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7 Ways to Prove Your Soft Skills in a Job Interview

interview soft skills thea kelley Oct 22, 2019

by Thea Kelley

photo by Rowen Smith 

Whether they are looking for a sales manager or a solar panel installer, employers want employees with excellent soft skills. You have seen job postings with terms like these: “strong written and verbal communication skills,” “a natural problem solver,” “ability to deal with change,” “team player.” How can you show you have these skills?

If you tell the interviewer “I’m great at building relationships with customers,” you are only stating an opinion about yourself. They won’t just take your word for it.

Know your strengths

I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has told me they are “good with people” without being able to tell me much about what that meant.

Think about it. What is your unique way of being good with people?

  • Maybe you show any interest in them by asking questions.
  • Or you have an intuitive sense of how people feel and make an effort to put them at ease.
  • Or maybe you are generous with your time.

What is good about your “good communication skills”? And what is your particular way of being a team player? The more unique, concrete and specific you can be, the more you will be believed and remembered.

Plan stories that illustrate your soft skills

Do you have a talent for coaching and mentoring employees? Describe a time when your coaching helped a team member earn kudos or get a promotion. Are you good at getting along with nearly everybody? Telling how you defused a tense situation or built consensus in a cross-functional project could be very convincing.

Make a list of stories that show you solving difficult problems, working well with a team, delighting customers, or whatever soft skills are relevant to the job you are interviewing for. Practice telling your stories and get feedback from a friend or an interview coach.

Demonstrate communication skills in the moment

Show that you can speak in an articulate, concise, and organized way by giving well-planned answers. Don’t script your answers word-for-word and memorize them; you won’t sound authentic. Instead, outline talking points for each question and practice your answers out loud based on those points. This is the best way to be well prepared yet sound natural.

Many of the most common interview questions specifically focus on soft skills, such as “How would you deal with an angry customer?” and “Give me an example of some constructive criticism you received and how you made use of it.” Give these questions careful thought.

Demonstrate your people skills by how you treat the interviewers and their colleagues

Show empathy toward the interviewer. Ask a question like “How’s your day going so far?” and be aware of any emotion you hear in their answer. For example, if they say their train was a half-hour late, you might say, “Wow, how annoying! I hope your day has gotten better since then.”

Be warm and friendly to people at the interview site but respect their needs. Trying to schmooze with the receptionist when he is clearly too busy or not in the mood for it will not win you any points.

Observe the interviewer’s personal style and harmonize with it. If she is animated, a fast talker, and you are naturally slow-moving and low key, you might perk up your style a bit. If she is low key and all business, be the same way. This is called mirroring. We do this naturally when we are around people we are comfortable with. Mirroring in the interview can help facilitate rapport.

Listen well

Listening is more than half of good communication, so listen more than you talk. Listen to what is not being said as well as what is. Listen actively. Give the other person your undivided attention instead of thinking about what you will say next.

Offer social proof

Ask current and past colleagues to post LinkedIn recommendations (the written paragraphs, not the quick-click endorsements in the Skills section) vouching for your relevant soft skills as well as your more technical abilities and accomplishments. Unlike references, recommendations can be seen early in your candidacy, when they can do the most good.

The ultimate in social proof is to come to the interview having been referred by someone the interviewer knows. This is one of the main reasons job search coaches advise their clients to do plenty of networking.

Keep it positive

A cooperative attitude and a tactful manner toward others are crucial soft skills. In your interview answers, never put anyone down. If you are asked a question about how you handled a “difficult person,” be factual rather than judgmental, focus on the “difficult behavior” rather than labeling the person, and absolutely do not identify them. “A manager at one of my past jobs” may be anonymous enough if you have had many jobs, or simply “someone I’ve worked with.”

When it comes to soft skills, there is no certificate or diploma you can use to convince the interviewer you have got what it takes. Your behavior is the credential. Consider these tips as you prepare, and your skills will be apparent as soon as the conversation begins.

Question: What will you need to pay more attention to in order to stand out?


About Thea Kelley

Thea Kelley is a job search coach. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has facilitated career breakthroughs for job seekers nationwide.

Thea Kelley is the author of Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview. For information visit her website.


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