Soft skills are essential to success in the workplace, especially in roles where you work on a team or interact with customers frequently. Demonstrating well-developed soft skills is essential to building the career you want.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are character traits like communication skills and interpersonal skills that positively affect how you work and interact with others.
Soft skills are developed naturally through experiences in your life and career. They help you build stronger relationships with other people and complete tasks efficiently. Qualities like resourcefulness and open-mindedness are examples of soft skills that make you a great person to work with and help you accomplish your professional goals.
In contrast, hard skills are more clearly-defined abilities like computer skills or language skills that are often taught in a formal setting. While most jobs require technical training (i.e. hard skills), soft skills are what help with the application of those learned abilities.
Why are soft skills important in the workplace?
Soft skills make up some of the top professional strengths to include on your resume that can set you apart from the competition. If two candidates for a job have similar experience and training, soft skills often become the deciding factor between hiring one or the other.
Employers want to hire people with strong soft skills because these skills show how well you work with colleagues and clients and self-motivate to get the job done.
As Susan Vitale of iCIMS says, “hard skills might get your resume looked at” but soft skills “help you stand out and get you hired.” You must still possess the requisite technical skills to get the job you want, but without good soft skills, you can’t compete.
According to Forbes, 94% of recruiters believe great soft skills outweigh experience when it comes to internal promotion to leadership positions. So soft skills are not just fundamental to getting the job you want — they’re also essential for future career growth.
Top 10 soft skills (plus examples of each for your resume)
Below are 10 of the most important soft skills to emphasize on your resume (or in an interview). Additionally, we include specific examples of related soft skills for each.
Communication skills allow you to express yourself and your ideas when interacting with others. Communication is a critical sales skill, but is also an important management and human resources skill.
Some examples of communication skills include:
- Presentation skills
- Mutual respect
- Active listening
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Written communication
- Constructive feedback
Employers are always looking for candidates that are great at collaborating in a team environment. Teamwork skills help you operate well in a group to quickly and effectively accomplish tasks.
In fact, teamwork is crucial for careers in market research, event coordination, and software engineering.
Some examples of teamwork-related skills include:
- Conflict management
- Cultural sensitivity
- Idea exchange
Adaptability and flexibility are essential skills for embracing and adjusting to change.
These are some of the best soft skills to have when working in fast-paced or constantly evolving work environments such as public relations, event management, tech, nursing, and advertising.
Some examples of adaptability-related skills include:
4. Problem solving
Problem solving skills depend on your ability to use analytical and creative thinking to find solutions. No matter what industry you’re in, problem-solving soft skills in the workplace will always be valuable on some level because every job has issues that need to be tackled.
Ultimately, candidates who can tackle problems and find intuitive solutions will always be in high demand.
Careers where problem-solving is the most vital include law enforcement, information technology, and medical-related fields.
Types of problem-solving skills include:
- Lateral thinking
- Logical reasoning
- Decision making
Creativity is a broad soft skill that can range from helping you develop innovative solutions to being an effective graphic designer. In fact, creativity is considered by some experts to be the most important soft skill of the future.
While valuable for any industry, conceptual skills like creativity are especially important for instructional designers, architects, and artists.
Types of creative skills include:
- Divergent thinking
- Mind mapping
Leadership skills refer to your ability to mentor others, train new hires, and guide teams. Strong leadership skills are also essential for taking on more responsibility and being promoted within a company. Employers are always looking for strong leaders to help them grow their companies.
Leadership skills are critical for entrepreneurs, all types of management, and teaching.
Some other skills connected to leadership include:
- Project management
- Management skills
- Cultural sensitivity
- Team building
7. Work ethic
Work ethic is one of the most basic, widely transferable soft skills there is. By showcasing your work ethic, you communicate to employers that you believe in the importance of work and the value of putting forward your best effort.
Demonstrating work ethic should be important in every career, but is vital for high-stress jobs like first responders, teachers, and nurses.
Soft skills examples related to work ethic include:
8. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills refer to your ability to communicate well and interact with others, maintain relationships, and otherwise leave a positive impression on people.
Interpersonal skills are used every day in most industries as you interact and communicate with co-workers and management. However, they’re especially vital for people who work in industries like customer service, recruitment and HR, realty, or financial planning.
Examples of skills related to interpersonal skills include:
- Public speaking
- Positive reinforcement
9. Time management
Time management skills describe your ability to work efficiently and productively by using your time wisely. Most employers appreciate this soft skill, but it’s particularly important if you’re a project manager, middle manager, or work in loss prevention or legal fields.
Some skills related to time management skills include:
- Goal setting
- Decision making
- Stress management
10. Attention to detail
Attention to detail refers to your ability to be thorough and accurate in your work, and notice even minor issues when they arise. Careers suited to detail-oriented people include accounting, pharmacology, and engineering.
Some additional soft skills related to attention to detail are:
- Critical observation
- Active listening
How to list soft skills on a resume
Highlighting relevant skills on your resume is a great way to make an impression on hiring managers and strengthen your overall application. We’ll show you how to do this successfully below.
There are several ways you can work soft skills into your resume to emphasize the strengths that employers look for. But if you stuff your resume with too many soft skills, you risk sounding insincere.
Here are three strategies for including soft skills naturally in a resume:
1. Reference the job description
When deciding what soft skills to emphasize on your resume, you should always look to the job description for ideas.
For example, if a company specifies that they’re looking for a self-starter, your resume could describe you as motivated, ambitious, or goal-oriented. It also never hurts to use resume keywords from the job description.
A great place to work in soft skills is the resume objective section, where you introduce your most valuable qualifications and state what you can contribute to the target company.
Here’s an example of an effective resume objective that shows the applicant’s soft skills:
Notice that this applicant demonstrates the value of their excellent communication skills by showing how they contributed to client retention and positive feedback.
2. Cater to your strengths
In addition to using the job description as a guide, draw attention to a few soft skills that make you unique. If your resume doesn’t highlight your personal strengths, it will be harder for employers to get a sense of who you are as a person.
In the skills section of your resume, include a few soft skills that will make you stand out. Here’s an example of a resume skills section that includes a good mix of soft skills and hard skills:
Just remember, you shouldn’t go overboard with soft skills in this section. The skills section of a resume is more suitable for listing technical skills that are difficult to work in naturally to other parts of your resume.
Additionally, soft skills have more of an impact when paired with a key result.
3. Use evidence to back up your claims
Anyone can say they’re a team player. If you want employers to take you seriously, you need to provide examples backing up your claims.
To show employers that you have strong soft skills, include solid examples of how you’ve applied your skills in the workplace. The most natural place to do this is in the experience section of your resume.
Each experience bullet point lets you go into detail about how your soft skills helped you achieve goals and deliver results. This way, hiring managers can envision the value you’ll bring to their company.
For instance, here’s an example work experience section that does a great job highlighting soft skills throughout:
Note that within five short bullet points, this candidate is able to highlight a variety of soft skills, including leadership, organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving.