At the root of everything is confidence. The bad news is, confidence cannot be purchased across the shelf. The good news is, confidence can be developed through training and practice. Platform skills and soft skills are essential tools for developing one’s self-confidence. It is an art as well as a science. The end goal is to sculpt, present and conduct yourself impressively and admirably. 

The very first situation where soft skills and confidence play a crucial role in your career is your first interview fresh out of college. It is the first chance to establish yourself as a distinct individual who brings their own set of unique skills to the organisation. According to a Harvard study, soft skills make a whopping 85% contribution to your success rate. 

As modern workforces are becoming increasingly specialised, employers value individuals who are able to communicate well and who can maintain a chain of conversation and accurately give and receive information. At the end of the day, you can never be completely prepared for an interview. Your performance depends on the questions you are asked and how you tackle them in the moment. While performance pressure is normal, employers are more likely to take note of how you handle this pressure as opposed to how it disrupts your performance.

I am proud of my students Rasika More, Ritik Khanna, Saee Paranjpe and Saumya Paboowal, who were part of my rigorous soft skills program as part of the MBA program at ICFAI Business School (IBS), Mumbai. They were recently placed at leading organisations like Expertrons, Jaro Education, Blackrock and No Broker respectively. In this exclusive article for StoneMill, they share the learnings they applied from the soft skills sessions, which helped them ace their first interviews.

– Dr Puja Vijay Sukhija, Academic Consultant, Platform Skills FaciliTrainer

1. Be appropriately dressed: If you are presentable, a mark has already been left on their minds. This small habit speaks volumes about your morals, code of conduct, discipline, etc.

2. Maintain good body posture throughout:  This communicates a sense of confidence to your employer. Maintaining eye contact is also essential if you want to come across as somebody who is sure of their abilities.

3. Have a command over your language: Using complex vocabulary does not always leave a lasting impression. Simple vocabulary, articulated clearly tells your potential employer that you understand the subject.

4. Use voice modulation effectively: It improves the delivery of your material. It allows your employer to see that you recognise the intricacies and complexities of your work. It allows you to convey the fact that you have actively engaged with the knowledge regarding your job as opposed to simply mugging up the information.

5. Listen before speaking: Contrary to popular belief, one should know how to listen to the interviewer better than how to answer them. It is important to listen before speaking as this allows you to groom your answers according to the company that is hiring. Saee Paranjpe says, “There were times during my interview where I had to carefully listen to the question being asked as they were framed in a way that tested my listening and answering skills.”

6. Showcase your application abilities: There should be a proper structure to your answers. If you simply start stating facts and figures, it is unlikely to tell the employer much about how you can apply this knowledge to your work. Rasika More says, “We were taught to structure our answers well during the soft skills sessions so that the interviewer finds it interesting and the answer grabs their attention. I found this very helpful during my interview.”

7. Keep an open mind: Talking to people helps generate ideas and boost confidence. If you find people in agreement with you, you tend to become more firm in your belief. Even when people disagree, it helps bring a new perspective and allows you to finetune your ideas better.

8. Have a never give up attitude: Whether a question is domain related, situation-based, or based on some other area of expertise, the key is to make sure you give some answer. If you find your bookish knowledge is not coming to use, do not be afraid to provide creative and out of the box answers.

9. Keep your answers short and crisp: Employers have more knowledge than you and they are, in fact, testing your presence of mind. It is important to show them you understand the basic concepts by not rambling and keeping your answers to the point. Saumya Paboowal says, “During the soft skills sessions, we were taught to always focus on the question first and this helped me develop a presence of mind.”

10. Keep yourself calm and composed: Many times, stressful situations may arise in the workplace where there may be no single solution. Employers value individuals who can look at situations with level-headedness and apply basic knowledge to create novel solutions. Ritik Khanna reflects on his interview and says, “Many a time the answer is right in front of us, but it is a calm state of mind that helps us truly deliver it.”