When searching for a role in finance, it's often not what you know, but what you can offer. Job hunters have long been told to list, and give prominence to, technical skills on their CVs, but finance sector employers are increasingly looking for candidates with interpersonal abilities known as ‘soft skills'. Demonstrating these 10 characteristics will help candidates with finance skills prove their value in the workplace.
1. Communication skills needed in finance
Earlier this year, analysis by LinkedIn showed that 57.9% of new hires who changed jobs in 2014-15 listed communication as one of their strong suits. Good communicators are in demand across a range of industries, and they're vital in fields that require employees to explain their specialist knowledge to others. Whatever your finance skills, an aptitude for number crunching won't get you far in finance if you can't justify and explain your calculations.
2. Negotiation skills needed in finance
Whether you're closing a deal or managing expectations, it's important to know how to fight your corner without ruffling any feathers. An aptitude for negotiation will allow finance professionals to reach an agreement that benefits all parties. Failure to compromise effectively can create frustration and damage interpersonal relationships or, at worst, result in loss of revenue for a business. Having a demonstrable knack for negotiation will put you ahead in any financial enterprise.
3. Influencing skills for finance jobs
Finance professionals must be prepared to explain how their objectives are mutually beneficial and anticipate objections. If, as a financial skills example, an investment banker wants to sell off a stake in a joint venture, he or she must be able to show how this will benefit the bank – even if some colleagues disagree.
4. Critical thinking
A critical thinker objectively analyses or conceptualises a situation from a balanced perspective. Often, customers and clients will look to financial professionals to rationally evaluate a scenario – be it a ledger or the performance of a stock. In fast-paced business environments, a poorly thought-out decision can cost a company time and money. So the ability to make critically-informed choices is crucial for modern finance professionals.
Flexible employees are capable of weathering change and staying productive in high-pressure situations. Good stockbrokers provide the most dramatic example of this: their day-to-day work revolves around coping with constant fluctuation and determining the best course of action. However, cultivating a flexible mindset also means being able to see through the eyes of others and understand their motivations. A flexible finance professional will always ask: "Why might someone think this way?"
Resilience refers to one's ability to bounce back after facing adversity. While this is an important skill in any workplace, it's especially important in high-pressure situations. Being able to cope with changing circumstances, having confidence in your ability to deliver and thinking carefully about what you're trying to achieve can prove valuable – particularly in financial roles.
It's no secret that top-level financiers are on the lookout for team players. A recent survey by Adaptive Insights showed that 70% of chief financial officers considered collaboration to be their top priority for 2016. In the financial sector, it has become increasingly common to work across multiple teams and geographies to achieve a shared goal. Someone who approaches group-working scenarios with an open mind and a willingness to listen will benefit any team.
8. Problem solving skills for finance jobs
Effective problem solvers identify the issue at hand, weigh up their options quickly and make a firm decision about the best course of action. Those who excel at problem solving can really drive an organisation forward and will earn the respect of their colleagues by offering meaningful input in even the toughest situations.
It's a common misconception that roles focused on data and numbers require a detached approach – empathy should never be undervalued in finance. Clients often seek financial advice during stressful life events, and dealing with someone who has suffered a loss requires a different approach from a couple seeking their first mortgage.
An empathetic person shows that he or she cares. In displaying understanding, finance professionals will also build trust in their relationships with co-workers and clients.
It's not enough to simply tell an employer you have the soft skills they're looking for. Instead, strive to demonstrate your skillset by offering up examples from previous job roles and highlighting talents you've developed outside of the workplace. Remember, employers are always seeking the right personality for the job – not just a list of positions and qualifications.
10. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills are vital in this sector, in order to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients and stakeholders on a regular basis. It may be necessary to speak to people overseas and understand how different cultures prefer to interact too. Some people are naturally good at this, while others may find it takes practice, perhaps through a training course or taking the initiative to steadily improve their communication skills and confidence, until it becomes second nature.
How to identify your own soft skills for finance:
Reflect on your reactions to tense situations at work and compare them to those of managers and co-workers you admire.
Prepare answers to interview questions that screen for soft skills, such as those about workplace experience in problem solving and collaboration.
Ask current or past colleagues to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. They may be able to offer insights you hadn't previously considered.
Consider your strengths in relation to the job you want to apply for so you can be confident about the criteria you already fulfil and areas that you can develop on the job.
How to acquire new soft skills for finance jobs:
Make a conscious effort to improve your soft skills every day – remember, they're attributes to develop, not innate qualities.
Take up skill-building hobbies in your leisure time. Something as simple as a cooking class might prepare you to prioritise tasks and work under pressure.
Ask for help and feedback from colleagues and senior staff in your workplace.
Enrol in a course designed to build soft skills, such as those offered by Reed.