Soft skills are essential to success in the workplace, especially in roles where you work on a team or interact with customers frequently.
Here’s what we’ll go over in this article:
- What are soft skills?
- Why are soft skills important in the workplace?
- Top 10 soft skills for your resume (plus examples)
- Best soft skills by industry
- How to list soft skills on a resume
- Frequently asked questions
Let’s dive in.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are character traits, personal attributes, and abilities (like being a quick learner or having a great sense of humor) that positively affect how you work and interact with others.
Soft skills are developed naturally through experiences in your life and career. They help you build stronger relationships with other people and complete tasks effectively. Qualities like resourcefulness and open-mindedness are examples of soft skills that make you a great person to work with and help you accomplish your professional goals.
How are soft skills different from hard skills?
In contrast, hard skills are more clearly-defined abilities like computer skills or language skills that are often taught in a formal setting. While most jobs require technical training (i.e. hard skills), soft skills are what help with the application of those learned abilities.
Why are soft skills important in the workplace?
Soft skills make up some of the top professional strengths to include on your resume that can set you apart from the competition. If two candidates for a job have similar experience and training, soft skills often become the deciding factor between hiring one candidate or the other.
Employers want to hire people with strong soft skills because these skills show how well you work with colleagues or clients and motivate yourself to get the job done.
According to a recent survey from the Resume Genius research department, 48% of hiring managers view soft skills as a “must have”, while 28% believe they’re more important than hard skills.
With soft skills playing such a large part in how you perform at work, they’re not just fundamental to getting the job you want — they’re also essential for your future career growth.
Still not convinced soft skills are important for your application? An overwhelming 79% of hiring managers report paying attention to soft skills on a candidate’s resume, according to our survey.
Top 10 soft skills for your resume (plus examples)
Based on our survey results, the 10 skills below are the soft skills hiring managers prioritize the most when looking for new hires.
We’ll provide examples of how to emphasize each skill on your resume and include specific examples of related soft skills for each.
In our survey when asked what skills distinguish top performers, communication was the number one choice among hiring managers.
Communication skills allow you to express yourself and your ideas when interacting with others. Effective communication is vital for any profession, but is a particularly valuable sales skill and human resources skill.
Some examples of communication skills include:
Here’s an example of how to highlight communication skills on a technical writer resume:
- Re-wrote product user manual ensuring clear technical copy that effectively simplified complex mechanical processes, resulting in a 13% decrease in product return rates over 6 months
According to our survey results, teamwork is the top transferable skill that employers are looking for in candidates. Teamwork skills help you operate well in a group to think creatively and effectively accomplish tasks.
In fact, teamwork is crucial for careers in market research, event coordination, and software engineering.
Some examples of teamwork-related skills include:
Here’s a bullet point that effectively showcases a candidate’s teamwork skills:
- Collaborated closely with team members to develop and implement a new marketing campaign, leveraging each team member’s unique skills and expertise to achieve a 20% increase in leads
Adaptability is an essential skill for embracing and adjusting to change, making it one of the best soft skills to have when working in fast-paced or constantly evolving environments or industries such as public relations, event management, tech, nursing, and advertising.
Some examples of adaptability-related skills include:
Here’s an example of an experience bullet point on a nursing resume that demonstrates adaptability:
- Quickly adapted to changes in patient care plans due to unforeseen circumstances, including unexpected patient conditions and staffing shortages, successfully navigating these challenges while maintaining high standards of patient care
4. Problem solving
Problem solving skills depend on your ability to use analytical and creative thinking to find solutions. No matter what industry you’re in, problem-solving soft skills will always be valuable on some level because every job will have issues that need to be resolved.
Ultimately, candidates who can tackle problems and find simple solutions will always be in high demand.
Careers where problem-solving is the most vital include law enforcement, information technology, and medical-related fields.
Types of problem-solving skills include:
Here’s one way to highlight problem solving on a resume:
- Resolved a recurring inventory issue by developing a new process for tracking and ordering products, reducing out-of-stock items by 25% and improving customer satisfaction
Creativity is a broad soft skill that can range from helping you develop innovative solutions to being an effective graphic designer. In fact, creativity is considered by some experts to be the most important soft skill of the future.
