For many job hunters, describing their soft skills can be the hardest part of applying for a new position. You’re prepared to send your transcripts and discuss your sales record, but how do you prove that you’re a team player or early adopter?
In case you don’t already know, hard skills are the job-specific education and experience you can quantify. In contrast, soft skills are more intangible qualities, like how you relate to others.
Consider these tips for how to develop and demonstrate soft skills that will be important to your career.
Examples of Soft Skills Employers Want
Different organizational cultures and job positions may require different soft skills. Still, there are some qualities that almost every employer will be seeking.
Consider these important soft skills:
- Communicate skillfully. Strong communications can require many different abilities. You might excel at making presentations but need to work on active listening.
- Solve problems. Rising to challenges and addressing business needs is central to any job description. Think about how you react when you encounter a setback.
- Express creativity. A great accountant or financial analyst is always looking for the easiest way to complete a task, also called process improvement. Think about what makes you an artist at the office.
- Radiate confidence. Feeling sure of yourself and your abilities encourage others to see you more favorably. Believing in yourself also makes it easier to be assertive and take risks.
- Think positive. Whatever position you’re applying for, your future boss and coworkers will be asking themselves if you’re someone they want to work with. An upbeat attitude suggests that you’ll be pleasant and helpful.
How to Develop Your Soft Skills
Few colleges offer majors in time management or resilience. However, you can strengthen any soft skill through practice.
Try these effective practice techniques:
- Ask for feedback. Your family, friends, and coworkers are a good place to start. See what they have to say about your strengths and areas where you might want to grow.
- Study a role model. Find someone you admire for their work ethic or strategic thinking. Look for ways to adapt their methods to suit your personality.
- Use your job. If you’re currently employed, seek out opportunities to practice your soft skills. Starting a green office program could showcase your leadership potential.
- Take a course. Adult education programs at your local university and online courses cover any topic you can imagine. Learn more about conflict resolution or basic grammar.
- Volunteer your services. Support a worthy cause while you pick up new skills. Contact a group that interests you and propose a project that suits your mutual goals.
How to Demonstrate Your Soft Skills
While you may not need to explain how you passed the bar or won a Pulitzer Prize, listing your soft skills usually requires supporting evidence. Try these ideas to help you convince employers that you’re a strong candidate.
Use these strategies to show your expertise in soft skills:
- Read carefully. Position descriptions may state the soft skills desired or offer plenty of clues. See if the company focuses on attention to detail or grasping the big picture, or both.
- Provide examples when you claim to have a soft skill, back it up with a compelling story. Use examples in your cover letter, resume, and interview.
- Show up on time. If you want your hard and soft skills to have a chance to be evaluated, you need to be punctual. Arriving a little early to your interview shows that you’re responsible and considerate.
- Follow through. Delivering on your promises is another sign of a strong work ethic. Be sure to return phone calls and send thank-you letters.
Job offers and career success often depend on soft skills even if you have an advanced degree or know how to code in 5 languages. Make yourself a more valuable asset by enhancing your communications and thinking abilities.