Detail-oriented. Strong written and verbal communication skills. Go-getter.
These are the soft skills that are most often listed in job postings. They’re also the easiest ones for hiring managers to assess during the hiring process! And no, this is not because you’ve listed them on your resume. In fact, if you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that we recommend avoiding listing soft skills on your resume, and instead showing how you used those skills through bullet points that reflect tangible accomplishments.
One of the reasons we make that recommendation is because anyone can claim a soft skill, and without evidence to back it up, why would a hiring manager believe you? Beyond that, hiring managers can directly see if you have some of the soft skills they require through the application process. Let's go through a few examples how they assess these three skills.
Hiring managers can tell if you’re detail-oriented very easily. First, did you follow the application instructions in the job posting? If they asked for a cover letter, and you didn’t send one, you obviously missed that detail. If they asked you to include your top three favorite TV shows in the cover letter, and you don’t, they know you don’t pay attention to details or follow instructions. (That kind of call out is actually designed almost exclusively as a soft skills test, which is why it’s listed more in entry-level postings where applicants may not have proven their soft skills professionally yet!). Another way to see if you’re detail-oriented – does your resume match the job posting? Is it clear why you applied? Or did you send a production-oriented resume for a development executive role? A detail-oriented person will read the posting carefully and thoroughly and review their resume to make sure it aligns with the role.
Similarly, communication skills become evident throughout the application process. For example, if a person with strong written communication skills is applying for a job over email, they’ll send a short, well-written cover email instead of a blank email or a one-line “See attached.” When they’re contacted for an interview, they’ll respond professionally, with full, punctuated sentences, and no typos or grammatical errors. If a hiring manager reaches out to set an interview, and you reply to the email, “Yupp Monday 10am is good Thx,” you’re not demonstrating strong written communication skills for a professional environment. It’s also easy for hiring managers to get a sense of your verbal communication skills during the job interview. Sure, they’re looking to see if you’re really a fit based on a deeper dive into your professional background, but they’ll also know in a moment or two whether you are able to communicate your thoughts concisely and articulately.
A skill like “go-getter” is obvious to hiring managers too! Someone who truly takes initiative will do so during their job search. First, they’ll make sure their materials are as strong as can be and tailored to the job posting. Then, they’ll go the extra mile to see if they can get a referral to the position through their network or try to find a recruiter on LinkedIn who they can speak to directly. Even if they can’t find a connection, if they do get an interview, they’ll show proactivity by arriving on time, answering questions that demonstrate they've researched the company and projects, and sending a thank you note within 24 hours.
As you apply for jobs, keep in mind that hiring managers are vetting you beyond what’s written on your resume or said in your interview. One of the biggest missteps candidates can make is claiming a soft skill they don’t have, as it raises red flags about all their other qualifications the moment a hiring manager discovers one is a misrepresentation. Make sure you cultivate these skills (coaching can help!) and demonstrate them throughout the application process.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan