3 Soft Skills You Need to Stand Out in an Interview

Published: May 25, 2018

 Career Readiness       Interviewing       Job Search       Workplace Issues       
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One of the biggest mistakes interviewees make in interviews is believing they need to be polished, professional, and perfect all the time. Instead, what they need is to exhibit a few specific “soft skills.” And so, below you’ll find these soft skills, along with examples of how to convey them in an interview and why they’re important to your interview success.

1. Compassion

Humans psychologically gravitate towards people who show compassion for others. Even in the most difficult of situations at work (or in life), if you’re coming from a place of compassion (which, for many people, can be difficult to do all the time), you’re going to get a good response in the end. And so, telling a good story demonstrating that you’re a compassionate person can go a long way in an interview.

For example, a common situation people face is working with others on a project who are not pulling their weight. When working with others, we have to navigate this situation carefully, especially as a manager, but as part of a team, too.

Here’s a situation I experienced where I was able to show some compassion: I was working with a coworker who was very non-communicative. I always had to go up to him and ask for updates and bug him. I felt like he didn’t want to do the work, and if I didn’t bug him about it, then nothing would get done. What I ended up doing is asking if we could have a one-on-one chat and go for coffee (I offered to buy), and he said, “Sure.”

I started the conversation by asking him how he was doing and if there was anything going on that was bothering him, or if there was anything I could do to make his work go more smoothly. (Note that I started the conversation focused on him, not on my own needs. This is key.) I also told him I felt like I was bugging and nagging him all the time, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t annoying him too much. He laughed and thanked me.

He then mentioned that he was going through a rough time, had a lot of demands on his time, and was getting distracted a lot and found it difficult to focus. He said that he understood that I needed him to get things done in order to get my job done, and he was trying.

The truth is he was struggling with a lot of work on his plate, and I told him I understood and that if that was happening to me, I’d be feeling swamped and frustrated, too. He thanked me for understanding, and told me he wasn’t sure how to move forward because he didn’t see the situation changing. To which I suggested we talk to his manager to see if she could help resolve the issue, maybe letting him work from home once day a week or coming up with another creative solution. He said that was a worth a shot. So we set up a meeting with his manager.

It turned out that his manager had no idea that he was so swamped or what had been going on with his tasks and said that certain things could be taken off his plate. This was the start of open communication and a great working relationship moving forward.

A final note: I don’t believe that being compassionate means you’re a softy or a pushover. I believe it means that you can get things done, move projects forward, and get great results, all while still remembering to care about people.

2. Sound Judgment

I’ve often come across situations where an employee did (or did not do) something for me and I couldn’t understand why. These situations frustrate me, and they certainly frustrate others as well. And so, telling a good story in an interview about how you possess sound business judgment is a great asset.

Here’s an example from my experience: My boss was in a meeting with some investors and he contacted me via Slack (the company messenger that we use) and asked me for two things within the next five minutes. He wrote, “Urgent request - need this STAT. Financial documents from Q1 and Q2 from 3 years ago and we need lunch - no dietary restrictions.”

I tried messaging him back with a few questions, but there was no response, and I could see that he was clearly very engaged in speaking with these investors and I had no way to contact him. In my opinion, interrupting him for questions was not sound judgment at the time. I had no details of what he really needed, so there was guesswork involved.

The action I took was I asked my colleague to go up the street to a nearby store and pick up some sandwiches, salads, and some dessert bars. Meanwhile I focused on getting the financials they needed. I went to the finance department and asked for help with an urgent matter. I had a colleague in the department who was very helpful. I told her what the meeting was about, and she deduced what my boss probably needed. Within seven minutes, I had everything to him. And later on in the day, he sent me a message saying, “Thank you for today—you saved me.”

Now, even if what I passed along wasn’t exactly what he needed, I did the best I could with the time and information I was provided. I knew the key was to act quickly, not perfectly.

3. Likeability

In addition to those who are compassionate, humans gravitate towards people who are genuine and authentically themselves. That is, people will like you more if they see you as a human being with flaws, rather than someone who appears to be perfect. Humans don't feel right about someone who seems "perfect"—it’s in our human nature to be suspicious, and it seems fake and disingenuous when someone is too polished and too rehearsed. It doesn't give people a good feeling, and they start sensing that something is off, like you’re hiding something or not being completely honest.

A good example of this occurs when candidates try to disguise their weaknesses as strengths by saying that they “try too hard” or they “work too much.” A candidate who never makes a mistake or never admits they did something wrong raises a red flag.

One way to fight against trying to be perfect is to remember to have fun in your interview. When you're having fun, you’re in a relaxed state, in a good place, with good energy surrounding you. Interviewing is a lot like a first date. If you’re pretending to be someone you’re not, even a little bit, then if you’re hired (go out on more dates), you’re going to need to keep that dishonest persona. And that leads to a bad fit.

For example, if you’re being interviewed and are asked about a particular project concerning numbers or spreadsheets, and the truth is that you hate numbers and spreadsheets but you tell your interviewer you love them, you can end up in that role that you’re not only not good at but also secretly hate.

So, bring yourself to the interview, and be honest about who you are. If your interviewers like you, great! And if they don’t like you, also great! Either way, you’re in a better place for being yourself and giving yourself a chance to get hired for the right reasons.

Natalie Fisher is an enthusiastic HR Generalist who loves her job. She's been on over 50 interviews and received 48 job offers. Soon, she's teaching a live FREE master class called “How to Land the Job You Want 10 Times Faster,” which is open to everyone, regardless of experience level. To sign up for the class, click here.