You've heard the term “soft skills,” but do you know which employers find most valuable?

If you've ever applied for a job or used a resume, chances are that you recognize the term soft skills. A good resume will always include a balanced mix of job-related technical hard skills and key soft skills - and having the right soft skills for your resume can often be the determining factor that separates you from everyone else who applies for the job.

But do you really know what soft skills are and why they are important? Well, you can relax, because we have the answers you need! In this post, we'll explain everything you need to know about soft skills for a resume and highlight the top seven skills that can enhance your chances of landing your next job.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills include all those social and people skills that you possess, as well as aspects of your personality and key character traits. They're the interpersonal skills and work habits that you use each day to provide value for an employer. They include key skills like communication, adaptability, and the ability to collaborate with others.

Soft skills vs hard skills

When it comes to understanding soft skills, it's sometimes easier to think about them in terms of how they differ from hard skills. The latter are skills that you've learned through education, formal and informal training, and hands-on instruction. They're more technical, and can typically be measured. Examples of hard skills include machine operation, computer programming, typing, and accounting.

Soft skills are the opposite - they involve more innate, natural traits and interpersonal abilities that can span across all professions and industries. And unlike hard skills, soft skills are difficult to measure.

Why are soft skills important on a resume?

A lot of professionals in your industry likely possess many of the same hard skills that you'll list in your resume. If you're an Accountant, chances are other Accountants are proficient with the accounting software programs you use. If you're a Medical Coder, then you probably have similar, if not the same, technical skills as other Medical Coders. You get the point.

That's why focusing all your energy and resume real estate on your hard skills will make it more difficult to stand out from other job applicants. Your soft skills, however, can provide you with more of an edge.

Outside of job applications, soft skills can also help you to do your job better. They can enable you to be more proficient with time management, stress management, conflict resolution, and teamwork. If you can demonstrate that you have a strong set of soft skills that will help you to excel at your job, that can not only help you to land your dream role but could even give you an advantage when it's time for a promotion or a raise.

Top seven soft skills for your resume

As you sit down and start thinking about your soft skills, you might wonder which skills employers find the most valuable. The good news is that there are some soft skills that almost every employer wants to see on a job candidate's resume. Below are the top seven prized soft skills for your resume.

1.     Leadership

Employers are always looking for candidates who possess leadership skills, so including these soft skills in your resume is important. That's especially true for companies that prefer to promote from within. When companies hire candidates with proven leadership skills, they know that those employees will be more likely to align themselves with the firm's goals and mission.

It's important to also note that leadership is not a singular skill. It is instead a skill set that encompasses a variety of abilities that can help you to inspire others, motivate them, and build productive relationships. Some of the most desirable leadership skills include authenticity, emotional intelligence, the ability to mentor others, conflict resolution, confidence, and many other key traits and talents.

Related Post: These 14 Leadership Traits Can Fuel Your Career Success

2.     Adaptability

Many of today's employers prioritize job candidates who can demonstrate their ability to adapt to change. While technological change is obviously proceeding at a rapid pace, nearly every other aspect of business is also evolving before our very eyes. Employers need to know that you have the capacity to roll with those changes and adapt to new situations and challenges.

Adaptability skills can include everything from flexibility and consistency to patience, optimism, and a desire to learn new things. Expressing these skills in your resume can help to demonstrate your adaptability and resilience.

3.     Communication

Effective communication is essential in every industry, so make sure that you accurately convey those skills to prospective employers. Depending on the job role you're seeking, there are many distinct communication skills that you can highlight in your resume to deliver that narrative. These include verbal, written, and nonverbal communication skills, expertise in negotiation, conflict resolution, public speaking, presentation, active listening, and more.

4.     Problem-solving

Are you a critical or analytical thinker who excels at resolving problems? If so, then employers want to know about your problem-solving skills. Every business has a need for problem solvers, so make sure that you highlight key skills like risk assessment, research abilities, resourcefulness, and decision-making in your resume.

5.     Collaboration

Teamwork is an important part of any company's success, so your ability to collaborate with others may play a significant role in determining whether you can land your dream job. These skills include traits and abilities like trustworthiness, active communication, reliability, and respect for others. To highlight this skill, focus on including at least one notable achievement in your work experience section that demonstrates how your ability to collaborate provided value for a previous employer.

