Job Search Tip #3: Assess your skills

Last week we looked at assessing your work values. Now we’re going to look at assessing your skills.

When asked at the interview about your greatest strength, you’ll most likely respond by talking about one or two of the three skill types: technical, transferable, or adaptive (personality). You might address your expertise in C++, market analysis, team building, or innovation, for example.

Of course the best policy is to talk about skills that relate to the job at hand. In other words, if the company or organization is looking for someone strong in communications, customer service, and Oracle, these are the skills you’ll highlight, providing you’ve demonstrated them with accomplishments.

The same strategy applies to writing your tailored résumés and cover letters, and your LinkedIn profile. Your emphasis will be on the skills required to succeed at the position for which you’re applying.

Assessing your skills. Knowledge of your skills is not only import in succeeding at the interview or when writing effective job-search documents; you’ll highlight them when networking and sending follow-up letters, as well as preparing your elevator speech. It’s important that you know the difference between the three skill types and can talk to them with conviction.

Technical skills are absolutely required to do the job. Let’s say you aspire to be a marketing manager. Technical skills for this occupation include, but are not limited to:

Product Marketing

Retail Brand Management

Pricing Distribution

Account-Based Marketing

Transferable skills are universal: If you think any job can be performed with technical skills alone, you’re sadly mistaken. (You’ll notice that the list above is shorter than the subsequent lists. Your transferable skills are necessary, if not more than your technical skills. 

When thinking about your transferable skills, think about them completing the thought, I can….Here is a list of transferable skills considered important in general, but by no means is it conclusive. 

Knowledge of Basic Marketing Principles Communications Skills (Listening, Verbal, Written) Analytical
Managing Priorities Management Multicultural Sensitivity/Awareness
Collaboration Strategic Thinking Motivating Others
Problem-Solving Research Coordination
Computer/Technical Literacy Planning Reasoning
Organizing Project Management Presentation

Adaptive skills define you as a person and worker. How would you describe your work habits? What makes you a fit in the company? The answer to these questions has a great deal to do with your adaptive skills. In fact, some employers rate these as some of the most important skills, yet some jobseekers disregard them.

You might describe yourself as a team builder who consistent, fair, insightful, and others supporting personality skills. When thinking about these skills, thing about them completing the thought, I am….Here are some common adaptive skills:

Intelligent Leader Have Vision
Honest/Moral Adaptable/Flexible Tenacious
Dependable Creative Loyal
Positive Motivated/Energetic/Passionate Professional
Self-Confident Diligent A Team Player

From this limited list of transferable and adaptive skills chose the ones that best describe you and are most important to what you do, and also what the employer seeks in his/her next employee. Keep in mind that your transferable and adaptive skills play a major role in shaping you as a productive employee.

Next Friday we’ll look at revising or writing your résumé.

7 Interview Tips: What Hiring Managers Really Want From You

It really shouldn’t be this way, but interviewing is as unpredictable as New England weather. In article written by the staff at PongoResume.com, Interviewing Tips: What Hiring Managers Really Want from You, hiring manager Michael Neece was interviewed by the staff for his take on what he looks for in job candidates.

The answers he gives to Pongo’s staff are honest and revealing. They reveal some of his strong feelings about candidates and, not surprisingly, the importance of being the “right fit.”

For example, here’s the answer he gives to the question: What are the “hidden hiring criteria” that can’t be written in a job description?

Want to know a secret? The most qualified candidate never gets the job. You may match the job description perfectly, but that doesn’t mean you’re the best candidate or are entitled to the job. The job description is only a small part of the hiring decision. “Fit” is probably the most important hidden criterion.

An employer wants to know that you can do the job and do it well, but they’ve asked you in for an interview, so they probably already think you can do the job. What they don’t know until they meet you is whether you’ll be an effective addition to the organization.

Read the article to get the answers to the following question:

  • What do hiring managers really want to hear when they use the standard line, “Tell me about yourself”?
  • What would you say is the single most impressive thing a job candidate can do in an interview?
  • How do you determine “fit?”
  • What’s the most memorable thing a candidate has ever done in an interview you conducted?
  • What’s the most incredible blunder a candidate ever committed in an interview you were conducting?
  • What’s the best way for a candidate to address employment gaps in their résumé during an interview?

Interviewing for a position can be stressful, but there are some important points Michael makes, namely being prepared and cognizant of the impression you make. You’ve been selected to be interviewed based on what’s on your résumé—you have what it takes in the technical realm—so now you have to come across as someone who can work well with others and add another dimension to the position. If you can do this, the rest is history.


One more argument for volunteering your way to a job

Before you say, “I’m tired of hearing about volunteering,” take time to read what I have to say. I’ve ignored newspaper articles on what’s happening in the labor market because, quite honestly, they depress me.

But this morning I was drawn to an article that offered no groundbreaking great news; in fact it was dismal. But through the fog of negative reporting, there was one bit of good advice.

The article of which I speak appeared in the Boston Globe (Sunday, 9/18/2011). It pointed out the difficulties veteran workers in the IT sector are having getting jobs due to lack of experience. One example given was a software engineer proficient in C++ but lacking Java.

In certain positions, like software engineering, the disparity in technica skills is hard to overlook. But there is hope, as long as you’re willing to invest the time to overcome a deficiency you have in your skills.

I wrote an article on the importance of volunteering while conducting your job search, and I stressed volunteering at a company for which you’d consider working. There are two major reasons for this. First, you can network more efficiently while you’re back in the industry among professionals who are privy to possibilities, and who would like to help you.

Second, you can enhance your skills and learn new ones. The situation where the software engineer lacks Java experience is a perfect example. Taking courses will certainly give you some knowledge in the software required to land a job, but hands-on experience using the software is far more valuable. And sometimes required by recruiters, according to the article:

“The ability to learn new skills is rarely at the top of a recruiter’s job orders; many companies demand candidates with skills that perfectly match their requirements.”

I had a jobseeker who worked at Raytheon, where she was a productive engineer using C++. She never had training using Java, as it was not required for her position. As she combed the want ads, she discovered that the majority of jobs available were for Java developers. She was in a hole. But she wasn’t going to give up. I would see her reading texts books on Java scripting.

The solution, as stated above, is to gain hands-on experience in a skill that you’re lacking. Continue to self-educate yourself on the skills you notice are in demand, as my jobseeker did; but go one step further and approach companies in your industry that need engineers, marketers, sales people, nurses, accountants, etc., and volunteer your services—with an understanding that you’re not looking for a job at said companies.

This is precisely what the Boston Globe reported: “’If you want to be anywhere close to the cutting edge, you can’t expect that you’ll have a [paying] job when you start,’ said Stephen Flavin, dean of academic and corporate development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. ‘If you really want to learn it you have to volunteer your time.’’’

I hope that if you’re in this situation, you won’t give up hope. Many of my jobseekers have landed jobs in their field by volunteering; some of them at the company for which they volunteered.

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