You’ve got skills. We all do. And these are what make us appealing to employers. Some skills are considered “hard” skills and others are “soft,” and to land a great job and be a professional success, you need both.
The difference between “hard” and “soft” skills? Hard skills are learned, quantifiable skills that we acquire in school and/or through practice that are easy to demonstrate and often come with “proof,” like an certificate or diploma. Hard skills include coding, accounting, statistical analysis, and open heart surgery.
Soft skills are harder to quantify and are related to personality traits and behaviour. Soft skills include teamwork, communication, and problem solving.
Hard skills are more specific to certain positions, while soft skills can apply to specific jobs but have broader appeal – to wit: “accounting skills” apply to fewer jobs than “communication skills.”
So, which soft skills are employers looking for, and how easy are these to find? In 2016 LinkedIn surveyed 291 hiring managers about soft skills, and found that more than half of them say it’s difficult to find candidates with the soft skills they need.
The 10 most sought after soft skills were as follows:
- Always punctual
- Critical thinking
- Social skills
- Interpersonal communication
- Friendly personality
Note that some of these are similar – “social skills” and “friendly personality,” for example. Also, these should be somewhat obvious. Nobody has “total jerk,” “stubborn,” “always late,” and “terrible communicator” on their Qualities to Look for in a New Hire list.
And yet, they still say they have trouble finding these positive qualities in new hires.
How to demonstrate your soft skills
What it comes down to is demonstrating that you possess these soft skills, and showing rather than telling. Writing in your resume that you have great communication, social, or problem solving skills isn’t going to accomplish this nearly as effectively as writing an incredible resume and cover letter that effectively communicates these skills.
Do this by writing clearly and concisely, by not wasting words, and by using examples of your accomplishments, and how you have used your teamwork and problem solving skills in the past.
So, when it comes to describing your work in a previous role, instead of just listing your responsibilities (this impresses absolutely no one, unless your responsibilities were, say, hostage negotiations or something), outline how you increased profitability or provided value by solving a problem or working with a team.
“Duties and responsibilities included managing budgets and a team of 12 people and selling lawnmowers.”
“Mentored and provided training and support to a marketing team of six. Increased team cohesion resulting in a sales spike of 250% making 2016 the company’s most profitable sales year in the last decade. More effective teamwork reduced overtime spending allowing my department to come in at 15% under budget for the year.”
Another way to demonstrate skills such as sociability and likeability is to build a solid network both online and off of people who like you and will support and endorse you. And if you want to demonstrate your amazing punctuality, show up on time.
Also, in the interview, be friendly to everyone you meet, be sociable, and be communicative.
Which industries require the most soft skills?
LinkedIn also analyzed the prevalence of soft skills across industries, and suggests that this is a good indicator of the industries where demand for soft skills is highest and most valued.
So, if you are applying for a job in any of these industries, make sure you make that extra effort to highlight your soft skills.
Top 10 industries where soft skills are most common
- Professional services
- Professional training & coaching
- Facilities services
- Human resources
- Individual and family services
- Health, wellness & fitness
- Food & beverages
Again, it’s always a better idea to demonstrate likeability than a complete lack of it. So, be nice to everyone. That’s the best way to go through life anyway.