As the business world has become more competitive for the shrinking markets available to them, companies have shifted their focus from hiring the most educated or experienced graduate, to hiring those employees with personal pluses as well as the job skills.
Right now, you may be in an entry-level job, gaining experience and hoping to work your way up. This is also the time (if you haven't learned them while growing up), to develop your people skills as well. Because these tend to be the "soft" sell features that make candidates stand out at an interview.
Promptness is one attribute that employers appreciate. It doesn't come naturally, but it doesn't take a great deal of work to acquire either. A little planning, or putting thought into your daily routines and habits, mean you are not only on time for work, but for outside activities as well.
Personality also goes a long way, when an employer is considering equally qualified candidates. Do you enjoy your work? Have you had good experiences with previous employers? If not, don't make those incidents a focus during your interview. Instead, highlight the positive aspects of past jobs, and how they have helped to make you suited for the position related to the interview. And don't ooze friendliness. Leave that to your puppy at home. Interviewers can spot a phony as soon as they show their orthodontist's handiwork. Be your natural, sincere self. Your real personality will show through, and sometimes will count for more than the degree on your graduation certificate.
People skills are now being considered one of the most valuable assets that any employee can have, no matter what their role. It's not just the customer service part of the job that counts, but how well you function as part of a team, and part of what may be a small, and highly motivated company where there can be periods of intense and concentrated work that tests both your professional skills and your temper. Having an even "keel", and knowing how to deal with those who don't, is a talent that will follow you from job to job, in written recommendations, and in how you present yourself at an interview.
With the number of people seeking work, either as new graduates or recently laid off employees, you need to put not only your best foot forward, but your best "self". A company can go to any institute and hire a person trained to a particular skill. What they are really looking for when they grant interviews, is someone with the technical skills and personality pluses.
Joel Vance is an Human Resources expert who has been in HR for 17 years and interviewed 3,159 people. He has also taught at 4 major universities around the country and currently has a best selling book on interviewing entitled The Perfect Interview at www.theperfectinterview.com
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