Landing a new job is about so much more than just your past experience. Most employers are looking for well rounded people with specific skill sets that will make them a good fit for both the role and the company.
Learn more about about the types of skills employers are looking for (and how you can demonstrate that you have them in an interview) ??
Soft Skills and Hard Skills
When applying to a new job or internship, there are some skills that employers will expect their employees to possess, regardless of the position.
These are often referred to as “soft skills” and include interpersonal skills and other skills you might need to succeed in their workplace/organization. These might be things like teamwork, critical thinking, and communication skills.
Employers will also often require more tangible or “hard skills” that are more in tune with professional or technical skills required to perform well in a given position (which means they are likely to be more specific). These might be things like computer skills, coding ability, or presentation skills.
While employers generally look for a candidate that has a combination of both soft and hard skills, I would consider that soft skills are usually more sought after (mostly because hard skills can be taught on the job).
“Having the ability to explain how problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills have transferred from previous experiences gives me the confidence that these skills can be demonstrated in the workplace,” said Lauren Nigro, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Staples Canada, “it is one thing to train an individual on their core competencies in their position but it is these soft skills that allow you to perform tasks specific to your role and organization.”
Top Skills Employers Look For
It’s always a good idea to align the skills you have (don’t lie here, people) with the skills that are required for the position, and include them in your resume and cover letter, accordingly.
You’ll want to prepare to highlight the most relevant skills during an interview by being able to provide real-life examples.
Of course, this is a non-exhaustive list, but these are some skills that I know are important to employers (as someone who has consulted a talent acquisition specialist and has done her fair share of interviews!):
Employers generally search for candidates with strong problem-solving skills, simply because no matter the position or company, challenges do occur, and they want to make sure they have capable individuals handling these situations and coming up with solutions accordingly.
Problems might include things like challenging situations, personal interactions, communication errors or misunderstandings, or even coming up with new ideas within the organization.
You probably use problem-solving skills on a daily basis without even realizing it, through handling customer complaints, working on a project either independently or in a team setting, or answering questions from your supervisor about your tasks.
To demonstrate your capability during an interview, you can prepare to describe a situation where you developed a solution to overcome a challenge.
Employees who manage their time well are a lot more productive, efficient, and more likely to meet deadlines. They tend to prioritize their work appropriately, and have the ability to focus on the more important, time sensitive tasks, rather than wasting time on tasks that aren’t as urgent. Why wouldn’t an employer look for a candidate that makes the most of their time?
As a student, you’ve probably already mastered this skill, so you’re already ahead of the game. Time management really is all about a combination of working productively and prioritizing your time.
To display your ability to manage your time effectively during an interview, give examples of how you’ve managed multiple projects or competing priorities and hit your deadlines.
As an employee, being flexible means you’re often able to pivot quickly and adjust to changing priorities, structures, tasks, and deadlines, which is really important to employers, who are constantly thinking about long-term success.
At this point, post-COVID, I think we have all proven ourselves to be extremely flexible and resilient to change and to not know what the future holds (please, give yourself a pat on the back!). We have all shown our ability to adjust to changes in our environments through changes to online school and remote work, especially, and have, despite difficulty, remained positive and enthusiastic about what we’re working on or towards. Luckily for us as students, flexibility also has a lot to do with having a willingness to learn and being open to alternate ways of doing things - which in my opinion, is what we do best!
You can show that you’re flexible during an interview by providing an example of a time when you had to adapt to a changing environment and explain how your flexibility was valuable to those around you.
Employers are often looking for candidates that are able to work well with others - mostly because teamwork is so essential for fitting in with the company’s culture, building personal and professional relationships, and developing belonging within a group (even as a remote worker, it’s still very important to interact with others!).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve done my fair share of interacting with teams during group projects, extracurriculars, and at work, so working in teams and collaborating with others is pretty much an everyday experience.
You can show your willingness to work with others by giving an example of how you’ve had to navigate different team dynamics in a way that builds solidarity and encourages productive collaboration.
This one may come as a surprise to you, but it makes sense if you think about it. The inevitable nature of today’s corporate environment is competitive, fast-changing, and disruptive, meaning that encouraging a company-wide growth mindset has become important for success for most employers.
When employees are excited about learning and growing both personally and professionally, it makes sense that their organizations see increased levels of trust, engagement, and innovation.
You’ll be able to showcase your eagerness to grow by giving examples of actions you’ve taken to advance your skills and broaden your capabilities, inside and outside of work.
I already know that you’ve heard this one before. It seems like communication skills are talked about ALL the time, but it checks out considering you have to be able to communicate and listen all the time at work, no matter the industry. Employers are always looking for great candidates who can communicate effectively (both verbally and in writing). You need to be able to communicate successfully with your colleagues, managers, and customers in-person, online, in writing, and/or over the phone.
This is something that most of us are still trying to master, but let me tell you, working in a corporate environment has taught me so much about communicating with others and making sure there is no room for misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
Feel free to use the interview itself as an opportunity to show you can speak and listen effectively, or dive into an example of a time when you communicated something to others with ease.
Attitude goes a long way in the workplace. Employers look for candidates that are positive and motivated even in stressful or difficult situations. Positivity and self-motivation shows your level of resilience (remember when we talked about flexibility?). Employers want to hire people with a “can-do” attitude, who are dedicated, motivated, and willing to contribute extra effort to get the job done when faded with challenges.
A good way to look at this one is thinking about what motivates you. Is it the results? Is it achieving goals? Is it receiving feedback? Think about what makes you excited and what makes you more willing to work on things.
In an interview, you can share initiatives that you led, and describe how you were able to achieve the goals you set for these projects.
Show me the Skills!
Before entering an interview, take a couple moments to make a list of the skills and qualities that best reflect your background, and incorporate them into your resume and cover letter.
Think of real life examples where you may have gained or applied these skills, resulting in success in the classroom, at work, or in another setting. Share these examples with your interviewer so you can highlight just how much of an asset you would be to their team.
Now, get out there and start applying! You got this!