The Most Important Soft Skills (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 18, 2020
Skills Based Articles

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There are lots of details within a person’s resume that elevates them from being an applicant to an employee. One of the most influential parts of both an entry-level and experienced job seeker’s resume is their skills section. When most applicants are considering what skills to include on their resume they think of hard skills. These are abilities that can be taught with measured success.

These sets of skills are things like:

  • Typing Speed

  • Certifications & Licenses

  • Data Analysis

  • Javascript

  • Email marketing

The position you’re applying for will probably have some relevant hard skill requirements. While having this technical knowledge is important to qualify for a job, hiring managers will also be assessing soft skills in your resume.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are about what makes you an ideal employee, other than your previous job experience and on-paper qualifications. These are personality traits, professional strengths, and interpersonal skills that you will bring to the workplace. Soft skills aren’t as job-specific as hard skills. They’re usually qualities and work habits that would be helpful in many different job scenarios.

A resume without a list of soft skills is lacking. When a company is making the final decision about what candidate they want on their team, the determining factor usually doesn’t come down to hard skills. It’s the soft skills that display a candidate who is not only experienced but also has the makings of a successful and hardworking employee.

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List of Soft Skills

Deciding which soft skills you want to include in your resume is personal to you. Choose qualities that apply most accurately to you as an employee and person. Check out the following list if you’re looking for some insight into which soft skills are the most in-demand for recruiters today. At least a few of them will reflect your personality features and work style.

  1. Critical Thinking. Critical thinking is one of the strongest skills you can bring to any workplace (and everyday life). It involves using logic and reason to decipher the root cause of an issue and creating a series of viable solutions. Critical thinking affects how effectively we deal with problems, both big and small. Having employees who use critical thinking skills can greatly impact the success of a business. Companies want employees who are going to carefully consider and successfully solve arising problems in the workplace.

  2. Leadership. Effective leadership is a valuable trait to employers regardless of the title you’re applying for. Having leadership skills means you know how to effectively delegate responsibilities to further the success of the company. It isn’t simply commanding others of what to do. It’s about being tactful, strategic, and personable in a way that gets the job done and keeps a team motivated.

    • Successful leadership often includes:

    • Excellent written and verbal communication

    • Listening skills

    • Strategic thinking

    • Being goal-oriented

    • Empathy

    • Honesty

    • Team management

  3. Positive Attitude. You want to work in a supportive and enthusiastic environment. Similarly, companies want their employees to bring a positive personality to the office and their clients. One negative-nelly can sour an entire team. It makes people excited to work with you knowing that they’re in for an uplifting and optimistic outlook. A positive attitude can impact productivity, teamwork, and overall work experience, making it a very desirable skills for hiring managers.

  4. Teamwork. Collaborating well with your supervisors and co-workers is necessary for a business to run smoothly. Good teamwork is the backbone of all successful projects. When hiring managers are looking to new staff, they want candidates who understand and can function cohesively on their team.

    A team player will often display:

    • Cooperation

    • Conflict resolution

    • Listening skills

    • Direct language

    • Negotiation skills

    • Open Mindedness

    • Patience

  5. Work Ethic. Work ethic is a broad soft skill that addresses many important qualities a good employee should have. If you’re the type of person who is very focused and motivated when it comes to your work, you probably have an excellent work ethic. It refers to working hard, doing your job well, and completing tasks in a timely manner. This is more than just fulfilling the bare minimum of your job requirements. It’s dedication and follow-through in your position.

    Work Ethic Skills Include:

    • Professionalism

    • Proper work attire

    • Discipline

    • Attention to detail

    • Motivation

    • Trustworthiness

    • Dependability

    • Adaptability

  6. Communication. Communication is the heart of many prosperous endeavors. Communication is how team leaders set expectations and associates articulate their ideas. It is a useful soft skill to have as both an entry-level associate and in managerial positions. Whether it be making connections within the workplace, or with consumers. Strong communication is the key to successful professional interactions.

    Communication skills go hand-in-hand with many other soft skills such as:

    • Effective Leadership

    • Conflict Resolution

    • Teamwork

    • Problem-solving

    While communication in the workplace can be verbal, this skill doesn’t just refer to in-person conversations.

