Show employers you’re a good all-rounder with these choice soft skills!
Choosing the right soft skills for your CV isn’t hard. However, job seekers often fall into the trap of showcasing these skills poorly. “I am a collaborative and communicative problem-solver.” Employers glaze over when they read generic CV statements like this. The words make no impact.
While soft skills are highly-prized by employers, it is not enough to list them on your CV like your hard skills (such as proficiency in a programming language).
Soft skills may lie in the background of an accomplishment in your employment history section, but it is clear what it took to achieve a certain thing. A subtle nod to a soft skill is all you need to expand upon it during a later interview.
Having said that, you don’t need to be explicit about your soft skills on your CV. Identify the required skills for each role so that you can ensure that you are telling suitable career stories. If an employer asks you to give an example of a certain soft skill during an interview and you don’t have a story about it, you are in trouble.
In this blog we look at 36 of the most sought-after soft skills with examples of how you might weave them into your personal career story. We will cover the following:
- What are soft skills?
- How do I decide which soft skills to mention?
- Where do soft skills go on a CV?
- Top 36 soft skills to impress any employer
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92% of hiring managers considered that soft skills were important for a candidate. A study reported by SHRM suggested that nearly 50% of leaders thought that soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap in the workforce.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are a combination of behavioural approaches that modify how we get things done with other people. They are character traits, mindsets, attitudes, and social characteristics. While they are sometimes described as ‘people skills’, these traits range in style far more than that.
When we come up against another candidate with a similar level or experience, it is the hiring manager’s perception of our soft skills that can set us apart.
How do we collaborate with our colleagues? Are we adaptable when obstacles appear? How do we go about solving problems? How do our attitude and work ethic help us to power through a tough period? Are we keen to learn and able to think critically about what we could improve?
You can’t learn a soft skill from a textbook, but you can refine it as situations demand it through the course of your life and career.
How do I decide which soft skills to mention?
Chances are, you already use most of the soft skills listed here when you’re at work. For example, most of us need ‘good communication’ to get our jobs done. However, there are certain skills that make a difference between good performance and great performance.
Analyse the job description and understand which soft skills are required to do an outstanding job. Then be honest about where your skill-set meets the demands. Only share true examples of soft skills where your contribution is above the norm. If you come across as average, you will not get the job. So, don’t exaggerate the extent of your contribution.
Where do soft skills go on a CV?
Next up, let’s talk about where to put them. Your soft skills should be included throughout your CV. While you might choose to include a couple in the skills section, they have more impact within the context of your achievements in the summary and work experience.
While there is space to expand on your soft skills later in the CV, you may choose to make an exception for the summary (or personal statement ) and simply include a couple of one-word adjectives.
If you mention any soft skills in the summary, you should double check the specific demands of each role. This is not a choice that you can stick with for each role that you apply for, you may need to make tailored changes with each application. Mentioning soft skills in the summary that isn’t required for the role is a sure-fire way to land your CV on the reject pile.
Hiring managers will be reading between the lines for soft skills in every accomplishment. What did it take to make this happen and how exactly did you influence the situation to achieve outstanding results?
Sharing your personal impact by outlining how your soft skills made something happen is the magic formula to job search success. Which of your soft skills make the crucial difference to those around you? Prove it with numbers and context. Not all candidates will back up their soft skills assertions in this way – think through how you hit the heights.
Should you put soft skills in the skills section? While the skills section may seem like the obvious home for your soft skills, the inability to quantify how you put your soft skills to use means that they do not mean so much there. It is better to lead with your most impressive hard and technical skills here while weaving the soft skills into your career story.
36 Soft skills examples by category
The following seven categories of soft skills will form the core of behaviours on any CV. Each of these categories should be hinted at in one way or another – there are not many roles where one of these soft skill categories is entirely absent.
If you’re struggling to know where to start, check out our list of soft skills here:
Working with others to achieve an impossible goal lies at the heart of every ambitious organisation. Collaboration takes many forms. Sometimes you will need to lead by example, you may need to tolerate uncertainty, active listening will engender empathy, and conflicts are resolved when people keep their eyes on the goal.
Soft skills list: Teamwork, leadership , empathy, interpersonal skills, tolerance, conflict resolution
Can you change your approach when everything around you (and your team) shifts? It is stressful when what you were expecting didn’t quite pan out as you had anticipated — you can be sure that some people will deal with this better than others. When you are able to adapt, solutions appear, and you can forge a new path.
Soft skills list: Flexibility, follow instructions, manage stress, communication, customer service
When the way ahead is not clear, you may have to think creatively to reach your desired destination. It is common to be stopped in your tracks, but a resourceful person is not afraid of some trial and error. There is nothing more enjoyable than working in a creative team where solutions are explored with curiosity, not fear.
Soft skills list: Creative thinking, problem-solving, troubleshooting, organisational skills, planning
Positivity can only really be measured when certainty leaves the room. Displaying the resilience to push past problems will encourage those around you to adopt the same optimism. No matter what the setbacks, a positive attitude will — more often than not — help you will succeed more than the average person.
Soft skills list: Charismatic, outgoing, friendly, motivating, mental resilience, persistence
Sometimes you just need to roll up your sleeves, leave the distractions of life to one side and just get on with it. A determined and motivated approach to detail-heavy work is a requirement of many roles — especially when that work is particularly monotonous. Show that you can manage your time and smash your deadlines. Nothing much to it.
Soft skills list: Determined, motivated, focused, deadline-oriented, time management
Willingness to learn
In the rapidly changing world of work, employers are increasingly valuing the learning quotient (LQ) of their people. Picking up a new skill or learning to do something differently is central to personal development. A candidate who can demonstrate a track record of learning is someone who will keep growing.
Soft skills list: Active listener, self-awareness, professionalism, open to change,
What really lies behind a thorny problem? Nothing is ever as simple as it seems and there are often hidden influences that lurk in the shadows. Can you see a problem from multiple angles and absorb the views of others to find your way towards a solution? Critical thinking drives the strategic direction of any project.
Soft skills list: Observation, negotiation, persuasion, analytical skills, strategic planning
Every chapter of your career story will be powered by soft skills. You might not have the space to describe them explicitly in your CV, but they should be clear from how you frame your achievements. Your CV will be read by an industry expert — they know what it takes to achieve these things.
- Hint at the soft skills that are central to success in the role.
- Don’t describe them with words — let your deeds do the talking.
- Ensure a balanced mix of the seven core categories listed above.
- Be prepared to expand on ‘how’ you used your soft skills at the interview.
Which soft skills have helped you to get to where you are today?