When writing a resume the first thing you think of is your hard (technical) skills. After all, isn’t it what most recruiters expect to see? Yes, of course. But most also want to gauge just how well you’ll fit into the role and the organization itself. And that’s when the sometimes overlooked soft skills come into play.
Let’s kick in with a quick soft skills definition first, followed by an up-to-date soft skills list.
What are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are a combo of personal attitudes and career attributes that allow you to work well in tandem with others and achieve your career goals.
Soft skills are an umbrella term that further incorporates the following groups of skills:
- People skills
- Social skills
- Communication skills
- Social and emotional intelligence
- Listening skills
Unlike hard skills, your soft skills do not directly depend on your acquired professional knowledge, but rather exist as an extension of your character. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you cannot improve your soft skills with some deliberate practice!
Why Recruiters Value Candidates with Strong Soft Skills?
The desire for soft skills has risen sharply over recent years to become a priority in the eyes of many employers. Here’s proof:
- According to Deloitte, that by 2030 two-thirds of all jobs in Australia will be soft skill-intensive occupations.
- LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends notes that 92% of recruiters rank soft skills as “just as important” or “more important” than technical skills.
- McKinsey research suggests that HRs lack professionals with the following soft skills — problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity (37%); ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity (32%), and communication (31%).
Furthermore, from an employer’s point of view, it can be easy to train someone to operate a software program for example, but not quite so easy to teach them how to handle a difficult or uncomfortable situation in the workplace. This is why your soft skills can come in very handy and could give you an advantage over someone else at the job interview.
Also, most employers today are more concerned with creating a productive and happy workplace, promoting good mental health and well-being at work. Having a team with strong soft skills directly correlates with the factors above as recent research suggests.
Companies that provided soft skills training to employees recorded a 12% boost in employee productivity. Within 9 months after the program ended, the total productivity gains and increases in employee retention brought in a 256% net ROI.
So yup, soft skills are in pretty high demand for a good reason and you can turn that trend to your advantage by highlighting your soft skills in your resume, cover letter, and during the job interview!
What are The 7 Soft Skills You Need for Career Success?
There’s plenty of soft skills examples out and about, but which ones should get that prominent place on your resume? Again, we’ve got data-backed answers!
1. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking skills allow you to effectively process incoming information and draw rational conclusions. If you possess this skill you can:
- Create logical connections between different ideas
- Scrutinize and assess arguments and counterpoints
- Deduce key facts and outcomes
- Determine gaps/inconsistencies in information
- Engage in complex problem solving
- Practice self-reflection
Hiring managers actively seek candidates with strong critical sales for managerial, executive, and sales positions. However, as the PayScale report identified, 60% of recent graduates do not possess sufficient critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is another umbrella term that incorporates a host of personal attributes that allow you to be aware of, control and express your emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships empathetically.
Some of the key emotional intelligence skills and characteristics include:
- Emotional self-awareness
- Emotional self-control
- Positive outlook
- Achievement orientation
- Organizational awareness
- Conflict management
- Coaching and mentoring skills
- Inspirational leadership skills
High performance on all these competencies makes you a better team player and potential leader. That’s why emotional intelligence skills are in high-demand for managerial positions, as well as customer-facing roles.
Also, a high level of emotional intelligence increases your chances of staying on the job. As one survey suggests 23% of new hires failed in their position during the first 18 months due to their inability to understand and manage emotions.
Creativity is one of the soft skills that does the hard work across many industries. Creative thinking is directly associated with better business performance and improved business outcomes. Per McKinsey, companies, where leadership scored high on creativity/creative thinking, tend to be among the:
- 67% with above-average organic revenue growth.
- 70% with the above-average total return to shareholders (TRS).
- 74% with above-average net enterprise value.
Considering those results, it should come as no surprise that most companies seek out creative candidates even for non-creative roles. After all, it is the out-of-the-box thinkers and non-linear problem solvers that drove the innovations and transformations behind those big numbers.
4. Growth Mindset
Growth mindset is one of the soft skills for resumes that we see too little. And it’s a shame because it’s an excellent term that describes people with strong personal development inclinations — the life-long learners who continuously work on improving their abilities.
In fact, many modern companies are now shifting gears to make ‘growth culture’ part of their daily agenda. That’s what Microsoft’s Satya Nadella did when he rose to the CEO position. Microsoft used to have a highly-competitive internal culture, where everyone was focused on achieving personal goals, rather than growing as a team.
Through training and change management, Nadella started forging a new growth-oriented culture based around the values of cooperation, collaboration, learning, and listening. Looking at Microsoft today, it’s safe to assume that this effort paid off.
Now more companies are following the lead. So if you are someone that already lives by the principles of the growth mindset, mention that on your resume for some extra points!
5. People Management
People management skills indicate your abilities to train, direct, and motivate other people at the workplace and steer them towards doing their best work. It’s the soft skill to put on your resume if you are after a new job as a team leader, supervisor or department head.
Similarly to emotional intelligence, people management incorporates several other resume-worthy power words:
- Employee empowerment
- Conflict resolution
- Empathy and compassion
- Two-way communication
- Motivation and recognition
- Persuasion skills
- Honesty and integrity
In essence, your people management skills should demonstrate that you can organize effective and productive human interactions at the workplace and build an effective rapport with every team member.
Having strong negotiation skills and acting as an ‘office diplomat’ can help you become a strong asset to any organization. First of all, you can help drive down the internal tensions and secure greater stakeholder/team engagement around complex matters. Secondly, with strong negotiation skills, you’ll be able to gradually pursue your personal career objectives and negotiate better terms and opportunities. Lastly, good negotiators are indispensable for customer-/client-facing positions, as well as the law industry.
So if negotiations are your forte, mention that on your resume, and further reinforce that skill in your cover letter with a short professional story.
7. Active Listening
As Lee Iacocca, former president and CEO of Chrysler Corporation once said:
“Business people need to listen at least as much as they need to talk. Too many people fail to realize that real communication goes in both directions.”
Being a good listener can help you become more successful at your job in several ways. First of all, good listeners tend to have better interpersonal relationships as one study suggests. This, in turn, helps you get better in collaboration, ideation, plus boost your overall workplace performance.
Secondly, people with strong active listening skills make better managers/leaders as they understand the individuals’ concerns and take in different opinions before drawing any conclusions. Plus, when your team feels comfortable with sharing their ideas, their work performance increases.
If possible, you should try to strike an equal balance between your hard skills set and your soft skills within your resume.
To identify the best soft skills for your resume, take a careful look through the job description. Identify and pick out those soft skills that would be very handy to have in this role. Then compare them with your personal list and add the cross-matches to all the docs in your job application packet.
This post has been originally published on February 6, 2018 and has been extensively revised and updated on December 2, 2020