There is a common assumption that employers aren’t hiring during the holidays. However, many companies prefer to hire during the joyous season so they can be fully staffed in preparation for the New Year.
Employment specialists at the Department of Economic Security (DES) offer year-round employment services to develop a job seekers’ soft skills before connecting them to hiring employers. Soft skills are the professional attributes such as behavior, attitude, interpersonal skills, and common courtesy that go beyond academics, and show an employer that someone will be a solid worker.
“It’s the soft skills that disqualify them [job seekers] from employment,” said Bob Neckes, Director of Human Resources and Safety for First Impressions Iron Works.
Neckes says that it all starts with the job interview, where the job seeker is giving his or her best. The way one communicates during their interview is typically the way someone is going to communicate at work. Not showing up to a scheduled interview is obviously a huge red flag. Employers like Neckes give the job seeker one shot to show for an interview. Arriving late for an interview is another red flag. Job seekers should arrive 10-15 minutes early to an interview, and not make excuses.
“Instead of taking ownership, they [job seekers] blame something else,” says Neckes. This behavior is very telling and gives the interviewer insight into how the job seeker may perform if hired.
A job interview is the candidate’s time to communicate his or her abilities. However, many use the time to point out shortcomings. For example, a candidate might say he or she doesn’t know how to use a certain kind of computer software, or he or she can’t work on weekends. Neckes recommends focusing on what you can do instead.
DES Division of Employment and Rehabilitation Services (DERS) Workforce Supervisor, Laura Suman, says job seekers should avoid waiting until they need a job to go out on interviews. She says job seekers tend to experience low self-confidence when they’re out of work, and that can affect an interview. She also suggests job seekers shouldn’t let a lack of work history hold them back. Instead, Suman says, candidates should focus on acquiring the soft skills like a good “work ethic, performance, customer service, and attitude.” Many employers will hire someone they can train as long as they possess these attributes.
Suman also recommends practice and preparation. She suggests candidates create an “interview notebook” to practice the more common questions that an interviewer may ask. This allows the job seeker to appear competent and less likely to veer to far from the actual question asked. It also ensures the questions will be answered completely.
Suman is currently creating an interview workshop to assist DES and ARIZONA @ WORK clients. Here are her top 10 rules for a successful interview:
- It’s Not About You - Most people go in thinking that the interview is about them, but it’s actually about the employer. Research the company you are interviewing with and stay focused on what you can do for them.
- Be Honest - Lies will come back to haunt you.
- Don’t Overdo It - Coming off as too willing to please or arrogant may disqualify you from getting the job.
- Focus on Demeanor - Practice how you walk, talk, sit, shake hands, and nonverbal expressions. Sit in front of a mirror and watch yourself. Good eye contact is essential since it conveys confidence. Handshakes should be firm, but not too hard.
- Pace Yourself - Don’t take too many pauses, and don’t speak too quickly.
- Don’t Intimidate - Avoid making your interviewer uncomfortable by being too formal. If you have more experience than the interviewer, you should present your skills in a way that will make the interviewer look good.
- Listen - Instead of actively listening, many people will simply wait for a pause in the conversation for their turn to talk. Those people may assume what the interviewer asked, and not answer question correctly or completely. It’s very important to stick to the questions that are asked and include the key words in your response.
- Keep it Professional - Dress clean and in modest clothing. Do not flirt with your interviewer and don’t be coy. You want to come off as serious, reliable and competent.
- Take Notes - Jot down key points about the company, but be sure that you do not come off as ignoring the interviewer.
- Speak Appropriately - If you are asked a “yes” or “no” question, then answer “yes” or “no.” Don’t say ”yea” or “nah.” Use correct grammar and say “please” and “thank you.” Annunciate your words and keep hand gestures to a minimum. We all use slang, but you shouldn’t in an interview. Never use swear words.
Landing great employment is not simply based on a job seeker’s degree, work history and résumé. Employers want to hire individuals who have a great work ethic, positive attitude and a willingness to learn. Employers are speaking up and saying it’s the soft skills they seek in employees. A degree is not enough anymore to convince an interviewer a candidate will be an asset to the company. Soft skills go a long way towards making up for a less-than-impressive résumé or inconsistent work history.
For more information on interview preparation, career placement and soft skills development, please visit our Employment Service web page.
By Jillian Seamans