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How to stand out and form a meaningful connection during your next job interview by letting your soft skills do the talking.
Working as a recruiter since 2009, I sometimes wonder exactly how many people I’ve interviewed over the years. Between phone screens, group interviews and numerous in-person meetings spanning across multiple organizations, the number has to be well into the thousands.
What’s fascinating is that out of all the people I’ve encountered, there are certain individuals that I’ve recruited and worked with for years that I can still recall interviewing. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to talk about with work friends and other recruiters. The first impressions of your then interviewers (now colleagues), the (sometimes) awkward interview moments and, of course, that moment you knew this was the perfect job for you. Every interviewer has a story like this, the candidate that stood out, what made them great, etc. But why? What makes some folks stand out more than others, so much so that you can recall pieces of your conversation even years later?
In reminiscing about these hiring stories with past co-workers, I found that while we all had the same positive impression about the person we were discussing, what we remembered about why they stood out to us was almost always different. Whether it was something they said about the mission, their passion or genuineness, it resonated with them on a personal level and made them want to learn more. A connection was made.
At WorkMonger, we emphasize the importance of forming this kind of connection with your interviewer because we know you’re more than just the experiences listed on your resume. When you’re job seeking, the hard skills on your application may be what gets you in the door, but that’s also why 20 other people with a similar background get an interview too. Soft skills are more personality-oriented interpersonal skills that represent what makes you, you. Employers can usually train on the hard skills that will be required for a job, but they can’t teach you teamwork, flexibility, patience, or attitude, and will often look for job applicants with the specific soft skills they want for their team, especially after they establish a personal connection that makes them want to learn more.
So, how can you prepare yourself to build a meaningful connection with an employer in your next job interview? First, as mentioned in our previous blog post The Two Must-Do’s In Your Next Interview, ask about your interviewer! Learn about their background and what they do at the organization. See what you have in common. The value of forming that connection cannot be measured. It allows you to stand out from other candidates, and sets the stage for you to highlight the other personality traits you possess that would make you a perfect fit for the job.
Now that you’ve established that you and your interviewer share an alma mater and a passion for hot yoga, continue to showcase your soft skills by taking things one step further! Practicing the key culture fit questions below while keeping the goal of fostering a connection with your interviewer in mind can help you emphasize your unique qualities, why they’re important for the job and how this all makes you a great fit for their organization.
Mission Fit –
Question: “What motivates you to contribute to our mission in a professional way?”
Goal: Conveying that you not only did your research but that you genuinely care about the mission of an organization is incredibly important. Showing that you’re knowledgeable about their cause and value the work that they do, regardless of how the interview goes, is an important step to forming a valuable connection.
Question: “What gets you out of bed in the morning? What excites you about the work you do, or the kind of work you’d like to do?”
Goal: Passion goes a long way in not only showing your interest for the company’s mission, but also that you’ll work hard for a cause you believe in. Interviewers want to see folks that will continue to work hard and show a level of commitment to their organization even after their longest, hardest day on the job.
Relationship Building –
Question: “Can you tell me about a time you went above and beyond to help a teammate?”
Goal: We’ve all heard the expression the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and interviewers want to make sure you’ll be a valuable team player they can rely on. Will your work propel their mission forward so the organization can help more people? Are you someone they would enjoy working with? Demonstrating ways you have gone above and beyond for others is a surefire way to ensure an employer wants you on their team.
Problem Solving –
Question: “What are the types of challenges you anticipate in this position?”
Goal: Every role has its challenges. It’s unlikely that the person you’re interviewing with thinks their job is easy and that anybody could do it, so make sure you put some time into thinking about what the challenges in the position you’re interviewing for would be, why you’re excited to tackle them and how you might go about doing that.
Feedback & Reflection –
Question: “Can you provide me with a piece of feedback that you received in the past that was constructive in nature? What was the situation and how did it help you grow?”
Goal: Many interviewers want to assess not only how you’ll perform with the skills you currently have, but how you might grow over time. Is feedback something that you welcome? Do you actively seek it out? When it’s given, especially if it’s constructive, are you able to implement it? These are important factors in determining how someone might grow within an organization, and it’s vital that you portray yourself as someone they should invest in.
Remember, all employers value different things, so it’s critical to always read up on the culture of an organization before you start the process. If you feel like you’ve struggled to make that connection with an employer in the past, don’t fret! Interviewing is a two-way street, and you’re there to assess them as much as they are there to assess you. It’s important to ensure a good match on both sides so you can make a valuable impact and grow with an employer for years to come.