Soft Skills That Will Make You Stand Out as a Candidate

In this edition of our IBM recruiter series, Lou Atkinson, a Recruitment Partner in IBM, shares his top tips to help candidates develop soft skills that will make them stand out.

By Lou Atkinson

Which doctor would you prefer — The one who’s pleasant, has a soft bedside manner, takes his or her time to answer your questions thoroughly and gives you hope? OR the robotic, text book answering doctor who treats you like a number within the masses? Both doctors are qualified to treat your condition, but only one can make you feel comfortable, treat you like an individual and make you want to visit them again in the future.

You and your career are no different! In today’s day and age, big companies like IBM are no longer looking for just the skills. They are also looking to assess your present level of communication and interpersonal skills to help their organization in multiple areas.
Technical skills are the first thing seen and may open the employment door, but it’s your soft skills or people skills that may seal your fate. What are soft skills? They are the intangibles not often seen on your resume. Things such as your communication style, the way you present yourself professionally, your attitude, your work ethic, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes critical for career and company success.

So the question is: How can you articulate these soft skills while interviewing and how do you show that you’re not just a number or skill? There are many ways of doing so, but here at IBM, we look for the following as examples:

Creative Problem Solving – Shows curiosity and an open mind to new ideas and concepts. Generates imaginative ideas and innovative solutions. Spots and fills gaps. *Give answers to situations without unrelated information to cloud your answer.

Adaptability – Comfort with fast-moving, changing environments. Views complexity and ambiguity as a challenge. Adapts rapidly to changed circumstances.
*Articulate statements and show examples of such adaptability.

Customer Insight – Understands client opportunities and real needs. Builds relationship with clients. Finds ways to exceed client expectations.
*Do you or did you know your client’s needs? Give examples.

Career Aspiration / Motivation / Drive to Achieve – Demonstrates knowledge of IBM and has a realistic view of what working for IBM involves. Shows genuine interest and enthusiasm for “delivery-based” consulting.
*What motivates you? What are your aspirations and why?

Taking Ownership – Takes reasonable risks to move the business forward and do the right thing. Displays a strong sense of ownership.
*How have you taken ownership? Give examples.

Teamwork / Collaboration – Works cooperatively toward shared values and common goals to enhance team performance. Builds open and positive relationships. Promotes non-hierarchical working relationships.
*Have you collaborated? Are you a team player? How so?

Leadership – Ability to recognize and inspire colleagues, provide clear direction and influence others.
*Are you a leader or a follower? What have you done to take charge without being asked?

Actions — What have you done currently and in the past and why is it relevant?
*Make sure you included the task or role that you had performed.

Results – How did you make a difference? Did you save money? Was the customer satisfied? Did you make it more efficient? What did you learn?
*Be reflective on your past performance and be willing to make changes based on prior results.

Lou has been with IBM for 12 years. Prior to joining IBM, Lou worked with leading multinational corporations as Recruiting Program Manager, Account Manager and Recruitment Partner. He currently holds a Recruitment Partner role within IBM Sales & Delivery for the Cloud and Analytics spaces. Lou has been working in the Talent Acquisition area for 20 years and he is proud to say he will never look back!

Stay tuned for more blogs on our recruiter series and drop a comment below if you have any questions.

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6 thoughts

  1. Thank you for the question Andrew. What I meant in regards to “realistic” was a couple of things. Being true to ones heart and knowing what you would like to do within IBM, how you see yourself, where you see yourself and in what capacity, as well as future goals and aspirations.

    You are correct by saying its by a case by case basis Andrew, but the best way to start would be to go to, search for open positions, find one you feel you’re a fit for, apply and then research as much as one can on that type of role within IBM. That could be done through Blogs, Googling, Journals and itself.

  2. Question for Lou or any member of the IBM recruiting team. I’m curious what was meant by “a realistic view of what working for IBM involves.” I’m guessing this is case by case and role by role, but if we are talking about researching opportunities at IBM before an interview, what would be the best way to start?

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