Soft Skills: Why Incorporating Them Into Your Resume Can Give Your Job Hunt a Boost

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If you’ve read any articles lately about how to improve your resume, you’re likely familiar with the term “soft skills.” Many of us think we know what this phrase means when we come across it in a job posting, but there’s a lot of confusion out there. After all, there are many different soft skills, and some are more relevant to certain jobs than others. 

Figuring out exactly what soft skills are and how to incorporate them into your resume might be the key to landing your dream job. Soft skills alone probably won’t get you hired, but they can give you an edge over your competitors. If you’re not sure where to start, hire our professionals to write or improve your resume!

The basics: Defining soft skills

Part of the reason why there’s so much confusion around what constitutes a soft skill is the lack of a standard definition. People tend to describe innate qualities or personality traits as soft skills, but this doesn’t tell the entire story. It may be helpful to start by determining what a soft skill isn’t.

Skills falling outside the “soft” category are referred to as—you guessed it—hard skills. These are typically more intellect-oriented and involve the know-how required to do a job. They’re the sort of skills you can learn in a class and practice, with tangible results to show for your success. Knowing how to program in JavaScript, design a car engine, or fly an airplane are all examples of hard skills. 

You can think of soft skills as counterparts to the skills listed above. Having a pilot’s license means you can fly an airplane, but knowing how to do that is only half of what makes you a great pilot. A license won’t do you a lot of good if you can’t make it to work on time or are such a jerk that no flight crew wants you as a member. 

Emotional intelligence, a strong work ethic, and integrity are all examples of soft skills that complement hard skills, enabling a person to be a productive member of an organization. These skills are generally transferable between jobs or even industries, and hiring managers seek out candidates who exemplify these qualities. In general, soft skills are valuable to any employer although some of them may be more important in different careers or positions.

Here are a few examples of soft skills valued across professions:

  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Empathy
  • Time management and efficiency

Why do soft skills matter?

Chances are that most of the people applying for the same jobs as you have similar technical skills and knowledge. If you’re a graphic designer, for example, most of the candidates for a job in this industry will have extensive experience with Photoshop or Illustrator. Unless you’ve accomplished something spectacular, you’ll probably find it hard to distinguish yourself from the competition. Of course, you can (and should) highlight your accomplishments to show why you’re the best candidate, but demonstrating how your empathetic nature or leadership abilities (both soft skills) would make you an excellent colleague and employee can definitely give you a leg up as well.

Soft skills aren’t useful to think about only when you’re looking for a new job—they’re essential qualities that can also help you advance in your career. Time management, creativity, and problem-solving skills, for example, will enhance your productivity and impress your supervisors. So, don’t wait until you embark on a job search to build up your soft skills—developing them throughout your career will yield the best results for you.

How to identify your soft skills

Think about times when you’ve done a great job at work, and note what non-technical skills contributed to your success. It may also be helpful to think about conversations you’ve had as part of your performance reviews—the people giving you feedback undoubtedly discussed your soft skills although you may not have realized it at the time. 

If you’re drawing a blank, it could be helpful to reach out to co-workers or former supervisors. Asking what personality traits helped you excel in your position is a great way to gain insight into the soft skills you bring to the table. They are tougher to identify than hard skills since they’re more intangible, but feedback from current or former co-workers can give you an objective view of your soft skills inventory.

Developing soft skills

Most of us think about soft skills as an innate part of who we are as people. While it’s true that humans are born with different abilities, soft skills can most certainly be learned and developed. If a soft skill doesn’t come naturally to you, all it means is that you’ll have to put some extra effort into mastering it. 

To do this, you must first identify the soft skills you want. Think about the qualities you admire in your peers or in professionals who are a few steps ahead of you in their careers. If you have a good relationship with those people, consider asking them how they do it. People are usually happy to mentor eager acquaintances, but you should still make sure you’re offering something of value in exchange for the person’s time and effort. You can also find many online guides outlining how to develop desired character traits. If you have the time and resources, you might want to consider hiring a career coach to help you formulate a plan.

Once you’ve got an idea of what you need to do to build these skills, practice! Just as with anything else, consistency is the most important thing here. If you want to be more creative, for example, seek out opportunities to test and use your creativity. Schedule 30 minutes each day to generate ideas on improving products or workflows. Not only will you progress and gain confidence in your creative abilities, but your initiative will also impress your boss!

How you should develop your soft skills depends on what they are. Setting aside time for practice is key with all of them, but with creativity, for example, it’s also important to allow yourself downtime so that your brain can make its own connections. You may feel frustrated if you can’t generate any good ideas after a 30-minute brainstorming session, but you may suddenly be hit with the perfect solution while taking a relaxing walk. Research the soft skills you want to develop to learn how best to hone each one.

How to use your resume to highlight soft skills

The best way to showcase your soft skills on your resume is to include a soft skills section. Many people already have technical skills sections—this is the same idea.

Keep in mind that you need to tailor your skills list to the position you’re applying for. You might be extremely adept at dealing with the public, but if the position you’re after requires a lot of one-on-one time with a single co-worker, listing this skill won’t do much to improve your application. It’s not a detriment, either, but you want to list the most relevant skills you can.

Make sure to avoid hollow cliches in this section—phrases like “detail-oriented” or “client-focused” are so overused that they don’t actually mean anything. Try to be creative when framing your soft skills and make sure to include specific examples of how you’ve exhibited those characteristics when you list your achievements. You’ll also want to prepare more detailed accounts in case you’re offered an interview. Weaving examples of how you’ve demonstrated soft skills into previous job descriptions is another powerful way to improve your resume.

The fact that most people neglect to highlight their soft skills can make it easier for you to differentiate your resume. Moreover, these are all skills that will help you at every stage of your career. If you’re still feeling unsure about how to incorporate soft skills into your resume, contact our resume experts for a fast and professional rewrite!

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