From an employer’s perspective, soft skills make the difference. What is a soft skill? Also called transferable skills or job-readiness skills, soft skills are the intangible, less-technical skills that employees are expected to possess. While being able to rewire a home is a hard skill, a soft skill is something like being dependable, showing up on time, dressing well, or being emotionally empathetic with customers and coworkers. These soft skills (many of them interpersonal), are what can set a job candidate apart. Think about it: if two candidates had similar hard, technical skills but one was more trustworthy, personable, and went the extra mile, then which one would you pick?
Let’s look at an example. So an employer – let’s say at a high-end boutique – is looking for a cashier/salesperson. What technical skills will they require? Well, probably the ability to work a point of sale system, basic math skills, knowledge of clothing and other products, etc. But is that all an employer will value? Of course not. They will need any employee to have a large set of soft skills. These could include being punctual and flexible. Or it could be that they are always well dressed and properly groomed. The employer could really value a person who is outgoing, talkative, and charming. These skills aren’t as easy to quantify, but they are skills that almost any of us can learn.
What soft skills are most important to employers?
A recent study by LinkedIn found 10 soft skills that are the most important to employers. They are: communication, organization, teamwork skills, punctuality, critical thinking, social skills, creativity, interpersonal communication, adaptability, and friendliness. Of course, some of these are broad and can be made more granular – like there are dozens of smaller soft skills that go into making you a good team player. But as far as a strong starting list goes, this is pretty solid.
As a bonus, we can also include emotional intelligence in there. This broad skill covers your ability to empathize with others, predict interpersonal conflicts and avoid them before they occur, and give yourself perspective on bad things that happen so you can act appropriately (not overreact).
And finally, the ability to see your own problems and flaws is a big skill to have, as it affects almost all of your other soft skills. For example, if you have a problem with addiction, it’s hard to see it within yourself. Even if you think you “have it under control,” this addiction problem will leak into all other soft skills – your punctuality, cleanliness, dependability, and even your overall mental health. You must be able to root out your own personal problems.
How to display soft skills to a potential employer
If a potential employee wants an employer to know about their technical skills, it’s pretty easy to do. You tell them that you are certified in X trade or skill, attending school for X, of worked previous jobs doing X. When it comes to communicating various soft skills, things can get a little trickier.
First, know that soft skills can be listed on a resume! Check this resource for a huge list of terms that can go on resumes as soft skills, including things like “resilient”, “self-supervising”, “trainable”, “well-groomed”, and “innovative”. Soft skills are best demonstrated in an interview or person-to-person setting, however. So potential employees should always show off their soft skills when they can – be on time, dress well, smile, be personable, charming, etc.
Any employee has dozens and dozens of marketable soft skills – many of which they may not even recognize or know how to express. As potential employees must find ways to articulate and demonstrate these less-tangible skills, employers must go the extra mile to look at each job candidate in a way that doesn’t simply take into account their hard skills.