In the accounting and finance world soft skills are in high demand. Top employers expect to see candidates who not only demonstrate strong technical aptitude but also exhibit essential soft skills such as interpersonal skills, adaptability, problem-solving skills and self-awareness.
Combining a powerful analytical mind with the ability to communicate data findings effectively can turn anyone into a highly sought after professional.
We often meet candidates who have brilliant technical skills, but their soft skills sometimes hold them back. Thankfully there are many simple ways that you can improve in this area, here are some pointers to get you started.
Work on your conversational skills
Whether in an interview or a meeting a strong communicator will truly engage with whoever they’re speaking to. You can do this by:
- Listening: the biggest part of communicating successfully is knowing how to really listen. If you talk too much, most people will stop listening to you, and if you don’t listen properly it can damage your rapport with those around you. Being a good listener helps you earn respect, but sometimes it requires practice. Repeating the occasional question back to the interviewer and referring to previous comments is a great way to show you’ve been listening.
- Slowing down: people often speak too quickly when they’re nervous. Slowing down a little and pausing to think and reflect will demonstrate that you are listening and giving any questions the consideration they deserve.
- Encouraging interaction: initiating dialogue shows that you are invested in the conversation. Be curious and ask questions to prove that you’re engaged and keep the other party engaged too.
Think about your body language
Studies have shown that body language and tone of voice account for over 90% of interpersonal communication, so be conscious of any nonverbal queues that your body may be displaying.
In interviews particularly, try to sit up straight, hold an open posture, avoid fidgeting and maintain eye contact. This will help put you (and the interviewer) at ease and demonstrate that you are engaged with your conversational counterpart.
Synchronise your emotions with the inteviewer
Tali Sharot, author of The Influential Mind, explained in a recent interview that creating an emotional connection synchronizes people’s brains and creates a more natural communication flow.
Emotions are contagious, so set the tone when you walk into an interview by telling a lighthearted joke, making a positive comment or sharing a brief story. This will establish an emotional connection before you attempt to answer rational questions and the interviewer will be more engaged with you.
Improve your problem-solving skills by familiarising yourself with the problem-solving cycle
Researchers have identified the essential steps to successfully solving problems, commonly referring to it as the ‘problem-solving cycle’. The appropriate approach depends upon the circumstance, but the mental problem solving process will need at least some of these steps to be successful:
- Identify the problem: be sure to identify the correct route cause
- Define the problem: understand the issue is and its implications
- Form a strategy: brainstorm ideas on how to fix the problem and choose the most suitable
- Organise information about the issue and communicate it clearly
- Allocate resources: decide how much resource needs to be dedicated to fixing the problem
- Monitor progress: keep a close eye on things to see if they improve
- Evaluate the results: was this the best solution?
Take an interpersonal skills self-assessment test to identify specific areas you need to work on
Interpersonal skills are not limited to communication and problem-solving. They include a broad range of attributes, including a person’s ability to empathise, lead a team, be creative and adapt to new situations. To help understand which areas you need to work on further take this excellent self-assessment test from Skills You Need.