Learn the best ways to stand out in the application process and impress HR.
Last week, we published an article highlighting the importance of soft skills in the workplace, specifically for fresh graduates. Those that managed to graduate from university should have the hard skills to find a job that fits with their knowledge and ability. However, most of them often overlook the significance of the soft skills, which you cannot learn from a book.
To learn how to best prepare for a job interview, as well as to understand what HR seeks for the most in a candidate, Focus talked to Tatiya Chaisatephong, head of talent and organizational development at Smart Axiata, who has more than 10-year experience in human resources.
Why did you choose to go into HR?
I chose to be in this field because my inspiration is to see people grow in their career. Within HR, we have the privilege to talk to different people and to bring out their best self in the workplace. This is my inspiration.
Based on your experience recruiting staff, what quality do you look for the most in a candidate?
Besides the hard skills which they must have, the people I look for are those who have the right mindset to join our company. The right mindset for me is the person who fits with Smart values – those people should be able to live up to the company’s DNA.
Can you explain what are the values you refer to?
Smart has five core values. The first one is that we are open and honest. That person needs to uphold integrity and listen to feedback, because feedback will help them grow. Secondly, we believe that we win as a team. We talk a lot about teamwork, but what actually is teamwork? To us, it means you care about what others do, not only yourself – and try to deliver what you promised, in order to achieve the common goal.
The third one is that we are courageous. Meaning, I must try to be better than I was yesterday – I challenge myself and others to do things better and differently. This value will help the organization thrive. Learn from mistakes, not just from compliments. We are bound to make mistakes, so learn from them and move forward.
Next one is passion. In order to join our team, you need to have passion – you need to go the extra mile. Give 100% effort in all the things you are assigned to do. Last but not least, is attention to detail. Because customers want accuracy and good service from us. So, in return, we should always embrace accuracy.
Between hard skills and soft skills, which one do you value most – and why?
It depends on the position that they apply for. Some positions require you to have hard skills, as an expert in a certain field. Like engineers, programmers, accountants, etc. But those who apply for those positions, also need to have soft skills. Unavoidably, when it comes to the stage where we have to consider who we are going to hire, we look at their soft skills, too.
The soft skill that I value the most is having the right mindset. This particular quality can be demonstrated by showing accountability and ownership. Another one is willingness to learn. None of us have all the answers, but we all should know how and where to get those answers.
For you personally, why are soft skills important in today’s workplace?
They are very important because hard skills can be taught, while soft skills are like your DNA – it has to come from within yourself. It will also show that you have the right mindset in order to work with other people in the organization, including our customers. That is the reason why soft skills play a crucial role during the interview.
Can soft skills be shown during the interview?
It can, but only through adequate preparation. Preparation cannot be done a few days prior to the interview – it’s a skill that can be developed over many years. Only with enough preparation, the soft skills you have will naturally show during the interview. It relies on how you handle tough questions or situations and how you manage your emotional intelligence during the interview. When you can show this, the interviewer will often look favourably upon you compared to other candidates.
Based on your experience interviewing graduates, do most of them have the skills you look for?
I have to be very honest here, most of them do not meet my expectations. However, it also depends on the role that we are looking for. I will divide them into two types. The first one is related to the technical role. When it comes to this role, they need to have the basic skills required. For instance, a developer, accountant or engineer – because they need to be an expert in their field.
But often for non-technical roles, the applicants often don’t have the soft skills that we’re looking for. It is because all the theories they learn from school are different compared to the real working environment. There are so many people in the company and the question is how they are able to handle, communicate and collaborate with other staff around them. In short, I would say most fresh graduates lack communication skills.
What is the common mistake fresh graduates usually make during job interviews?
They tend to not have enough information about the organization and the position that they are applying for. That is the easiest way to impress in an interview. It is very easy to do, as all the information is available online. As an interviewer, we do not expect the best answer. What we want to see is a willingness to join our company. It is how much passion you have in working for Smart. Most fresh graduates do not study about the organization in enough depth. Sometimes, we can tell that they came to the interview empty handed.
How can they improve themselves to meet your expectations?
There is definitely something that they can do, even though they have just graduated. The first, as well as the easiest thing, is to always read the job description thoroughly. The description tells you exactly what you need to know and how to prepare for the interview.
The second one is English proficiency. English is very important in Smart and many other multinational corporations (MNC). Many people are able to communicate in English now, which is great. However, when it comes to the professional environment, they still lack the ability to formulate ideas or to speak their mind.
What is your ultimate tip for the first-time job interview candidates?
As a recruiter, we have seen a lot of CVs that come with hard skills. However, the one that tends to get to the finish line is the CV that lists both their soft skills and hard skills. This is the one tip that I want fresh graduates to focus on.