Soft skills for STEM candidates
Our clients are increasingly emphasising soft skills when defining their requirements, but what does this mean and how can you maximise your chances of getting your dream job?
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are what we used to call ‘people skills’ or ‘EQ’ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). This covers a broad range of qualities including engaging in teamwork, having good communication skills, pragmatic decision making and the ability to negotiate. These qualities are essential in a successful business and their value shouldn’t be underestimated.
What employers are looking for
I cannot think of one job that we have hired for that didn’t involve working as part of a team. The vast majority of STEM roles could be characterised as collaborative problem solving and soft skills are key to this! Employers are looking for talented individuals who want to pool their skills to benefit the business.
They need staff that will learn from their colleagues, share their findings, liaise with other specialists and more and more often, communicate with clients, customers, focus groups and end-users. If you’re applying for or aiming to move into, a management role soft skills are especially important.
How to demonstrate soft skills
You may think that soft skills are for the interview but there are subtle ways of conveying soft skills in your CV too. Here are our tips;
I think of this as rather like presenting quantitative and qualitative data. Your grades, your list of previous employers and your key achievements are your quantitative data. You have provided evidence that you are qualified and have the experience for the job. Where you get ahead is presenting the person behind the statistics. This doesn’t involve a life history but it involves communicating the outcome of your impressive qualifications.
Present your particular interests in the field. Include examples of working as part of a team and emphasise your collaborative achievements rather than focusing solely on your own brilliance! Review your CV and think about what it says about you. Do you come across as a passionate, competent team player or a genius maverick? Believe me, they want the former!
Make sure the first impression is that of a friendly, polite and amenable person. Relax, smile and make eye contact. If you are asked to list your strengths make sure some of them involve working with other people, communication skills or perhaps your flexibility when it comes to tasks or workloads. If you have impressive achievements that involved working with others, try to use ‘we’ rather than ‘I’. These little things show your acknowledgement of the value of the team.
They want to know that you will co-operate with colleagues, be able to communicate with non-specialists and be a representative of their company if required. You don’t need to come across as an extrovert, just as a reliable, personable asset to the company.
But I’m rubbish at soft skills!
No, you’re not, well you might be, but not for long! Soft skills can be learnt like any other skill. To some, it comes naturally and for some, it’s a struggle but it’s definitely possible. Much of what we’re talking about when we refer to soft skills is empathy. Thinking about how your actions, words and personality affect others, be they your colleagues, managers or customers. The things you do affect everyone around you to a greater or lesser degree. Read up on soft skills and value them as much as our clients do.
Remember when you go to an interview they want to hire you! Recruiting staff is an expensive business and there’s a reason you’re there – they think you’re up to the job. Be polite, generous and friendly and good luck!