    Communication skills could be:

    • Written

    • Body Language

    • Listening Skills

    • Visual

    • Dependability

    A reliable employee is supervisor’s favorite kind. It’s probably one of the most desired qualities by most human beings. Without it, employers can’t trust you. Being dependable is all about follow-through. You show up on time, complete your responsibilities before a deadline, and do the job you’re hired for. Supervisors know they can count on you to accomplish what you say you will.

  7. Adaptability. At its core, adaptability is a willingness to learn more and adjust when needed. An adaptable employee welcomes innovation and change in the workplace. New things can be frightening, but employers want to know you won’t crumble under the pressure of inevitable tweaks in the work system.

    Adaptability often involves:

    • A positive attitude

    • Critical thinking

    • Easygoing nature

    • Creativity

    • Initiative

    • Communication

    • Teamwork

  8. Conflict Resolution. No matter how much you love your job and coworkers, you’re bound to encounter a conflict or two in your time working. Conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be a disruptive argument, though.

    Resolving conflict can even be productive if ideas are exchanged in open, respectful communication. Hiring managers want to know that you’re equipped to professionally deal with conflict in the workplace, and turn it into an experience that can end in some positive growth.

    Examples of Conflict Resolution Skills Include:

    • Stress management

    • Excellent communication

    • Active listening

    • Self awareness

  9. Flexibility. Being flexible in the workplace can be a crucial skill for employers. As we’ve all realized in 2020, unexpected things happen. The ability to adapt to change without losing your marbles and while maintaining confidence can make you a valuable asset. Flexibility can also mean openness towards new tasks or projects.

  10. Problem-solving. Problems are a big part of life, and eventually, you’ll have to face them at your job. Whether it’s a minor hassle or an earth-shattering catastrophe, companies want to hire employees who will handle difficult situations with patience and a plan. Hiring managers don’t want employees who will fall apart under stress or ignore the problems, but instead, fix them. Problem-solving boils down to handling the unexpected with professionalism and figuring out the best solution.

    Being a Problem-Solver might involve:

    • Decision-making

    • Analysis skills

    • Creative thinking

    • Organization

    • Collaboration

    • Time-management

    • Persistence

  11. Research Skills. A lot of positions today require some knowledge of internet research. Not to fear, though, you probably have better research skills than you may think. You scanned the internet for available positions in your field. Before applying to a job, you researched the requirements and company. Even reading this article, you’re researching more information about soft skills. Employers like to know that you feel confident with research being part of your job description.

  12. Creativity. Improvement and innovation are bred by creative thinkers. Considering that’s the trajectory most companies hope to take, it makes sense that creativity is a marketable skill for job-seekers. While you may not feel inherently creative, it’s a quality that can be found in all of us. We all see the world through our own lenses. In a job scenario, creativity means using your unique lens to bring out your best work.

    Out-of-the-box thinking helps employers with:

    • Generating new ideas

    • Brainstorming unique solutions to problems

    • Willingness to experiment

    • Improving workplace processes

  13. Integrity. Integrity is another one of those soft skills that’s useful for life outside work. At first glance, an employee with integrity means they are honest. However, integrity is more than that. Having integrity in the workplace refers to adhering to employee ethics, implementing good judgment, and always being dependable. These are qualities that companies need to run functionally, and having it as a soft skill will be looked on favorably by hiring managers.

    Examples of Workplace Integrity Include:

    • Treating coworkers, supervisors, and subordinates with respect

    • Creating your best work possible

    • Honest communication

    • Performing all job responsibilities

    • Adhering to set deadlines

Is it Possible to Learn Soft Skills?

Some of the key soft skills listed here probably resonated with you. They sound like characteristics that are naturally part of your personality. Those are the qualities you should list on your resume for now. Other skills you may not have mastered yet. That’s okay. Lots of resources about soft skills will mention that they’re qualities that come naturally and you don’t have to learn. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to learn them.

With a little effort and patience, you can get better at any of the skills on this list. There are even classes available online to improve your specific soft skills.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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