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Woman in dark pinstripe suit is reviewing a list of soft skills while holding a pen.

Many attributes and soft skills are attractive to Human Resources (HR) managers. To help HR find you, it’s common knowledge to list your skills on your resume and in your cover letter.
In this article, we’re going to cover:

  • What kinds of skills are best for me to list? 
  • Do I really need to address two skill groups?
  • What is the difference between hard and soft skills? 
  • Also, why are soft skills critical to employers? 

Hard vs. soft skills

Before we launch into why employers value soft skills, let’s define the two skill categories.

Soft skills are interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. They communicate how you work with and relate to others—in other words, people skills. They also apply to any professional situation. 

Hard skills directly relate to the job to which you are applying. Generally, they are easier to learn and to quantify. For instance, you can attend a training program and be certified in a hard skill such as teaching, carpentry, or project management as they directly correspond to a profession. Also, hard skills are when employers list software programs they need you to have experience in, like Microsoft 365 or Salesforce.

Why do Soft Skills Matter?

Regardless of the job you’re applying for, you need some soft skills. It’s not just about the knowledge you possess but the behaviors you display in different situations. Additionally, to succeed at work, you must get along well with all the people you interact with and communicate with. Every employer values soft skills.

Which Soft Skills are Most Important?

Depending on which type of job you’re applying for, some skills carry more weight than others. Here are five that apply to most professional situations. 

  • Communication: Effective communication skills aren’t just helpful through the interview process – communication is crucial to your overall career. The ability to communicate involves knowing how you should speak to others in varied settings. Next, you need to be able to speak clearly and politely with people in person, by phone, and in writing. Finally, good listening skills are essential. Employers want employees who can not only communicate their own ideas but who also listen empathetically to others.
  • Creativity/Critical Thinking/Problem Solving: No matter what the job, employers want candidates who can analyze situations and make informed decisions. Whether you are working with data, teaching students, or fixing a home heating system, you need to be able to understand problems, think critically, and devise solutions.
  • Decision Making/Leadership: While not every job opening is a leadership role, employers want to know you can make decisions and can manage situations and people. The ability to step up to the plate in a problematic situation and help resolve it is something employers look for in prospective employees 
  • Positive Attitude/Work Ethic: Employers always seek people who will bring a positive attitude to the office and follow through on tasks and duties in a timely, quality manner. They want employees who will be friendly to others, eager to work, and generally a pleasure to be around. Also, being able to keep things positive is essential if you’re working in a fast-paced, high-stress work environment. Similarly, a strong work ethic ensures you develop a positive relationship with your employer and colleagues, even when you’re still new to the job. Employers would rather work with someone who has a strong work ethic and eager to learn than an unmotivated skilled worker.
  • Teamwork: Hiring managers look for job candidates who can work well with others, even if you do not always agree entirely. Finding a way to tactfully and skillfully disagree with others on the job without creating conflict is an essential skill that employers value. Some skills related to teamwork include the ability to negotiate with others and to recognize and appreciate diversity in a team. Another related capability is the ability to accept and apply feedback from others.

How do I Improve My Soft Skills?

Most employers value soft skills over technical skills because they are personality traits developed over a lifetime and can be challenging to teach. That being said, anyone can improve with experience, self-awareness, and practice.

There are three steps to improving your skills. 

  1. Pick a skill you want to improve, research it, and consistently practice.
  2. Observe and mimic the positive soft skills you see in others.
  3. Set goals and ask for feedback from colleagues and supervisors.

In conclusion, soft skills complement hard skills not only in professional environments but in daily life. A study conducted by Harvard University noted that 80% of achievements in career are determined by soft skills and only 20% by hard skills.

Which skills have worked best for you, and how have you developed them?

Please let us know by emailing us at admin@beginwithin.life or by posting in the comments on social media! We’d love to gain insight from our valued followers.


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