Throughout my career I’ve worked in partnership with hiring managers to ensure they attract and retain the best talent. In the past five years there’s been an increased emphasis on soft skills, with particular attention being paid to three focus areas. What are those skills? Influencing, learning agility and emotional intelligence.
In this article, I’ll explore why these qualities are important and guide you on how to weave them into the interview process.
Leading by influencing
As many organisations are moving from functional to matrix structures, soft power is becoming increasingly important. Cross collaboration and working in multidisciplinary teams are key tools used by organisations in their quest to be innovative and adapt with pace.
In your interview it’s important to demonstrate your ability to get support from people over whom you’ve no direct authority. Highlight how you dedicate time to building new networks when you start a new position and how you invest energy in people you believe will be critical to your success. Showcase your ability to build alliances, identifying those who are likely to support you and negotiating favourable outcomes with your opponents.
Ability to learn
In a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review, Julie Sweet the CEO of Accenture stated that the ability to learn was the number one quality she valued. Whilst you may be hired for a particular skill set, rapid technological change necessitates a proactive approach to keep continuously updated.
How can you show your learning agility in interviews? By giving examples of how you continuously look for stretch assignments to get exposure to new skill sets. You can also highlight how you nurture a broad network to get access to new ideas and information. Consider giving examples of how feedback from clients has given new insights and improved your department’s performance. Further education, CPD and attending conferences are also highly regarded.
A leader’s mood and behaviour is like an electrical current, driving the energy of their team. An optimistic, authentic leader will infuse his team with these same qualities; ultimately feeding into financial performance and the bottom line.
It can be common to approach the interview process as an exam, where success or failure depends on your answering questions correctly. Reframing the interview from a competitive process to one where you’re in negotiations with a business partner of equals can be useful. Remind yourself that you both have a common goal – to explore if you can work well together. This reframing will help you be yourself, getting out of “interview speak” and anchor you in the present. Showing your warmth and personality is powerful in an interview as it creates that vital connection with the hiring manager. Being aware of how you show up in an interview can give you that critical edge.
The best way to stand out in interviews is to think like a buyer not a seller. By reflecting on what’s most important to prospective employers you’ll be able to address their concerns before they’re even aware of them.
About the author
Laura McGrath is an Executive Coach with a background in recruitment and career coaching. She has a post graduate qualification in Executive Coaching from the IMI and has been a guest lecturer with Trinity College Dublin and TU Dublin. Laura has recently hosted an interview masterclass webinar for the Institute of Chartered Public Accountants. For more information call 087 669 1192.