Soft skills are valuable to recruiters. In this article, we will cover what soft skills are and which ones you should add to your CV.
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Soft skills are often missing from applications when seeking a job because you can’t always get a certificate to prove your soft skills. They can be taken for granted and people often focus solely on the technical skills they have to offer.
Hard skills refer to what we traditionally think of as skills on a CV; for example, the use of software and report writing. Soft skills are the personal qualities, communication style and attitudes that you bring to work. Often, these skills are implicit in the type of work you may do.
If you have a social work job, for example, it may be taken for granted that you can talk sensitively with the people you work with. Or perhaps you’re a manager and have to communicate effectively when practicing people management. Maybe you regularly make presentations or conduct enrollment sessions. These activities are evidence of your soft skills.
However, in some roles, it’s less obvious where your soft skills may be the strongest. Therefore, it’s important that you make clear to employers, on your CV, in your cover letter and at the interview stage, what soft skills you have and how you conduct yourself at work. Hiring managers may want to know about your personality traits to see if you would fit well in their team or role.
Here are some of the most important soft skills to include that show employers you have the emotional intelligence to thrive in the workplace.
Employers often want to see that you are passionate or driven to work in the field you’re applying for. If they’re sifting through dozens of applications, they’ll want to see that you’re hardworking. You can demonstrate this by presenting them with a polished CV and cover letter filled with examples of how you work hard, be that taking the lead at work, or providing strong team support.
Having a good communication style is key to working in any organisation. You most likely always have to work with people in your job, even if it’s just your immediate colleagues. So communication and interpersonal skills are vital to good teamwork, including the active listening aspect.
Communication is more than verbal communication. It’s a two-way street. So consider listing listening skills. Great team players and team members know when to listen as well as when to speak up.
You may therefore want to list your strongest communication methods and talk about times when you have influenced or taught people through communication. Communication can also include conflict management, though you should reference this concerning working with customers or clients.
If you’re applying for jobs in project or people management, you’ll want to include how you’ve demonstrated these behaviours in the past in your work experience. Talking confidently and clearly about experiences you’ve had leading others will show that you have strong management skills, whether that be with decision-making, time management or mentoring.
Creative thinking is about finding new ways of working and improving efficiency and quality of work. If you’re a creative thinker, describe projects you have worked on where you have thought outside the box and implemented these changes for your employer. An organisation looking for creative thinkers will be seeking out someone with a new perspective who can talk about and implement changes in their business.
Creative thinking is different from critical thinking skills, but you can include both. Critical thinking is your ability to logically consider complex problems with a systematic approach.
As stated previously, soft skills are all about people. If making connections with people is something you excel at, make that clear in your applications. This might mean you’re a good talker with an effortless communication style, or you’re assertive in your dealings with tougher customers.
If you adapt your communication style to the situation, give examples of when you have had to do this in the past. It’s best to be truthful here about how you communicate, as different styles may suit different roles or companies.
Being truthful is the key to making your soft skills stand out. Pick two or three of your best transferable skills and speak to times that you have used these in a work situation. There’s no point emphasising skills that aren’t what you excel in, as you will be expected to expand on them in an interview.
Interviews can be heavily based on soft skills, and often common interview questions will focus on them. Examples that are rooted in your personality and attitudes will go over with the employer much better than stock answers. Focus on what you’re good at and this will help you get into a role that’s right for you.
List your soft skills in bullet point form in the skills section of your CV. You can expand on each of these with short examples of when you’ve demonstrated this soft skill at work. For cover letters, you can expand on these further with more details about previous achievements. Which makes it clear that your soft skills are truly top tier.
Check the job description and job advert to look for clues as to what the recruiter is looking for. If you’re applying for a role where public speaking is desired, consider writing that in your skills section. HR jobs will often need candidates to showcase their people skills. So, use the job posting to guide your skills section, but don’t falsify your skills. Don’t forget you will have to back them up in a job interview.
You can use your cover letter as an opportunity to expand on some of the soft skills you mention in your CV. You can quickly give some examples of how a positive attitude or problem-solving skills contributed to a major achievement, for example. Emphasise your soft skills if they can prove that you’re suitable for the role.
Your CV should be a constantly evolving document. As such, your skills section and the soft skills you list there can change as you gain new skills or apply for new jobs in different roles. Customizing your CV for each job application is one of the keys for career success.
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