As a business owner who places a premium on efficiency in the hiring process, I know firsthand the importance of hiring based on a candidate’s soft skills rather than just their technical abilities. Contrary to popular belief, it’s usually not the flashy resume or stellar accomplishments that can land you your dream job. Instead, the overlooked soft skills can set you apart as a candidate.
From a business owner’s perspective, high turnover rates are costly and time-consuming. A successful hire involves finding someone who will be a long-term asset to the company rather than a transient employee who will eventually leave. In my experience, I have had very few employees quit or be fired in the 16 years since I founded my SEO company, SEO National. In fact, I didn’t have my first person leave until somewhere around year 14.
One reason for this record of employee longevity is my emphasis on hiring candidates with strong personal morals and values and the necessary experience and technical skills. While finding candidates who can design a website or write compelling content is relatively straightforward, finding a candidate who will fit seamlessly into a company’s culture and values is much more challenging.
When hiring for any position, it’s important to remember that technical skills can be taught, but personal character traits are much harder to learn or change. By emphasizing the importance of soft skills when seeking out your dream job, you will be on your way to standing out from the copy-and-paste resumes of everyone else.
What are soft skills, and how do you showcase them?
I consider soft skills to be things like communication, integrity, and transparency. These are really basic concepts, but harder to come by in today’s world of selfish instant gratification taught by the highlight reels of social media.
If you’re looking to demonstrate your soft skills to a potential employer during the hiring process, there are several key opportunities to do so. While the specific methods may vary depending on the business and hiring process, I’ll share some insights into my own experience as a business owner in the digital and remote space.
First, pay attention to the job listing itself. How a job listing is worded can provide subtle clues about what a potential employer is looking for in a candidate. For example, my job listings are formatted with an “Easter egg” in the middle: a quirky request that provides an early screening mechanism for candidates paying attention to detail. I may ask candidates to message me on Skype with a unique phrase demonstrating their ability to read and follow directions. I like to go with random things, like “Skype me that your favorite pet is a tyrannosaurus rex.” No one under any normal circumstance is going to message that. So if they do, I know they paid attention.
The purpose of these seemingly minor requests is twofold:
- They help me to assess a candidate’s soft skills without relying solely on their technical abilities or resume. Surprisingly, some people would be super nervous to Skype a stranger or something random like that. That says a lot about their comfort level with communication.
- They demonstrate a candidate’s genuine interest in the position. I get countless job applications through other channels. But it’s a no-go unless they Skype me to tell me about their love for T-rex.
As a job seeker, it’s important to recognize the value of these seemingly minor details in the hiring process. Following instructions and demonstrating your ability to adapt to unusual requests will showcase your ability to navigate ambiguity and problem-solve creatively – two essential soft skills that aren’t always easily taught or assessed.
Additionally, since my business is remote and largely digital, being comfortable with communication on digital platforms is important. So, if you’re applying for a similar role, communicate clearly and regularly throughout the hiring process. This will demonstrate your reliability and professionalism, both important qualities for any potential employee.
At the end of the day, demonstrating soft skills in the hiring process is all about being thorough, attentive, and willing to follow instructions. Your employer wants you to win, so they’ll give you the blueprint if you’re eager to follow the plans. By showcasing your adaptability, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail, you can differentiate yourself from other applicants and prove yourself invaluable to any team.
The Importance of Finding the Right Fit
The importance of finding a job that’s a good fit for both the employer and job seeker cannot be overstated. Like in a relationship, being in a toxic work environment can have long-lasting negative effects on a person’s mental and emotional well-being.
The value of creating a positive work environment where employees feel valued and fulfilled leads to better performance and higher job satisfaction. But the responsibility doesn’t just fall on the employer – job seekers also have a role to play in finding the right fit.
While financial stability is important, finding a job that you wake up excited to go to every morning is equally crucial. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it can quickly affect other aspects of your life and lead to feelings of burnout and unhappiness. That’s why it’s essential to take the time to consider if the job, the company culture, and the people are a good match for you.
Of course, there may be times when financial needs have to take priority. But if you have the luxury of choosing between different job opportunities, it’s important to consider not just the paycheck but also the overall fit.
Employers should strive to create an environment where employees can thrive and feel fulfilled. But job seekers also need to assess if the company and role align with their values, career goals, and work style. By taking the time to find the right fit, job seekers can set themselves up for success and avoid falling into the trap of a toxic work environment.
While technical skills and experience are important, there are other factors to take into consideration to consider if a job opening and a candidate will make magic.
One of the things that can be attractive is when a candidate expresses an interest in the long-term goals and interests of the company. Sure, not every job sounds sexy. But if you find the opportunity to work for a company whose mission you support, that shows that you have a genuine investment in the company’s success and are likely to be a team player.
On the other hand, if a candidate comes in asking, “What’s in it for me?” without showing any interest in the company’s goals or values, it may be a red flag. Take a job when you need to put food on the table. But when you’re in it only for the paycheck, it’s clear to employers that you’ll be gone when a penny more is offered.
Of course, it’s understandable for a candidate to want to know that their own needs will be met. But it’s important to strike a balance between asking about personal needs and demonstrating an investment in the company’s goals and values. When a candidate can ask respectful questions about their role in contributing to the team’s success, it signals that they understand the importance of a team effort.
Personality often plays a more significant role, as most business owners want to work with people that are a joy to be around. Even though there’s always pay involved, let’s be honest; everyone prefers to work in an enjoyable environment.
While reviewing resumes, you don’t need to be the funniest or the smartest, but anything that makes you different is valuable. For instance, I recently reviewed a LinkedIn message from a gentleman asking for career advice. His resume was cluttered and too wordy.
Think about this. Most employers are busy. Super busy. So they skim resumes first. It’s essential to make sure that you catch their attention. I advised him to be candid about his results and skills and simplify his language.
These tips are helpful because job seekers often become numb to their resumes after looking at them for too long. Simplifying your resume and keeping it easy to skim can help attract future employers.
Some people resort to wild but effective strategies to get their resumes seen. To spark your imagination, did you hear about the guy that put his resume on a billboard? Or the woman that printed her resume on a cake and delivered it to Nike?
Another more affordable approach, which worked for me around 2004, was leveraging my creativity. In a job interview for a web design position, the recruiter commented about the entrepreneurial spirit of the employer I was applying to work with. He joked that the employer might even be able to sell a pet rock to generate revenue. So, when I got home, I created an e-commerce website that sold pet rocks and included my resume.
It showcased my personality and qualifications and proved that I was listening. Most importantly, it made me stand out from other job candidates. I didn’t spend any money to create the website, and it only took me an hour to develop it. This approach worked, and I landed the job. The key takeaway is to look for creative ways to showcase your skill set and personality to potential employers.
Ultimately, employers hope a candidate will stay with the company long-term. But they also understand that life circumstances change, and people may move on to pursue other opportunities. When that happens, my priority is to continue supporting the candidate in their growth and development, whether within the company or outside of it.
In many ways, the employer-employee relationship is like any other relationship. It’s about finding a mutual fit where both parties can support each other’s growth and development to achieve shared goals. When a candidate demonstrates a genuine interest in the company’s values and long-term goals, it signals to me that they have the potential to be a valuable member of our team.