From your interview attire to your post-interview thank you note, a lot can go into a successful interview. An often-overlooked factor that can impact your interview success is soft skills. Whether it’s your first interview out of college or one of many, learning how to improve and develop soft skills is vital.
A big factor in how to improve soft skills relies on your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. While verbal refers to how well you speak, nonverbal communication relies on posture, body language, and eye contact.
The key to developing soft skills effectively is practice. Nevertheless, knowing where to start can be tricky. What skills should you work on improving? Are there certain methods to consider when developing your soft skills?
Keep reading to learn what soft skills are important, how to develop and improve them and more.
How to Develop Soft Skills For Interviews
If you’ve noticed that your soft skills could use some work, you’re not alone. While many focus on crafting great responses to interview questions, sharpening soft skills is often not a top priority. Learning how to develop soft skills as a student or recent graduate will help you make the best impression possible. Discover examples of soft skills and how to enhance them ahead.
Eye Contact and Nonverbal Communication
Appropriate eye contact speaks to confidence and self-esteem. When you keep eye contact with the person you are talking to, you are focused and paying attention. It shows your interviewer that you are listening to what they are saying.
If you look away, it may appear as though you are inattentive or uninterested. This is a very quick way to turn your interviewer against you!
Soft Skill Development Tip: Match your attentive eye contact with an appropriate facial expression (like a smile) to make yourself stand out from the other candidates. Convey interested attention with an open, positive expression. If more than one person interviews you, spread your attention. Maintain eye contact from one end of the interviewing group to the other by looking at each person through your answer.
For eye contact to be effective, it needs to be welcoming and appropriate—not a constant stare. When eye contact is not wanted, it goes from gazing to staring, and being stared at makes people uncomfortable. To improve soft skills like eye contact, candidates can either practice answering in front of a mirror or recorded mock interviews.
Another important area for soft skill development is engagement. Showing how engaged you are in a conversation relies on various factors like body language.
Start by considering your body language when you first sit down for an interview. Once seated for your interview, you will be tempted to get comfortable. However, resist the temptation to do things like leaning back in your chair because this can cause you to slouch.
Slouching in an interview is a red flag! Slouching into the chair or leaning to one side in the interview room can be interpreted as indifferent or too relaxed. It also shows a lack of self-confidence and respect for the interviewers.
Soft Skill Development Tip: Enthusiastic candidates wondering how to improve soft skills like body language can start by actively thinking about their posture. Show engagement by sitting up straight during your interview. To strengthen their engagement level, candidates can take multiple recorded mock interviews. Recording a mock interview is a quick and effective way to target and improve your body language over time.
Speaking Rate and Clarity
In addition to your nonverbal communication skills, effective soft skill development should improve your verbal communication skills. Two main areas to look at for verbal communication include your speaking rate and clarity.
What influences your speaking rate?
1. Your normal speaking rate (a product of your birth, culture, family history, etc.)
2. Nervousness and stress – speaking under pressure tends to make you speak faster
3. Mental fatigue – if you are tired, you tend to speak slower
4. Complexity of words spoken (longer words take longer to enunciate)
5. Verbal pauses
6. Extra pauses induced by you (picking up something, looking around, etc.)
Is it better to speak faster or slower?
Generally, speaking slower is more intelligible than faster speech. If you tend to talk fast, try to include appropriate pauses in your speech. These pauses allow your interviewer time to digest what you said and begin to process it.
When improving soft skills like speaking clarity, practice often makes perfect. If you struggle with mumbling or speaking too quickly, practice using sharp pronunciation and good enunciation by recording yourself as you talk. As you hear your recorded voice, you’ll be able to notice where your clarity is lacking. As your pronunciation improves, your interviewer will be able to easily hear each word you say.
Filler words are inserted into our speech when our brain needs a moment to catch up to our mouth. In the vast majority of interviews, this is a completely useless signal. You don’t need to fill that space to indicate that you’re thinking. You just need to…think! Your interviewer will understand if you need a moment to gather your thoughts.
Some tried and true methods that will help you break the habit of using filler words include:
1. Raising your level of preparation. You are more nervous when unprepared. Feeling nervous makes most people speak quicker, making it more likely that your brain won’t keep up. Try to write down some sample answers to possible questions for your interview.
2. Slowing down. Slowing your pace down will also reduce those um’s and ah’s because it makes it easier for the brain to keep up. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. Even a modest reduction in pace will help. As a bonus, speaking a bit slower probably improves the ability of your interviewer to understand you!
3. Embrace the silent pause. Try to replace the filler words with silence. Commit yourself to breaking this habit by practicing, and it will happen.
Put Your Best Foot Forward with InterviewFocus
As you consider how to improve soft skills for an interview, remember that practicing is the best way to get comfortable and confident. InterviewFocus is the tool that helps you cultivate important soft skills before the interview. With AI technology that scans your eye contact levels, reports on filler word usage and much more, you’ll have the coaching you need to impress the hiring manager. Give InterviewFocus a try and be the most prepared candidate in the room.