When applying for a job, most people craft their resume to display impressive abilities and skills. A majority of resumes even have a skill section, where people highlight their talent for Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and typing. Formally known as “hard skills,” these quantifiable skills are the teachable, learnable skills people acquire as they spend more time in the workforce.
Another set of skills, however, are the less teachable, less quantifiable, but highly sought after “soft skills.” These skills don’t reflect how many words a minute you can type, but how well you work with other people. In other words, they’re the candidate’s people skills.
What are soft skills?
The definition of soft skills is those skills that make you a valuable asset to a team and include problem-solving abilities, conflict-management skills, ingenuity and the ability to think out of the box. Most soft skills are not ones that can be easily taught — candidates either flourish in a job that requires creativity, or they struggle; candidates either know how to effectively communicate, or they require much guidance and coaching.
Soft skills are important in certain obvious positions, like customer service or human resources, as their primary responsibilities include working with other people, and they need to be strong at communication and effective in working well with others. But soft skills are also important in almost any other job, especially when on a team; the ability to think creatively, solve problems as a team and remain dedicated to the mission of the company as a loyal employee are all skills new employers look for and value on a resume.
What employers look for
Surveys have been completed where a number of employers continuously offer information supporting the importance of showcasing soft skills, in addition to hard skills, on a resume. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 70 percent of those responding to one survey cited that a strong work ethic was one of the tops desired qualities — this means employers are both demanding and hiring those with well-developed people skills and loyalty to their company and team.
According to a recent survey, the top ten skills (many of which are defined as soft skills) are as follows:
Ability to work in a team
Written communication skills
Strong work ethic
Looking at this list, it’s clear that what employers are looking for is what you need to be including on your resume and mention during your interviews.
Showcasing your soft skills
You might be really good at problem-solving and have years of experience working as part of a team, but if you don’t showcase it on your resume, there’s no way an interviewer is going to know. It’s just as important to showcase (but not brag about) the soft skills you’ve developed as it is to develop them!
Here are just a few ways soft skills can be showcased during in-person interviews and on your resume:
When answering questions, incorporate real-life examples that convey your professional and interpersonal capabilities
List past job responsibilities that highlight your ability to communicate effectively, problem solve and work well with others
Make sure your resume employs proper grammar and spelling
Exhibit confidence in your abilities while maintaining humility in your approach to new challenges
Describe situations of success where you were able to apply soft skills
Tell why problem-solving, work ethic and team playing is important to you and how you’ve experienced/displayed those qualities before.
Remember to always detail your successes humbly, as few employers are enchanted by those who brag about their experiences; humbly and factually talking about your abilities is the key to a successful interview.
Writing workshops, both online and in-person, are an effective way to improve written communication skills. If your verbal presentation skills need a boost, consider taking a public speaking course at a local community college, or attend a professional workshop that hones your ability to communicate effectively in less formal interactions. Reading can also be a means of improving your communication skills, both written and verbal, by expanding your vocabulary and giving you more confidence in conveying thoughts.
Additionally, you could consider working with a mentor proficient in helping candidates craft and perfect the skills they want to focus on more.
As with any other skill, the most important thing you can do to master these personal attributes is to practice them. Be intentional when interacting with your co-workers, paying attention to their body language, maintaining eye contact and actively listening to what they say, so you can respond thoughtfully and appropriately. Work hard at your job even when tempted to work half-heartedly – a strong work ethic can be developed through intentional, thoughtful practice.
If you would like to improve your interpersonal, leadership or communication skills, try leveraging your employee assistance program benefits. Access to professional coaching is just one of the many ways Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP can help you succeed in the workplace. To learn more, contact Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP by visiting our website or calling our offices at (800) 543-5080.