6.     Time management

The ability to effectively manage time is a core element of employee success and productivity - which is why employers universally value time management skills. Like other skills on this list, time management involves the use of a variety of soft skills, including organizational abilities, planning, goal setting, management of stress, and a talent for being able to prioritize tasks. Including these soft skills in your resume can be a terrific way to demonstrate your ability to productively provide real value for an employer.

Related Post: How to be More Productive: 10 Productivity Tips

7.     Attention to detail

A detail-oriented mindset can be critical for ensuring that work is done properly the first time. Employers want candidates who are focused on details, because they know that those job seekers will be likely to do more than just go through the motions each day. If your mindset emphasizes attention to detail, your work is likely to reflect that focus. Detail-oriented job seekers are often self-aware, able to concentrate on tasks, and committed to accuracy.

What soft skills do you have? How do you identify them?

Identifying your own soft skills will require some introspection. To start this process, think about the times you've excelled at your job, noting the situation and the outcome. What skills did you use to help you accomplish your goal? What praise and feedback did you receive?

You'll also want to think about any conversations you've had with managers about your overall performance. Chances are, they've praised your soft skills or perhaps identified some soft skills you can improve.

If you're still having trouble identifying your soft skills, consider reaching out to coworkers, managers, or mentors. Ask them about your soft skills and specific instances in which these skills shined.

How do you develop soft skills?

Although soft skills are typically abilities that seem natural, there are still ways to develop them. Here are a few strategies you can employ:

  • Seek advice: Ask your manager, co-worker, or even a friend to help you improve a particular soft skill. For example, if your co-workers seem to have no issue hitting deadlines and you find yourself struggling, ask about their time management strategies. See if you can implement any of their advice into your daily routine.

  • Find ways to practice: With many soft skills, the best way to develop them is to simply practice. If you want to become a better leader, seek out additional leadership opportunities. If you want to become a more creative problem solver, take on projects that require creative problem solving. The key is to develop a habit of using desired soft skills whenever you can, to hone them over time.

  • Take an online course: If you're struggling to improve your soft skills on your own, you can find an online course that can help. Udemy, for example, offers online courses on just about every topic, including productivity, leadership, stress management, creativity, and even self-esteem.

  • Work with a mentor or career coach: If you don't feel comfortable eliciting the help of your managers or co-workers, consider finding an outside mentor or career coach to help you assess and improve your soft skills.

Overall, a good rule of thumb is to be more mindful. For example, if you'd like to get better at managing your stress, take a moment in high-stress situations to sit back, breathe, and assess the situation. If you want to be better at organization, set aside 30 minutes each day to organize your physical and digital space. That mindfulness can ensure that you remain self-aware and focused on your developmental goals.

How do you show off your soft skills on your resume?

Now that you've identified your soft skills, it's time to make them shine on your resume. Remember, correctly highlighting these skills can help you to stand out from other job applicants.

One of the best ways to display your soft skills is to add a skills section to your resume. In this section, you don't necessarily want to list every single soft skill you've identified. Instead, look at the job you're applying for and take note of any skills highlighted in the role description. Make sure to focus on demonstrating those soft skills in your resume.

Then, as you assess your skills section on your resume, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Are these skills up to date? Make sure you keep this section updated as you participate in new training, attend seminars, and complete new projects.

  2. Are these skills unique to me? You don't want to list the same generic soft skills as everyone else; the point is to stand apart from the crowd.

  3. Is my skills section easy to read? Your skills section should be clear, scannable, and easy to digest. 

  4. Can I support these skills with examples? Make sure you'll feel confident talking about your soft skills during a job interview.

In addition to your resume's skills section, you can also weave evidence of your soft skills into the job descriptions within your work history section. For example, if you want to prove your leadership skills, you can note that you have experience managing a department of 15 employees. If you want to highlight your negotiation skills, mention your biggest sales with clients, using real numbers to quantify the results you achieved.

Related Post: 47 Accomplishment Examples for Your Resume: Expert Picks

Last thoughts 

While it's tempting to focus only on job-specific hard skills in your resume, it's important to remember that other candidates will almost certainly have the same type of skills. That's why it's vital to include soft skills in your resume too, to help separate you from those rival job seekers. By including these seven key soft skills that most employers are looking for, you can increase your chances of landing the interviews you need to land a fantastic job.

If you're still not sure how to effectively include soft skills in your resume and differentiate your candidacy from your rivals, get your free resume review today.

This article was originally written by Carson Kohler and has been updated by Ken Chase. 

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