The Post College Professional

What Are Soft Skills and Why Do They Matter?

Posted by Michelle McGuire on Oct 11, 2019

Tags: Early career advice

If an employer asked you to describe your skills, what would you say? Your brain likely jumps to all the hard skills you’ve picked up along the way. Maybe you are a coding wizard or just added another degree under your belt. But what about your soft skills? That’s what employers really care about. In fact, 57% of business leaders think soft skills are the most important skills. Here’s how to identify and show off your own soft skills so the next time an employer asks, you know how to answer:

What are soft skills?

Let’s start with the basics. Soft skills are subjective and are all about how you interact and function in the workplace. They’re what makes you prefer working with that one coworker who is a great team player over the technical expert who bulldozes you in meetings. Hard skills (like what the technical expert has) are important but can be learned over time. Soft skills like teamwork, collaboration, leadership, and communication are more innate to our personality and harder to change. But they’re what make you a good employee and dictate so much of your success in the workplace.

Soft skills

How do I identify my soft skills?

Identifying your own soft skills can be tricky. After all they’re skills you’ve been unknowingly building your whole life and some probably just seem like part of who you are. To start to identify your own, start thinking of group projects that went well for you in school or in the workplace. Then start dissecting why they went well and your impact on the outcome. Were you diligently project managing the team to success? Were you collaborating effectively and seamlessly? Sometimes it can be hard to analyze yourself, so another way to identify your soft skills is looking externally. Think about the feedback you’ve received over the years about your soft skills and ask your mentors and supervisors in your life what they’ve noticed. To get your brain going, here are some common soft skills employers are looking for: adaptability, leadership, drive, communication, collaboration, problem-solving, time management, strong work ethic, and curiosity.

How do I highlight my soft skill set?

This is the tricky part. Employers want to know you have soft skills, but the answer isn’t as easy as listing “leader” and “good communicator” under the skills section of your resume. You have to show employers you have soft skills, not tell them. This means communicating your soft skills through your cover letter, resume, and interview answers. For each soft skill you’ve identified, think of a clear example you can describe in a way that’s short and sweet for your resume and you can expand on in your cover letter or interview. An example that highlights the soft skill of organization or project management, the description becomes, “Coordinated campus-wide event, setting up event schedule, negotiating vendor contracts, and launching marketing campaign” on your resume. You can then expand on it to show just how amazing you are at these skills in your cover letter and interview.

And if that’s not enough motivation to get you excited about building your soft skill set, just know it’ll help set you apart. Not only do employers value it, they’re having difficulty finding candidates (especially recent graduates) with soft skills. So knowing you’re a good listener, leader, or organizer may be what helps you nail the interview and land the job!


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