I recently asked hiring manager what “soft skills” do they look for when interviewing candidates. Here are answers from individual managers:
“I think the list of required soft-skills depends on the size/type of the company’s environment. Over the last 15 years, I’ve worked in many types of environments, including in an information services bureau and in more traditional industries such as manufacturing, and discovered along the way that approaches that worked in one environment sometimes backfired in another.”
“Here is a rule of thumb that I swear by: You can tell more about a candidate from the questions they ask than the answers they give.
Do they ask about your business model? Where they fit in? Why the position is open? Are there any ‘challenging’ projects or people they should be aware of?
Do they ask about what problems you are facing that they can solve? What keeps you up at night that they can take off your plate, etc…?”
“Business acumen. Understanding the basics of how and why an organization ticks and what motivates managers in general so that when specifics come around no one is surprised. Oh, yeah. Business acumen.”
“I would rate Listening Skills and Research Skills as my two favorites when interviewing for new folks.”
“A technical communicator needs to have some drive and be willing to go get the info they need. Being proactive does not come to all folks naturally so I look for some passion for the job and the ability to use social engineering skills when neededExample: A couple of years ago we had two writers—-the pushy little flower that is me, and a guy who sat in his cube and waited for people to come to him.
I’m still here and he’s not.”
“I like to see passion: does the applicant get excited about something. It doesn’t have to be work-related; it can be music, travel, food, whatever.
Another skill I value is balance. Can the applicant treat critical tasks as urgent yet remain calm.
Lastly, does the applicant pick up on body language and move on or shut up when I indicate that I’ve heard enough of an answer…?”
- Assertiveness (the ability to effectively push back on unreasonable demands AND make requirements known).
- Tact (the ability to accomplish #1 without giving offense, embarrassing or otherwise making enemies).
- Relationship-building, especially in situations where the other person is remote and there are no opportunities for face-to-face interaction.
- Ability to plan, keep to plan and keep stakeholders aware of necessary changes to plan.
- Ability to follow instructions (for example, when someone asks for information to be sent off-list).”
“In my experience, the essential soft skill are the ability to perceive how others are perceiving them, and to adapt as necessary to differing personality types among the subject matter experts with whom they have to deal. It is a surprisingly rare attribute.
Without that ability, the technical writer will have difficulty forming and maintaining the collegial interactions necessary to get the job done.”
“I hired a great writer once because of curiosity. I talked to him on the phone and asked if he knew Frame. He didn’t. I called him back about four days later to ask another question and he had downloaded the Frame trial and was working hard to learn it. And had some good questions.\
I liked that initiative and curiosity. I liked the ‘Go Get It’ attitude. I could see that would be priceless in our environment. I could teach him my writing standards and the products. But that attitude I couldn’t teach.
I could see moving him to more advanced projects over time and as team lead eventually.”
“Analytical skill, definitely!”
Lately, I see people wanting to become content strategists, but the questions they ask aren’t in the strategic range. They can’t seem to bump up their thinking to the next level, of content analysis.
And that goes for just about any career-track position, whether it’s tech comm or consulting.”
“Business acumen has been mentioned—but I’d like to highlight it a bit.
It isn’t necessarily a must have for a brand new shiny grad, but, if you wish to fill a slot with a grizzled veteran, knowing how your function might fit into the company’s success is very valuable.
“Years ago, we got the team together (pushing 40 writers/editors) for a yearly face-to-face. The group was highly distributed (as a result of a merger and acquisition binge), and most hadn’t met any of their colleagues from other facilities.
One of our goals was to get folks talking to one another, so the question was asked, ‘What makes a good document?’
The answers were all over the map, as you’d expect, with copies of Strunk and White being brandished, Chicago Manual of Style used as a weapon, curses in COBOL being lobbed across the room, and the expected pleas for just ‘one more round of reviews and editing to get it perfect.’
One of the more senior writers sat quietly with a Mona Lisa smile on her face. When asked her opinion, she said:
- On time
- On budget
- Fulfilling requirements”
“At ProSpring, the first attribute I list in the Recruiter job description is, ‘Curiosity and the desire to help.’ I think that summarizes what we’re all looking for in an employee, eh?”