While valuable for any industry, conceptual skills like creativity are especially important for instructional designers, architects, and artists.
Types of creative skills include:
Here’s an experience bullet point on a designer resume that showcases creativity:
- Developed visually compelling and innovative concepts and original designs for a variety of projects, ranging from branding and packaging to digital and print materials, resulting in 3 award-winning campaigns
Leadership skills refer to your ability to mentor others, train new hires, and guide teams. Strong leadership skills are also essential for taking on more responsibility and being promoted within a company. Employers are always looking for strong leaders to help them grow their companies.
Leadership skills are critical for entrepreneurs, all types of management, and teaching.
Some other skills connected to leadership include:
Here’s an example of how to demonstrate leadership skills on a resume:
- Led 15+ cross-functional team meetings to brainstorm solutions to complex business challenges, contributing creative ideas, and supporting the team in refining solutions
7. Work ethic
A strong work ethic is one of the most basic, widely transferable soft skills there is. By showcasing your work ethic, you communicate to employers that you believe in the importance of work and the value of putting forward your best effort.
When we asked hiring managers what qualities they like to hire for (assuming candidates possess the same hard skills), the most popular combination was responsible, hardworking, and trainable.
Even if you don’t have all the hard skills you need for a job, showing employers that you have these three qualities might just give you the boost you need to land the role.
Soft skills examples related to work ethic include:
Here’s an example of how to highlight a strong work ethic on a teacher resume:
- Regularly sought out new teaching resources and hosted 10 workshops with colleagues to share best practices and ensure student success, resulting in a positive and productive learning environment for all students
Your organizational skills determine how you manage your workload and whether you’re able to deliver work on time. As number four on our survey’s list of most desirable transferable skills, organization has a broad appeal and is a welcome addition to any application.
The ability to stay organized is particularly important in roles that require keeping track of a lot of details, such as administration, accounting, or office assistant roles.
Here are some skills related to organization:
Here’s an example of how to highlight organizational skills on a travel agent resume:
- Managed travel arrangements for multiple clients simultaneously, ensuring that all bookings were accurate; coordinated complex itineraries, communicating with clients to understand their travel preferences and needs, resulting in a 98% customer satisfaction rating
9. Time management
Time management skills describe your ability to work efficiently and productively by using your time wisely.
Most employers appreciate this soft skill, but it’s particularly important if you’re a project manager, middle manager, or work in loss prevention or legal fields.
Some skills related to time management skills include:
Here’s an example of how to highlight time management skills on a lawyer resume:
- Effectively managed a high volume of cases, consistently meeting or exceeding deadlines and client expectations and implemented time-saving technology solutions, resulting in a 20% increase in billable hours
10. Interpersonal skills
Interpersonal skills refer to your ability to communicate well and interact with others, maintain relationships, and otherwise leave a positive impression on people.
Interpersonal skills are used every day in most industries as you interact and communicate with co-workers and management. However, they’re especially vital for people who work in industries like customer service, recruitment and HR, realty, or financial planning.
Examples of skills related to interpersonal skills include:
Here’s an example of how to demonstrate interpersonal skills on a bartender resume:
- Established a loyal customer base by providing exceptional customer service, a welcoming atmosphere, and personalized recommendations that demonstrated ability to connect with and anticipate the needs of customers
Best soft skills by industry
Knowing what the top in-demand soft skills are for your industry can help you frame your work experience in a way that impresses employers and helps you land interviews.
Here are the best soft skills to highlight for work in any of the following industries:
Depending what industry you work in, how many soft skills and which ones you include on your resume might differ. For example, when you’re applying for work in more technical roles, it’s important to make sure your hard skills get the primary focus.
How to list soft skills on a resume
Highlighting relevant skills on your resume is a great way to make an impression on hiring managers and strengthen your overall application. We’ll show you how to do this successfully below.
There are several ways you can work soft skills into your resume to emphasize the strengths that employers look for. But if you stuff your resume with too many soft skills, you risk sounding insincere.
Here are three strategies for including soft skills naturally in a resume:
1. Reference the job description
When deciding what soft skills to emphasize on your resume, you should always look to the job description for ideas.
