There is a reason they say, “the proof is in the pudding,” not “the proof is in the pudding’s degree,” or “the proof is in the pudding’s references.” Though these things are factors, at the end of the day hiring decisions come down to your abilities. Have you convinced the hiring manager that you possess the hard and soft skills to carry out the function of the role? How can you sell and substantiate your skills in an interview?
Identify Relevant Skills
A high level of self-awareness and a clear understanding of the role at hand will help you to choose which skills to promote. If you need help finding the vocabulary to talk about your abilities, take some time to reflect on your last few positions. What were your big picture responsibilities? Jot down the tasks you performed to fulfill those responsibilities. Then consider how you went about completing those tasks. You may find words coming up several times: “analyze,” “facilitate,” “organize,” or “develop.” From those common threads you can begin to articulate your skills and consider which ones overlap with the job description.
Go Hard on the Soft Stuff
“With many industries facing skills shortages, more employers are willing to train candidates in the technical skills they need – but they can’t ‘teach’ soft skills, as these are developed through experience,” says Emma Sue Prince, author of The Advantage: The 7 Soft Skills You Need to Stay One Step Ahead. The National Association of Colleges and Employers conducted a recent survey with hiring managers to find the top ten most important skills employers are seeking. The top three (1. Ability to work within a team structure: 2. Make decisions and solve problems; and 3. Communicate verbally with people) are soft skills. People skills and emotional intelligence are widely recognized to be as important, if not more important, than technical skills, but they can be more difficult to convey in an interview process. You can list a certain software on your resume and I will believe you know how to use it, but if you write “leadership” as a core competency, I am going to need more evidence to trust you know how to lead effectively.
Tell the Story
One of the best ways to endorse your skills is to back them up with examples. Think through a circumstance where there was a goal or an obstacle that allowed you to use your skills. Especially with soft skills, the more you can quantify and ground the story in concrete results, the better. Examples where you brought a team of twelve to a consensus or discovered a more effective way to communicate across departments are the moments you want to highlight.
One great new resource to help you tell your story is Innovation Women. This online speakers bureau is designed to help entrepreneurial and technical women gain more visibility for their companies and themselves. Employers will be able to search the site for women with specific skills. I encourage you to investigate this and other resources that exist to promote what you can do.
Chaloner, founded in 1979 as Chaloner Associates, is a national executive search firm that focuses on recruiting mid- to senior-level communications, public relations, marketing and investor relations professionals.