soft skills

What Are Soft Skills? 

Soft skills are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people. In the workplace, soft skills are considered to be a complement to hard skills, which refer to a person’s knowledge and occupational skills.

 Sociologists may use the term “soft skills” to describe a person’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) as opposed to intelligence quotient (IQ). 

Soft skills have more to do with who people are than what they know. As such, they encompass the character traits that decide how well one interacts with others and usually are a definite part of an individual’s personality. In a competitive labor market, employees who demonstrate that they have a good combination of hard and soft skills often see a greater demand for their services. 

KEY TAKEAWAYS 

  • Soft skills include attributes and personality traits that help employees interact with others and succeed in the workplace. 
  • Examples of soft skills include the ability to communicate with prospective clients, mentor your co-workers, lead a team, negotiate a contract, follow instructions, and get a job done on time. 
  • Hard skills are measurable and usually obtained through formal education and training programs. 
  • Workers with good soft skills can help companies achieve higher levels of efficiency and productivity. 
  • In contrast to hard skills, soft skills are more difficult to acquire through training. 

Understanding Soft Skills 

Employers look for a balance of hard skills and soft skills when making hiring decisions. For example, employers value skilled workers with a track record of getting jobs done on time. Employers also value workers with strong communication skills and a strong understanding of company products and services. When communicating with prospective clients, workers with soft skills can put together compelling presentations even if their specific job is not in sales or marketing. Another valued soft skill is the ability to coach fellow co-workers on new tasks. 

Company leaders often are most effective when they have strong soft skills. For example, leaders are expected to have good speaking abilities, but great leaders are also good at listening to workers and to other leaders in their fields. 

How Soft Skills Work 

Soft skills relate to how you work. Soft skills include interpersonal (people) skills, communication skills, listening skills, time management, problem-solving, leadership, and empathy, among others. They are among the top skills employers seek in the candidates they hire because soft skills are important for just about every job. 

Hiring managers typically look for job candidates with soft skills because they make someone more successful in the workplace. Someone can be excellent with technical, job-specific skills, but if they can’t manage their time or work within a team, they may not be successful in the workplace. 

Soft skills are also important to the success of most employers. After all, nearly every job requires employees to engage with others in some way. 

Another reason hiring managers and employers look for applicants with soft skills is that soft skills are transferable skills that can be used regardless of the person’s job. This makes job candidates with soft skills very adaptable and flexible employees. 

Alternate names: Interpersonal skills, essential skills, noncognitive skills

Example of Soft Skills 

Soft skills are particularly important in customer-based jobs, for example. These employees are in direct contact with customers. It takes several soft skills to be able to listen to a customer and provide that customer with helpful and polite service. 

Note 

Even if you’re not in a client-facing role, you need to be able to get along with co-workers, managers, vendors, and other people you interact with at work. 

Types of Soft Skills 

Soft skills include the personal attributes, personality traits, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others. 

Soft skills include: 

  • Adaptability  
  • Communication  
  • Compromise 
  • Creative thinking 
  • Dependability 
  • Leadership 
  • Listening 
  • Work ethic  
  • Teamwork 
  • Positivity  
  • Time management  
  • Motivation  
  • Problem-solving  
  • Critical thinking 
  • Conflict resolution 
  • Negotiation 

How To Get Soft Skills 

Unlike hard skills that are learned, soft skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow people to “read” others. These are much harder to learn, at least in a traditional classroom. They are also much harder to measure and evaluate. 

How To Highlight Your Soft Skills 

When you’re applying for a new job, highlight your soft skills, as well as your job-specific ones. First, make a list of the soft skills you have that are relevant to the job you want. Compare your list of soft skills with the job listing. 

Include some of these soft skills in your resume. You can add them to a skills section. 

You can also mention these soft skills in your cover letter. Pick one or two soft skills you have that appear to be the most important for the job you’d like. In your cover letter, provide evidence that shows you have those particular skills. 

Finally, you can highlight these soft skills in your interviews. You can demonstrate your soft skills during the interview by being friendly and approachable. If you pay close attention while the interviewer is talking, you will show your listening skills. 

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