What skills are employers looking for in candidates?

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You might not be a qualified engineer or don’t have a finance degree, but for many employers, that doesn’t really matter. Employers today are often more concerned with hiring someone with a degree – any degree – as long as they have strong transferable or “soft” personal skills.

But what exactly are soft skills and how do you prove to an employer that you have them?

Dr Mary Collins, a registered psychologist and professional executive coach, says soft skills could best be described as “people skills” or “emotional intelligence skills”.

“In the increasingly digital age of work, these will gain in importance,” she says. “In legal or accounting forms, much of the work is shifted to artificial intelligence or algorithms, but companies still need graduates with effective communication, collaboration, negotiation, influence and customer relationship skills – none of which cannot be reproduced by a computer. “

Think about your skills

Reflecting on these skills means sitting down and reflecting on who you are, what you enjoy and what you have learned – not only in school and college, but also in your personal life, through your professional experience. and your involvement in clubs and societies.

“If you grew up in the family business, you may have learned the skills to deal with clients,” Collins explains. “If you’re a person with high feelings, you can tend to be more empathetic. If you were in clubs and societies in college, you may have developed skills in leadership or event planning. Once you’ve identified these skills, you want to ask yourself: are they transferable and usable for the job I’m applying for? “

It is important to be honest with yourself. “ViaCharacter.org is a useful online tool for understanding your strengths and how they might relate to your skills. It’s also a good idea to get feedback from people who know you: what do they think are your strengths? Ask family, critical friends and mentors.

The skills employers are looking for

IrishJobs.ie, one of Ireland’s largest recruiters, asks employers to identify the key skills they want candidates to have. As a result, IrishJobs.ie has been able to screen over 9,000 of the most in-demand skills across a range of jobs and industries.

The most requested skill over the past three years has been communication. Next, in order, are sales, project management, customer service, engineering, construction, management, Excel, manufacturing, administration, ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), finance, IT, compliance, teamwork, accounting, GMP (good manufacturing practices), attention to detail, interpersonal skills, SAP (system application and product in process), design, Java , SQL and quantity takeoff.

When you zoom out to focus on the most in-demand ‘soft skills’ – that is, the soft skills that are developed through education, work experience, volunteering, and life – we see the list read as follows: communication, sales, project management, customer service, management, teamwork, attention to detail, interpersonal skills, leadership and problem solving.

Proving your skills

Jane Lorigan, CEO of Saongroup, the parent company of IrishJobs.ie, says it’s not enough to just list your soft skills in an interview – you have to prove you have them. “You can prove your more technical or professional skills because you have the qualification,” she says. “But if you say you have great problem-solving skills, you must have examples ready for your application and interview. So, you could talk to a recruiter about a time when you had a problem and how you solved it.

Proving your skills is all about impact, says Collins. “Include them in your experience and show how you have made an impact in the workplace. You might not have the extensive professional experience of a customer relationship manager, for example, but you might have been involved in organizing a college event that 300 people attended.

Your key skills should also be highlighted on your resume, says Lorigan. “This is especially important if, as a graduate, you don’t have a lot of work experience. So it could be very good communication skills and the ability to interact and work with people in a polite and collaborative manner, which you acquired while working in a summer job in retail.

Understanding of skills

Teamwork is closely related to communication skills and includes self-awareness and the ability to understand team dynamics and different personality types, explains Lorigan.

“When it comes to attention to detail, every functional team needs at least one person with a level of thoroughness and precision to accomplish a task, ensure deadlines are met and information is accurate. and consistent with the numbers. Leadership, on the other hand, is about decision-making, conflict resolution, and the willingness to oversee and take ownership.

Why does she think communication is the key skill employers are looking for? “Because even if you are working remotely, you have to work with a team of colleagues, suppliers or customers. If you cannot communicate well, relationships break down and this is the main source of problems and conflicts in work situations. Concretely, having good communication skills means being able to listen to and absorb information, to ask questions and listen to answers, to interact politely and clearly and to convey a message. This means writing concisely and with clarity and persuasiveness, being able to demonstrate where you have been persuasive, and examples of negotiation skills. It means public speaking – which most students will have done in their classes (through group work) – reading body language and situations, and emotional intelligence. It is something that develops with age and experience.

Panel: Autism in the workplace

Lorigan is aware that these skills are easier for people with neurotyping and that people with neurodiverse or autism can lose. IrishJobs.ie works with the autism charity AsIAm to provide support and information to employers.

Research data suggests that there is a higher rate of unemployment or underemployment among people with autism, who may have difficulty with the recruitment process – especially the interview process.

“We’re working with businesses to make them more aware of an autism-friendly interview and workplace,” she says. “For an interview situation, that means being clear and frank about the interview location, the process, and who will be there. It means not to change things at the last minute. And that means not hitting the person with multiple questions, giving them time to process the information and time to respond. A bright room or a lot of ambient noise can start a really strong candidate.

* For more information see AsIAm.ie

Panel: What is the link between your skills and our needs?

Sigmar Recruitment has compiled a list of some of the key skill-based questions applicants can be asked during an interview.

When applying for a job, first carefully review the job description and identify the skills and characteristics that might be assessed. Next, identify the situations and experiences that you will refer to during the interview to demonstrate these skills and character traits. Competency-based and well-structured responses are extremely powerful and will win you the interview.

The STAR model will structure your answers:

Situation – describe a situation or a problem you have encountered

Task – describe the task that the situation required or your ideas for solving the problem

action – describe the action you took, the obstacles you had to overcome

Results – highlight the results obtained

Knowledge of the organization and the role

What are your motivations for applying to this organization: were they well thought out? Do you know enough about this area of ​​work and this organization to be clear on how your skills fit into it?

* Why did you apply for this position?

* How would you measure your success or failure in this job?

* What skills and personal qualities are essential to be successful in this role?

* How do you plan to follow the evolution of your domain?

Influence or persuade others

You can have strong verbal skills, but can you influence someone else to change their thinking or take action – maybe a colleague is following your advice or a customer decides to buy a service or product.

* Tell me about a time when you were able to change someone’s perspective in a significant way.

* Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something you didn’t agree with.

Interpersonal and team skills

Employers need socially competent people. The desire to build and maintain relationships in the workplace and beyond is essential. Many workplaces operate on the basis of project teams. These teams are task-oriented and short-lived. Those who are very collaborative and cooperative are most likely to thrive in this type of environment.

* What experience do you have working in a team?

* What skills and personal qualities have you brought to the teams you have been part of?

* Tell me about a time when you were tactful and diplomatic.

– Courtesy of: Sigmar Recruitment / SigmarRecruitment.com


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