We’re reminded of the importance of good impressions all the time, from the day we start primary school to the moment we are wondering what on earth will land us our dream job. This leads us to prepare, learning hard skills needed for a job - some of us go through years of education just to pin them down; is that the whole picture? Not quite, because business executives consider ‘soft skills’ to be the dark horse they hope for in employees. According to Professor Marcel Robles soft skills are more than just people skills; they’re the cookie-dough combination of interpersonal skills and career attributes that recruiters look out for. Yet, what do you do if the thought of small talk makes you queasy or your mind goes blank in social situations? Here are some simple tips to keep in mind.

Though some will argue that technical skills take the cake in many sectors, business executives admit that job candidates who lack soft skills are immediately red flagged. Robles explains that recruiters are impressed by “integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, social skills, positive attitude, professionalism, flexibility, teamwork, and work ethic.” Although these ten skills seem fairly straight-forward, your aptitude for them can vary greatly compared to the next person. In this post, Courtesy, integrity and communication will be highlighted as they were selected as the most essential to employers.

Courtesy: Improving your courtesy can be boiled down to keeping others’ interests in mind. This can be anything from coming to work on time, to being attentive to your colleagues and customers. Listening is a great way to show this; whether it’s to a senior colleague or client - listening to their exact needs will help you impress them. You may not always be able to fulfil their wishes, but by keeping track of the facts on a notepad and pen, you’re more likely to find a solution or show them you’ve been paying attention.

Using an agenda is another easy solution for showing courtesy. This’ll improve your time management, which keeps you professional, organised, and avoiding tardy behaviour that leaves a sour after taste. If you’re showing up late to important meetings and events, you’re not going to impress anyone nor represent your company positively. Especially in shared environments like an office, you need to assume everyone’s time is valuable - so if you make an appointment, stick to it because your colleagues have other things to do.

Keeping up-to-date business cards on you at all times will keep you prepared for unexpected business opportunities. Nothing leaves a poorer impression than asking someone to scribble down your contact details on whatever’s in arm’s reach i.e. a crumpled piece of tissue. There’s really no excuse when it’s simple to prepare them with any of the many UK printers available online; you’ll also get a thumbs up for including a visible picture of yourself. No-one remembers everyone they meet, so make sure it’s you they remember (for the right reasons of course).

Communication The benefits of good communication in business is obvious, yet it doesn’t come naturally to all. Good work performance thrives on a friendly atmosphere and that often depends on how the workplace is decorated and how people interact. If you’re grumpy towards others, it’s a strangely contagious domino effect that will bring down the mood and make teamwork a more stressful task than it needs to be. Remember good attitude equals good atmosphere and colleagues will notice your positive attitude which is a golden ticket into their good books.

The workplace can be a challenge because it depends on both productive workers, and their social skills too. If you’re ever in doubt of something to say, think of the acronym F.O.R.M. It stands for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation; four broad topics you can ask your colleagues, clients, or customers about when the situation calls for it. Can they tell you about a funny family story; how’d they get discover their favourite hobbies; what is really important to them apart from their job? - simple!

Integrity Employers want the assurance that someone they hire can do the job. However, if you demonstrate integrity, chances are they’ll give you the chance to learn even if you’re missing a couple of points from their ‘ideal candidate’ checklist.

Here, demonstrating you’re responsible and honest will be your biggest allies. You’ll want to incorporate a degree of honesty with your work because you might run into difficulties on the job. Still, you can still impress your boss by owning your mistakes, which shows you take responsibility for your actions and strive to improve. This is reassuring to employers because it means you can be trained and are open to learning new skills. Not only will this reduce your rate of errors, but also boost your personal qualifications, which broadens your range of career possibilities.

Though you won’t have the ideal portfolio for every job, you’ll be in better shape to leave the right impression by demonstrating a range of soft skills that complement your practical knowledge. The more soft skills you improve, the more effective you’ll become; meaning it’ll be easy for you to start your job on a good note and stay there.

Robles, Marcel M. "Executive perceptions of the top 10 soft skills needed in today’s workplace." Business Communication Quarterly 75, no. 4 (2012): 453-465.