It’s easy to understand that, if you’re applying for a software engineering job, you’ll need to know programming languages. Or that a designer needs art skills, or a content creator needs to be able to write. Too often overlooked, though, are the necessary “soft skills” that can separate good job candidates from exceptional candidates. If you’ve recently found yourself back on the job market, we’ve outlined seven non-technical traits that help you stand out to potential employers, and how to highlight them during the application and interview process.
First off — if you’re interviewing at a company, chances are you’ll be working with other people. There are few roles out there that require no collaboration or interaction. You might need to work with other members on your team or with coworkers on other teams. A marketer may coordinate with a graphic designer for a new campaign, or with a salesperson to update messaging. Knowing that no employee is an island, and being able to work with several different people, is key to ensuring that your company’s business runs smoothly.
How to highlight this during your job search: note on your resume any projects that involved coordinating with multiple people. In interviews, tell a story about how collaborating with others led to a successful project or campaign. This demonstrates that you’ll be a welcome, easy-to-work-with addition to a team of people.
Whether you’re on a one-person team or a 20-person team, you’ll likely find yourself in the position of having to make decisions. But it’s not just about making a decision — it’s also important to be able to explain your decision-making process, make decisions in a timely manner, and balance the trade-offs to find the best solution.
How to highlight this during your job search: bring up any instances where you stepped up into a leadership position and made a decision. Maybe you had to weigh different options at one point, or you led a team project and made multiple decisions along the way. Demonstrate that you can make thoughtful choices in various circumstances.
Creativity isn’t just a benefit to those who work in the arts. Sometimes, it pays to think outside the box, no matter what your field is. The ability to think creatively is a key factor for innovation, and employers want people on their team who can help drive the business forward, not just be stuck doing the same things they (and everyone else) have always done before.
How to highlight this during your job search: talk about a time when you approached a project innovatively, or when you used unique solutions to solve a problem. Did you come up with a unique campaign strategy or financial model? Did you find a new, engaging design for the user experience on your website? Maybe you even thought of a fun, inventive team-building exercise. There are many ways to work “creativity” into your job!
Of course, it’s difficult to benefit from creative decisions if you’re unable to communicate them to your team. Conveying your thoughts in a clear, articulate, easy-to-understand manner makes things much easier both for you and the people you work with — and it helps to emphasize your competence on the job.
How to highlight this during your job search: be sure to proofread your resume multiple times, and even have someone give it a second pair of eyes. Practice answering interview questions in the mirror or with someone else, so you can be comfortable articulating your thoughts. Here, you can show, not just tell, that you have this skill.
Willingness to ask questions
Sometimes you don’t have the answer, or you need additional information. That’s why it’s incredibly important to be able (and willing) to ask questions. Reaching out to someone and asking for help demonstrates that a) you will use all available resources to solve a problem, b) you care about your work and will make sure you have everything you need to do it well, and c) you won’t be held back by pride or the desire to look like you have all the answers and never need help. After all, there’s a reason people say “the only bad questions are the ones left unasked.”
How to highlight this during your job search: ask thoughtful questions in the interview! It will show that you’re curious about the role and company. You could also note any experiences where you didn’t have the answer to a problem right away, but you made sure to ask questions and do your research so that you could find the solution. This will show not only that you’ve been successful in the past, but that you have the ability to learn and grow as well.
It’s difficult to write a quality blog post if you leave it until an hour before the deadline, it’s hard to give a good presentation if you don’t build it and practice well ahead of time, and it’s nearly impossible to put together a project at the last minute — in fact, it would be difficult to do any quality work if it’s crammed right before it’s due. An employer will want to be confident that the work you’ll do for them will be skilled and beneficial to the company.
How to highlight this during your job search: when telling your interviewer about projects you worked on, emphasize the times you worked ahead of schedule. Show that you don’t just do good work, but that you do it in a timely manner.
Finally, it’s always important to be able to adapt. New programs and coding languages will be created, or curveballs will be thrown that will require you to change your strategy suddenly. You may have to learn a new system, or you might find yourself having to work remotely for the foreseeable future when you’re used to working in an office. No matter what comes up, your employer will want people on the team who are flexible and able to get their work done even with new, unexpected situations.
How to highlight this during your job search: when was a time in your previous job where you had to adapt? Did you have to figure out how to use a just-added tool, did the company’s strategy change, causing the trajectory of your own work to shift? Discuss any times when you learned something new or made adjustments in the face of different circumstances.