Showcasing soft skills like mentorship and collaboration can go a long way in illustrating how you fit into the corporate culture.
Hard facts like ROI and profit margins are easy to explain in an interview, but top-tier candidates often need to showcase “soft skills” like mentorship and collaboration with a pool of A+ talent. Directors or vice presidents might not require formal leadership training, but they need to be able to articulate their on-the-job management skills, according to T-Mobile VP of Human Resources, Laurent Bentitou.
“Providing more clarity around how they’ve developed others is telling,” Bentitou said in an interview with Ladders. “[Candidates] need to codify how they’ve managed in the past.”
Bentitou’s focus on teamwork explains why half of his time is dedicated to training internal leaders. Not only are softer skills like leadership an essential skill for the company, opportunities to lead have become a subject of increasing interest to the senior job seekers Bentitou interviews. “Candidates are asking earlier in the process about how much career development and opportunity there is, especially in large, global corporations,” he said. Indeed, professional development (or the lack thereof) is “the Number One reason people join—and leave—an organization.” The job seeker’s ability to demonstrate their interest in growth can be an advantage, especially in today’s market.
After all, human resources teams at enterprise-driven companies like T-Mobile are particular about the culture they create for the entire organization. They also believe that hires who are interested in lifelong learning are the ones that shape the work environment for the better.
In fact, these soft factors can prompt hard decisions about switching jobs. Right now, trends show qualified staff who are gainfully employed and relatively happy in their jobs aren’t taking risks. This is particularly true of senior-level professionals, according to Bentitou. “Entry-level candidates are more mobile, while senior-level homeowners are worried about the costs of relocation.” Wooing securely employed senior candidates often means demonstrating that a move will mean personal and professional growth, not just a paycheck.
Without prior knowledge, all candidates have to gauge a potential employer’s corporate culture on the small clues they pick up when interviewing. Bentitou likes to tell candidates not to be afraid to ask hiring managers direct questions about the culture of the company. “Candidates are not spending enough time asking how they will fit into an organization so [that] they can right-fit themselves, or self-select out.”
“I’m not hearing enough about fit or culture, which is even more important at the executive level,” Bentitou said. The concern here is often the same as bringing up soft skills: everything is subjective. “You want to hear that it’s a place of mutual respect,” he continued. “T-Mobile feels entrepreneurial, though it’s quite large. It lets people perform at their absolute best, and people like to work for a company that likes to win in the market.” Right or wrong, the response to the fit question can provide mutual understanding about what is expected.