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How to Sell Your Soft Skills in a Job Interview

Women are still earning a heck of a lot less than men. White women make approximately 20 percent less than their white male counterparts, and the reality for women of color is much bleaker: If we closed the gender wage gap, the average Latinx woman would make nearly $1,000,000 more over the course of her lifetime. So, ladies, in the meantime, let’s start capitalizing on the skills that could boost our salaries that we tend to cultivate more than men: emotional intelligence and soft skills. Kat Cohen — founder and CEO of IvyWise, a company that provides tutoring and admissions counseling for students — assures us there’s no need to skimp on soft skills on our resumes and through the interview process.

Soft skills can be defined as qualitative attributes, such as adaptability, communication, and teamwork, as opposed to hard skills, like editing, coding, and accounting, which typically require some sort of subject-specific training or education. Soft skills are especially important because they provide hiring managers with a sneak peek of an applicant’s professional behavior. “Hiring managers and recruiters evaluate soft skills to get an idea of an applicant’s work style, how they will fit into the fabric of the team, and their professional demeanor,” explains Cohen. The best part about soft skills? Everybody has some, thanks to that part-time job busing tables, scooping ice cream, or filing documents. Cohen recommends recent college graduates, who perhaps have fewer years of experience, really underscore their soft skills on their resumes and then demonstrate them during the interview.

To incorporate soft skills into your resume, Cohen stays step one is selecting them. “Start by identifying three to four soft skills you possess and that you have demonstrated throughout your prior experience,” Cohen suggests. “Once you’ve nailed down your top soft skills, treat them as keywords.” Throughout your resume, hint at these skills with strong word choice, especially in terms of verbs. For example, if you chose to highlight your leadership abilities, make use of phrases such as “developed,” “independently initiated,” and “led” as you describe your previous experiences. But Cohen cautions to save the long-winded anecdotes for the cover letter and in-person interview, which is where a majority of your opportunities to show off your soft skills will lie.

Job applicants sit together as they await their interviews

Space on resumes is limited (as is the attention span of the people screening them), so cover letters and interviews, though potentially nerve-racking, provide you with the best platform to actually detail how you, say, collaborate, prioritize, or communicate. “The best way for applicants to incorporate soft skills into applications and cover letters is by utilizing stories and anecdotes that weave together professional accomplishments with more qualitative personality traits,” Cohen asserts. When you’re talking about your Photoshop chops, for example, Cohen proposes adding how you trained a friend on your university’s newspaper staff on the program as well. “This statement illustrates that the candidate not only possesses a technical competency but also valuable soft skills that enabled them to make the most of this ability.”

Furthermore, during an interview, what you say and what you do demonstrate your soft skills. Missteps such as showing up late, avoiding eye contact, and forgetting to thank the interviewer all reveal a lack of potentially relevant soft skills. “Given how important soft skills are, it’s not enough to simply avoid making these interview mistakes,” Cohen emphasizes, however. “Candidates need to actively demonstrate soft skills they possess in order to stand out.” According to Cohen, confidence, communication, and work ethic can all easily be displayed by simply researching a company beforehand and answering questions articulately and assuredly.

Although the balance of soft and hard skills during the job application process varies based on factors such as industry, experience level, and position, it’s crucial to show how all of your skills complement and enhance one another. “At the end of the day,” Cohen says, “a job applicant should be more than the sum of their parts.”

Practice boasting about your soft skills to us at BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)

Annamarie Higley
Annamarie is a Californian who's been plopped in the middle of Missouri for her undergraduate studies in magazine journalism. She's a hiker, an eater, a lover of words. In her opinion, nothing beats a well-made breakfast sammy or a well-crafted sentence.

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