‘Soft skills’ is the umbrella term for the skills, attributes and traits we possess as individuals that enable us to interact with others.
It encapsulates our social and communication skills, our character and personality, our emotional intelligence and more.
In a modern work environment, soft skills are essential. Especially with the growing emphasis on cultural fit and personality in addition to the relevant work experience and ‘hard skills’.
Demonstrating your soft skills during an interview is essential. The hiring manager will want to be sure that you’re a good fit for the team as well as whether you can do the job.
The days of bums on seats and expendable workforces are ending. Businesses are looking to retain and invest in people who share their vision and values. Rather than high staff turnover.
If for no other reason than keeping good staff is 13% cheaper than hiring new ones.
However, with online interviews becoming increasingly common, communicating those soft skills can be harder than in person.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that soft skills are attributes you develop over time. They can’t be taught overnight and nor should they be faked for an interview.
Any organisation that prizes a strong cultural fit will quickly see through you once you start work.
The fact is there is the right cultural fit for everyone so if you don’t feel like you gel with the hiring manager, that’s okay. It’s better to find a company you will thrive in rather than pretending to be someone you’re not.
No amount of money will make that job a worthwhile experience.
Your hiring manager will be looking to get a feel for you as a person. Not just how you work under pressure or how you hit a deadline, but your attitude too.
They will want to get a gauge of your communication skills, your sense of humour, social intelligence, common sense and more.
These are relatively easy to discern when meeting someone in person. But it can be a very different situation when meeting someone through a computer screen for the very first time.
Below are some of the things to be mindful of when interviewing online.
Tone of Voice
While the interviewer will be able to see your head and shoulders, they won’t necessarily get to see the rest of you. Which means many of the cues they would pick up from your body language aren’t there.
This makes your tone of voice very important.
Keep your tone light and speak clearly. Test your hardware before your interview to make sure the microphone, speakers, or headset you’re using work properly.
If you’re someone who gets anxious during interviews, note down some key points or possible answers and practice them with someone.
It can also help to write down the question you get asked so you can refer back to it as you answer so you don’t get flustered.
Make Eye Contact
This can be pretty difficult when you’re talking to someone on a screen. More so as the camera – which is essentially their face – is usually set above it. The result is neither of you look one another in the eye.
Train yourself to look into the camera when you speak. It’s as much about ignoring how you look on the preview in the corner and focus on giving the answer.
It’s also advisable to clear the area of distractions – especially your phone – so you don’t look away while being spoken to.
It is perfectly acceptable to make notes during an interview and this doesn’t change because it’s over a video call, so don’t worry about that.
This is much more about making it clear to the hiring manager that you are listening, engaging with the conversation and being respectful.
Don’t forget Small Talk
Video calls can feel far more functional than a face to face meeting. They don’t lend themselves to informal conversations because there is a physical distance between you and the person you’re talking to.
Coupled with the fact that it’s harder to read each other’s body language, small talk becomes even more important.
Informal chats at the start and end of the interview will help keep the tone light, reduce any anxiety you may be feeling, and help to build a rapport.
It will also give you an idea of what the hiring manager will be like to work with.
Make sure you research the business and – if possible – the hiring manager so you have some talking points to get things going.
Prepare your Answers in advance
Most interviews follow a fairly similar format. You will be asked about your education and employment history.
You will also be asked how you approached different work situations. That could be how you handled a challenging situation or addressed an interpersonal issue within the team.
Or how you motivated the team to achieve an objective.
Write down a number of examples of your achievements both from a business perspective – targets hit etc – but on a personal level too.
The hiring manger will be assessing not only your competence but how you approach problem solving on a variety of levels.
Keep the anecdotes short and to the point. Give context, describe what happened, the outcome and what you learned from it.
Demonstrate your Soft Skills
Interviews can get bogged down with questions about the role and experience. This can make it difficult to show the hiring manager who you are as a person. Ever more so over a video call.
But it’s just as important to demonstrate your soft skills. You can lace your answers with examples of how you work well with others or supported colleagues experiencing personal or professional challenges.
Or how you didn’t get stressed when there was a problem.
By giving your answers context it will be easier for you to demonstrate those crucial soft skills. Your answers still need to be concise but resist brevity.
And don’t be afraid to be humorous.
Think before you speak
It’s perfectly acceptable to take a moment to answer a question. Just as in real life, not every answer is readily available, and you need a moment to think. Writing the question down can help with that.
Equally it is acceptable to ask for the hiring manager to repeat the question or even to rephrase if you’re unclear what they mean.
Don’t be afraid to say that you need a minute to think. Remember, they’re looking for people who are capable, responsible and can be honest with them. Blurting out the first thing that pops into your head won’t achieve that.
Instead being calm, reflective, patient and respectful are all qualities any hiring manager would want in their team.
Practice makes Perfect
Practice your interview with a friend or family member. This will allow you to prepare your answers more fully and familiarise yourself with the video interview format.
Arrange a video call with someone – ideally using computers – and have them ask you a series of mock interview questions. The internet is full of examples if you get stuck.
You can work through your answers and they can give you feedback.
It also gives you the opportunity to prepare your space for the interview. So – again – check your hardware is working. You can also make sure that there’s nothing rude, offensive or distracting in the background too.
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