7 soft skills recruiters value during uncertain hiring times

By Joseph Liu

April 20, 2021

While technical and functional skills are still as important as ever, recruiters and hiring managers have also been seeking candidates who have specific transferable soft skills that are especially relevant during this time when the workplace as we know it has undergone such a radical transformation.

Emotional Intelligence

The ability to read situations and approach them with sensitivity is now absolutely critical, especially for team leaders, because “customers and colleagues are balancing so many competing demands in their personal and professional lives,” according to Amanda Georgoff, regional vice president of sales at SalesLoft.

With face-to-face contact reduced, executives have to be able to pick up on the nuances of Zoom calls or Slack messages to ascertain employees’ struggles that affect productivity, according to Sean Walker, partner at the Bowdoin Group, an executive search firm.

You can demonstrate emotional intelligence during your interviews by weaving in concrete, personal examples of how you changed your work approach with others based on what you ascertained was happening behind the scenes in their lives.

Resilience

Resilience is also critical to managing stressful situations. “We’re living in a world that can be disrupted at any moment, and those who demonstrate resilience will pull us forward faster,” says Robin Stenzel, chief solutions and talent officer at Outmatch, a talent decision platform. Therefore, hiring managers are now looking for candidates who have displayed optimism in the face of challenge, especially since the pandemic placed many people in front of many uncertain situations.

The ability to adapt, learn, and work toward a successful transition has been a key factor in hiring, according to Sheila Ryan, chief people officer at Clear Capital, a financial technology and real estate valuation company. A way to demonstrate resilience to a hirer is to share specific examples in your cover letter or résumé of stressful situations you were in, the actions you took in response, and the ultimate result of those actions.

Empathy

While separating your work life from your personal life has always been tricky, the pandemic has made this separation nearly impossible. Whether caring for a loved one sick with COVID-19, working remotely while home-schooling, or dealing with the income loss from a partner’s unemployment, being sensitive to our colleagues’ challenges can make a huge difference to employee morale, retention, and productivity.

“The ability to identify with others and the problems they are battling with has become all the more important as we struggle with all sorts of personal and interpersonal problems brought on by the pandemic,” says Darrell Rosenstein, a founder of a recruiting firm focused on the e-commerce industry.

You can demonstrate empathy by sharing a specific example of how you helped out and made sacrifices to help a coworker or personal acquaintance through a difficult situation. The more specific you can be about the emotional dynamics you navigated, the better.

Adaptability

This pandemic has resulted in the upending of entire industries, as well as certain businesses facing tremendous volatility due to changes in consumer behaviors, spending habits, and client demands. Working face-to-face with colleagues in a central, physical workspace has quickly shifted to working remotely across distributed workforces. Therefore, candidates need to be able to adapt to changes in how they work and the tasks they are required to perform.

Therese Hightower, a senior director of talent acquisition at Avalara, says its hiring managers assess adaptability by asking candidates how they reacted when project requirements or desired outcomes changed.

In the same vein, Heather Myers, chief psychology officer at Traitify, a company specializing in talent assessments, says candidates can demonstrate adaptability during an interview by explaining their ability “to shift their mindset, learn new tasks quickly, or develop new procedures in previous work environments.”

Initiative

With so many people now working remotely, employers are looking for people who can accomplish tasks and add value with minimal guidance and regular contact.

“As we continue to work remotely, it’s crucial for new hires to be able to motivate themselves to meet deadlines and produce high-quality work, rather than being motivated by the pressure of a colleague or manager peering over your shoulder,” says Andy Knell, CEO of creative specialist recruiter AK Creative.

When applying this skill, signal initiative in your application process by proactively going the extra mile by doing in-depth company research, offering extra job materials, and reaching out after you apply. You can also share examples of when you’ve pushed ideas or projects forward in the past, without outside encouragement or guidance.

Tenacity

The ability to stay the course when the going gets rough is especially important during these times when many industries and companies have been hit hard by the pandemic, not to mention employees having to manage setbacks and challenges in their own personal lives in the midst of lockdowns and social isolation.

Antonia Hock, global head of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, suggests candidates “highlight specific examples of projects they completed or business results they drove under changing, uncertain, or challenging circumstances,” ideally on a résumé but also woven throughout an interview.

Relationship management

With the proliferation of remote workforces, building positive connections takes even more effort and savvy when many interactions are happening remotely over videoconference rather than face-to-face.

One way to convey your ability to build positive relationships with others is through your LinkedIn recommendations, inviting colleagues you’ve worked closely with to specifically comment on your ability to build relationships and nurture strong connections with people in other locations.

Remember that during these tough times, your approach to work matters more than ever. Integrating these soft skills into your personal brand is one way you can more effectively stand out as a candidate who can still excel in the face of uncertainty.

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