How can a job candidate who seems immensely qualified be rejected by company after company? Sometimes technical expertise isn’t enough: the successful interview hinges on intangible, “soft” skills.
Jeff Altman, a career, leadership, and executive coach who uses the moniker “Big Game Hunter,” leads a virtual session on interview skills for the Professional Service Group of Mercer County on Friday, September 11, at 9:45 a.m. Access information for the free event is available online at www.psgofmercercounty.org.
On his website, www.thebiggamehunter.us, Altman posts daily content from his “No BS Job Search Advice Radio” podcast. In a segment earlier this month, he discusses two skills that are frequently seen by hiring managers as lacking in the candidates they interview.
“The number one thing that LinkedIn has identified as missing in most candidates on the platform is good communication skills,” Altman says. “Deficiencies in your oral communications are hurting you.”
These shortcomings can arise from candidates for whom English is not their first language or even from interviewees with a different regional accent. Altman cites an example: “The hiring manager from the north was interviewing a candidate from the south who spoke with a drawl,” he says. “The candidate was rejected because it wasn’t perceived by the hiring manager that he spoke well.”
To fight these perceptions and implicit biases, Altman recommends working on oral communication skills through such groups as Toastmasters clubs, which allow members to practice public speaking.
“Even though you may be competent or exceptional at what you do,” Altman says, having poor communication skills “is going to bite you in the butt at some point in your career.”
“For many of you, skills get you to a certain level; your knowledge will get you to a certain level; however what will get you to a higher level is your ability to communicate your ideas to others effectively in order to be persuasive,” he says.
Altman points out that people “who are doers” are paid at a certain level, but that people who manage other people and who are leaders are paid at even higher levels. Getting to that point “all comes down to being persuasive in your communications,” he says.
The second soft skill he identifies as missing in many job hunters is visible passion and excitement for the work you do.
“Hiring managers want to see your passion, they want to see your heart for what you do, they want to see your drive,” Altman says.
“Don’t hide it from people,” he advises. “Just because your work in an organization where mediocrity is the norm, you don’t have to comply with that.”
“If you’ve been trained to be average and fit in and be a team player instead of exceptional, start thinking about what you can do to nurture that quality in yourself, that drive for excellence again, so you can show it in the course of your interviews,” he says.
Altman, who is based in North Carolina, has been a full-time coach for the past 18 years. He earned his bachelor’s in political science at City University of New York City College and master’s in social work from Fordham University.