Soft Skills: Definition & Examples for Resumes
While hard skills are generally what get you an interview, soft skills are often what actually help you land the job. Your soft skills indicate how well you will work with others in the company as well as how you might treat clients or customers - something that’s quite important to almost all employers.
This article will cover what soft skills are, whether or not you should list them on your resume, some examples of soft skills to include, and how to do so effectively.
Soft Skills Definition
Soft skills are inherent character traits that can’t usually be taught and are difficult to measure or define. They include attributes that describe your personality, attitude, manners, and your overall approach towards other people and your job. There are several different categories of soft skills, including communication skills, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, work ethic, creativity skills, and so forth.
Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills
Soft skills differ from hard skills, which are definable, measurable abilities that can be taught. Hard skills are often obtained from your education, through certifications or training courses, and work experience. They are usually technical or job-specific skills, such as the ability to perform HTML coding or run A/B testing.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are often generalized as ‘people skills.’ They are abstract personal attributes that enable you to work with and relate to others effectively, and they are applicable and necessary in the vast majority of industries.
Soft skills are related to emotional intelligence rather than technical expertise and they are transferable across all fields rather than being industry-specific.
Should You Include Soft Skills on Your Resume?
Including soft skills on your resume helps give potential employers a more well-rounded idea of who you are as a person. In recent years, employers have placed more of an emphasis on hiring for attitude and other soft skills rather than hiring strictly for hard skills. After all, it’s much easier to teach someone who is personable how to perform job-specific tasks than it is to teach someone who is technically proficient how to be friendly.
Including soft skills on your resume can be particularly beneficial if you are changing careers and don’t necessarily have relevant hard skills for your goal position, if you are a student or recent graduate without a wealth of hard skills, or if the position you are applying for is especially dependent on people skills or other abstract qualities.
Include soft skills on your resume to show employers that you have the qualities necessary for career growth within the company. Many recruiters say that possessing key soft skills is more important than extensive experience when it comes to internal promotion.
However, if you are applying for a very technical position, it can be better to focus on hard skills and work experience, especially if you have a lot to list and don’t have room on a single-page resume to include soft skills.
Examples of Soft Skills to Put on Your Resume
Here are several categories of soft skills to consider including on your resume, along with specific examples for each one:
Communication skills are critical in almost any industry, but especially in sales, management, and human resources positions.
- Public speaking
- Presentation skills
- Mutual respect
- Active listening
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
- Written communication
- Giving and receiving constructive feedback
Interpersonal skills indicate how well you will get along with others within the company as well as clients or customers.
- Emotional intelligence
- Relationship building
The ability to work on a team is extremely important for many industries and is indicative that you will be a pleasure to work with and a valuable addition to a team setting.
- Active listening
- Exchanging ideas
- Conflict management
- Building rapport
Leadership skills are essential for high-level positions, and they can help you get promoted quickly within a company or be given more responsibility.
- Project management
- Management skills
- Cultural knowledge
- Ability to motivate a team
- Hiring skills
- Training ability
Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking skills mean you can not only collect data, but you will know what to do with that information. Critical thinking skills are valuable in a wide variety of industries and positions.
Having a strong work ethic is always desirable in a job applicant. Some examples of work ethic skills include:
The ability to adapt is critical in fast-paced work environments where things change quickly.
- Decision making
- Ability to pivot and adapt quickly
- Quick thinking
- Fast learner
Employers will be pleased to know that if a problem arises in the workplace, you are equipped to handle it by finding and implementing a solution.
- Lateral thinking
- Decision making
While creativity skills are of course most important in creative fields, they can be useful in almost any industry.
- Reframing abilities
- Mind mapping
Time Management Skills
Effective time management ensures that tasks will be completed on schedule and company time won’t be squandered.
- Goal setting
- Self-starting abilities
- Stress management
- Resource management
- Managing calendars/appointments
- Meeting deadlines
How To Add Soft Skills to Your Resume
Here are some tips to help you effectively incorporate your soft skills into your resume:
Identify Soft Skills that the Employer is Looking For
Many employers will list the soft skills that they are looking for in the job description. Use the description to identify keywords that you can include in your resume to indicate that you have the desired qualities - and that you read the posting carefully. It’s a good idea to customize your resume for each job application, including your soft skills. Plus, mirroring the specific wording of the job description can help ensure that your resume will pass an applicant tracking system (ATS) scan.
Of course, only include soft skills that you actually possess, and avoid copying and pasting directly from the job description. Employers want to know how you have implemented your soft skills in your past positions, so explain how your skills helped you achieve results instead of just providing a list of soft skills. Whenever possible, include quantified data - numbers, percentages, and so forth that make your abstract soft skills easier to grasp.
Highlight Your Soft Skills in Your Work Experience Section
In the standard reverse chronological resume format, highlight your soft skills in your work experience section with bullet points under each job title. This is the ideal way to showcase your soft skills because you can briefly go into detail and demonstrate how each skill contributed to your achievements as outlined above.
Here’s an example of a past job entry:
Business Analyst, ABC Inc., Seattle, WA, June 2015 - May 2020
- Provided analysis and data extrapolation of business processes
- Identified inefficiencies and problem-solved to create a solution
- Grew sales by over 30% by implementing solutions
The italicized words are skills that have been highlighted specifically in relation to the job and backed up with quantified data.
Consider Creating a Skills Section
You may also wish to create a dedicated skills section in which to list and explain your soft skills as well as your hard skills. In a functional or skill-based resume, your skills section is the focal point and is placed prominently at the top.
A skill section might look like this:
- Critical thinking
- Data extrapolation
However, it’s usually preferable to present your soft skills under your work experience so you can provide specific examples. So, you may decide to highlight only your hard skills in this section and touch on your soft skills in your work experience section below.
Or, you can do both: mention your soft skills in your skills section as well as your work experience section. Take care to avoid redundancy and if doing so will make your resume longer than one page, choose just one place to list your soft skills.
Other Areas to Mention Your Soft Skills
You can also work your soft skills into your resume headline, resume summary, and/or resume objective as appropriate. Again, avoid being too redundant but also be careful not to include an excessive amount of soft skills - select your five strongest qualities and demonstrate how they have helped you in the workplace.
Here’s an example of a resume headline and summary:
Collaborative and Innovative Business Analyst with 10+ Years Experience
Eager to join XYZ Company and implement strong analytical and data extrapolation skills to increase sales and revenue. Grew sales by over 30% in two previous roles by identifying inefficiencies in the business process, problem-solving, and implementing solutions.
Again, all of the words in italics are soft skills, which have been worked into a seamless, compelling summary that offers quantified data to back up the personal qualities.
Many employers place high value on a job candidate’s soft skills, since they are qualities that can’t be taught. If you choose to include soft skills on your resume, identify your top five qualities and match them up to the job description as much as possible. There are many different places to highlight your qualities on your resume, including in your work experience section, skills section, resume headline, resume summary, and/or resume objective. Whenever possible, provide examples and quantified data that demonstrate how your soft skills help you create impact and achieve results at work.
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