. You may even work your way into a conversation with someone of influence. This again is a great way to show that you are more than a great engineer or developer but that you show initiative, professionalism, and communication skills.
Listening is communication’s neglected child.
Communication is a two-way street, requiring both talking and listening. There is no better way to show your interest in others and your ability to listen than to ask a few good questions. Use all of your research to prepare two or three thoughtful questions for the prospective employer in the interview. Good questions might include their thoughts about industry trends or about corporate goals given the current economic climate.
Know your soft skill strengths and how you can add value.
Finally, bring your whole self into the interview. If you want to stand out from the crowd, do not tell them what you think they want to hear. Employers don’t want to hire clones of themselves. Talking about interests outside of work can be a great way to indirectly share your soft skills strengths. In addition, you never know which of these may connect with your interviewer. Look for opportunities throughout the interview process to share what makes you unique. Knowing what soft skills you bring and how they add value to the goals of the company will be the secret ingredient that helps you be remembered, and fingers crossed, helps land you the job.
Connie Wansbrough is the Co-Founder and CEO of Skillpod, a soft skill coaching program.