For example, if a company specifies that they’re looking for a self-starter, your resume could describe you as motivated, ambitious, or goal-oriented. It also never hurts to use resume keywords from the job description.
A great place to work in soft skills is the resume objective section, where you introduce your most valuable qualifications and state what you can contribute to the target company.
Here’s an example of an effective resume objective that shows the applicant’s soft skills:
Notice that this applicant demonstrates the value of their excellent communication skills by showing how they contributed to client retention and positive feedback.
2. Cater to your strengths
In addition to using the job description as a guide, draw attention to a few soft skills that make you unique. If your resume doesn’t highlight your personal strengths, it will be harder for employers to get a sense of who you are as a person.
In the skills section of your resume, include a few soft skills that will make you stand out. Here’s an example of a resume skills section that includes a good mix of soft skills and hard skills:
Just remember, you shouldn’t go overboard with soft skills in this section. The skills section of a resume is more suitable for listing technical skills that are difficult to naturally work into other parts of your resume.
Additionally, soft skills have more of an impact when paired with a key result.
3. Use evidence to back up your claims
Anyone can say they’re a team player. If you want employers to take you seriously, you need to provide examples backing up your claims.
30% of hiring managers in our survey reported that the biggest problem they see with skills on resumes is that applicants don’t give concrete, specific evidence to back up their skills.
To show employers that you have strong soft skills, include solid examples of how you’ve applied your skills in the workplace. The most natural place to do this is in the experience section of your resume.
Each experience bullet point lets you go into detail about how your soft skills helped you achieve goals and deliver results.
To make your bullet points more compelling and memorable, incorporate numbers as a way to quantify your accomplishments. This way, hiring managers can easily envision the tangible value you’ll bring to their company.
For instance, here’s an example work experience section that does a great job highlighting soft skills throughout:
Note that within five short bullet points, this candidate is able to highlight a variety of soft skills, including leadership, organizational skills, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving.
Frequently asked questions about soft skills
If you still have questions about soft skills, check out our answers to some common questions below.
What is another term for soft skills?
Other commonly used terms for soft skills include interpersonal skills, EQ (emotional intelligence quotient), and people skills.
These terms place a more heavy focus on skills that specifically involve interacting with others, while “soft skills” also include personality traits and qualities that are more concerned with how you conduct yourself (like work ethic or time management skills).
How can someone develop or strengthen their soft skills?
You can develop your soft skills by
- Identifying which skills you’d like to improve
- Setting specific goals for strengthening your skills
- Setting new goals once you’ve achieved your old ones
- Continuing to practice
For example, if you want to improve your presentation skills, you could set a goal to make one presentation a month until you feel comfortable presenting. If you’re overcoming a fear like stage fright, you can start with a small audience (or maybe family and friends) and try to work your way up to a larger audience, or a presentation in front of your bosses.
If you want to improve a goal like patience, first try to identify situations in which you’d like to practice greater patience and come up with one or two strategies for encouraging yourself to be patient. If you have a clear idea of the circumstances you want to be more patient in, you’ll be more likely to notice and remember when they arise, and you’ll be able to use your strategies.
What are soft skills in the workplace?
Soft skills in the workplace are the personality traits and interpersonal skills that you use in a professional setting, and that can impact your performance and interactions with colleagues.
Here are some important workplace soft skills:
- Mutual respect
- Problem solving
- Time management
- Interpersonal skills
Why do managers care about soft skills when hiring for a technical job?
Managers care about soft skills when hiring for a technical job because soft skills have a large impact on how employees conduct their work.
A candidate may be proficient in all the technical skills they need for a role, but if they aren’t able to collaborate on a team then they won’t perform well in a team-based role.
Employers know that well-rounded candidates with a good mix of hard and soft skills will make better employees overall than candidates with just hard skills.
What is a soft skill on a resume?
A soft skill on a resume is an ability or character trait that you list to show employers how well you work and interact with other people. Soft skills are learned naturally through the course of your life, and unlike technical skills, can’t be taught in a classroom.
Employers consider candidates with strong soft skills particularly valuable because they’re likely to be great team players and contribute to the company in the long-term.