Essential Soft Skills for the Workplace

Every job requires two skill sets: “hard skills” and “soft skills.” Hard skills are teachable abilities that are quantifiable and can be defined. Typing, math, and software knowledge are examples of hard skills. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable you to interact effectively and cooperatively with other people. These abilities are difficult to quantify, but they are vital to your success in the workplace.

It’s not enough to show employers a high GPA or an understanding of the job’s technical requirements. Hiring managers want to know that a candidate will fit in with the dynamic of their existing team, be able to solve problems, and contribute to the company’s overall success.

Most Important Skills Employers Look For

In its Job Outlook 2017 report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed 169 U.S. employers who rank a person’s ability to work as part of a team as the top attribute they seek on a candidate’s resume. Out of the top 20 attributes employers are seeking, 15 of them are considered soft skills.

Here are the top 10 skills and attributes that are most important to employers who participated in the NACE survey.

  1. Ability to work in a team
  2. Problem-solving skills
  3. Written communication skills
  4. Strong work ethic
  5. Verbal communication skills
  6. Leadership
  7. Initiative
  8. Analytical/quantitative skills
  9. Flexibility/adaptability
  10. Detail-oriented

Showcasing Your Soft Skills

Here are a few of the 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.

Improving Your Soft Skills

While attributes like interpersonal skills and leadership qualities come more naturally to some than others, there are several things you can do to learn and improve your soft skills.

Writing workshops, both online and in-person, are an effective way to improve your 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 to convey your thoughts.

Another way to strengthen your soft skills is to work with a mentor who is proficient in the area or areas where you would like to improve.

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.

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 and Sullivan EAP can help you succeed in the workplace.