You have the same qualification and roughly the same amount of experience as other candidates and yet someone else got the job.
What tipped the scales?
There are, of course, loads of dynamics, both on the side of the interviewee and the interviewer, most of them irrational, but one thing we know is that it isn’t always about your capabilities.
Often the clue can be found in the hard-to-identify soft skills that gel everything else together.
In his recent article on this subject, author-teacher-influencer Seth Godin says organisations do not respect these skills – at least not to the extent that they insist on calling them soft skills.
And organisations are quicker to tolerate people who don’t have them over those who lack technical ability. The accounts assistant who messes up on her figures will be sacked quicker than the unrepentant grouch even though he makes other workers’ lives hell. Yet the grouch is losing the organisation money too.
Soft skills shape an organisation’s culture
It is ‘the difficult-to-measure attitudes, processes and perceptions’ of the people a company hires that makes the difference to which of two organisations in the same field becomes the leader or the follower.
That’s why soft skills aren’t soft. These are the skills that shape an organisation’s culture and, as Seth says, ‘culture defeats strategy every time’. Culture is a matter of the heart.
Because they are so important, he says ‘soft skills’ should be renamed ‘real skills’. These skills, which by the way can be learnt, are the modifiers, amplifiers and game-changers in a company.
And they are the skills that make you stand out over a fellow candidate with the same experience and qualifications you have.
These skills are:
- Team working
- Problem solving
- Entrepreneurial skills
- Communication skills
- Business awareness
People define these soft (sorry Seth, real) skills in a variety of ways. Seth lists perception, self-control, productivity, wisdom and influence. We might swap these for the equally useful insight, self-discipline, follow-through, judgement and ability to impact.
Such skills foster our admiration and appreciation of other people. As John Maxell says, ‘People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.’
If you lack soft skills, beware
People who are good at their jobs but don’t have these skills are often tolerated only because they get results. Beware if that’s you. You may not get fired but you’re likely to be overlooked for promotion and opportunities that can accelerate your career. You may not have a clue until you see your peers advancing ahead while you remain in the same position.
What is going to make you memorable is the ability to show what makes you different. And the only thing that is going to make you different to your peers or fellow candidates with the same assets you have, is what you have outside of what they have.
As a recent graduate, you are going to represent your career story something along the lines of:
First, your qualifications.
Next, your skills and experience.
Then it will be the glue that holds it all together: your real or soft skills.
What you know also helps. When you set yourself the task of learning all you can about the company, the industry and how to develop your technical skills over what the normal person might do, you will stand out.
Fortunately for you, most people are too lazy to do this.