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Demonstrate your skills to stand out in the jobs market

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When applying for jobs, people often focus on their technical skills and experience. While these skills are essential to any job, they’re not the be-all and end-all of what employers look for in their next recruit.

If you want to really stand out, you need to present a complete package to employers, one that helps them visualise you succeeding in the role – and that involves painting a picture of not only the relevance of your technical skills, but your soft skills too.

Yet soft skills can be hard to quantify and prove on your CV. For example, many people resort to writing “I possess strong communication skills” because they don’t know how else to demonstrate this ability. But this phrase is so overused it’s now considered a tired cliché.

In today’s world of work though, where technology is taking over many of the routine and repetitive aspects of our jobs, employers are placing greater emphasis on a jobseeker’s soft skills and recognise that it is these skills that allow an employee to add great value to an organisation.

So what soft skills are in greatest demand? We recently spoke to close to 900 employers in New Zealand for our annual Hays Salary Guide. We asked them a range of questions, including which skills they want to add to their team. Over two-thirds - or 67% - said they want candidates who can bring problem solving skills to their team. Another 60% want strong communication skills and 51% want critical thinking skills.

But to really stand out in the job market, you need to prove your skills in these areas, along with any other soft skills relevant to your particular job function or industry. Here are our tips to help you quantify your soft skills:

1. Give examples
Firstly, think of times you showcased each of the soft skills required in the role and – crucially – what the results of your actions were. For instance, rather than simply writing, “I have strong problem solving skills”, which is vague and demands context, try “I designed and implemented a new strategy that reversed our declining customer retention rate.” By supporting your claims with evidence, you prove the strength of each soft skill.

If you can’t measure the impact of a particular soft skill, you should still give examples of situations in which they shone through. For instance, a presentation you gave to clients or a report you wrote for your executive will demonstrate the strength of your verbal or written communication skills.

2. Use action verbs
As we’ve mentioned before, one of the simplest ways to ensure you quantify your skills, whether technical or soft, is to use action verbs. Action verbs force you to put your results front and centre, allowing you to prove your soft skills, rather than simply listing them one by one.

For example, instead of writing that you have strong critical thinking skills, use verbs such as ‘analysed’, ‘evaluated’ or ‘devised’. I.e., “I analysed customer complaint data and based on the conclusions I drew, I then designed a new training session for employees. After one year our customer complaints had decreased 30%.”

3. Share your expertise on social media
You can also align your professional social media profile with your soft skills. For example, posting that you were proud to be invited to chair a panel discussion at an event will demonstrate your communication skills. Be sure and add the appropriate hash tags but don’t overdo it. This is not about showing off but rather showcasing your soft skills.

You could also ask your connections to endorse your soft skills or even write a recommendation that highlights the required soft skills.

4. Demonstrate how you could add additional value
Along with strong soft skills, the ability to add additional value will help you stand out from other candidates. Whether it’s knowledge of new software or understanding of a new legislation impacting your job function, anything that puts you head and shoulders above other candidates helps.

With these four simple steps, you’ll be able to prove your soft skills to a potential employer and stand out from other candidates thanks to your ability to offer a complete package of both technical and soft skills.

 

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