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Soft skills employers value (+ examples)

Book open Reading time: 11 mins

Soft skills are personality traits and non-technical capabilities required for success in all companies and roles. Like hard skills, soft skills can be taught, although often take more time to master. As such, employers value soft skills and it's important to include them in your applications. Everyone has soft skills that come more naturally to them and it's likely a career that suits you best will involve lots of the soft skills you already have. Furthermore, as they can be applied to all professions they will be useful for your whole career. Soft skills examples include communication, teamwork, organisation and attention to detail. These soft skills can be developed through school and university as well as extracurricular activities and previous job experiences. 

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What are soft skills?

Soft skills are transferable and learnable personality traits that increase effectiveness and ability to get a job done in a working environment. They may also be called core skills or common skills.

You can develop them through extracurricular activities as well as in education and work, for example, skills developed through sports. These are great to talk about in interviews if you have limited real working experience. Plus, using sport as an example helps you portray yourself as a well-rounded individual.

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Top 20 soft skills employers value 

We’ve compiled a list of the key soft skills that employers are looking for. This will help you when applying for roles to be sure you're demonstrating these skills. All of the skills listed below are valuable in any job. We also include some specific examples. 

Communication

Communication is arguably the most sought-after soft skill for employers. It’s the ability to share and take on board ideas and information. It’s a crucial skill when working in teams and with others. Communication skills include verbal, non-verbal, visual and written communication, as well as listening skills. All jobs require communication skills, but they are particularly important for client and customer-facing roles. Negotiation and persuasion skills are crucial in commercial roles as well as if you’re working to become a lawyer. See more about what are communication skills. 

Teamwork

Teamwork is the skill that enables you to work alongside and in collaboration with others. Contributing ideas as well as being able to compromise and take on others' ideas is valuable in many team settings. Listening to others’ views and opinions and taking them on board as well as having empathy is important in these situations. If you love working in teams, you may consider a role in HR, consulting or PR.

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills involve producing solutions to issues you’re facing as well as planning out the process for reaching goals. 

Jobs in IT and computing constantly require methodological problem-solving. Many other jobs in STEM also require problem-solving skills, so be sure to look into these sectors if you enjoy problem-solving. 

Leadership

Being able to lead a group of people is relevant to entry-level roles as well as management roles as you never know when you’ll need to take ownership of a task or project. Roles in business and supply chains and finance often require strong leadership skills. 

Time management

Time management is the ability to organise and control your work to fit into your time constraints. Time management incorporates aspects of organisation, efficiency and discipline. All jobs with a high workload require time management skills. Jobs involving managing a team require particularly good time management skills to balance your own workload with overseeing others.

Organisation

This is the ability to plan and order your tasks in a way that lets you work on and track your various tasks and priorities. Organisational skills are crucial in many aspects of work as well as personal life. Maintaining good organisation involves lots of communication and good time management. Working in logistics and events requires strong organisation as the correct thing happening at the right time is essential.

Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is the process by which any sort of disagreement is understood and sorted. This generally occurs when there is a disagreement between at least two parties, which may be internal or external to your company. This often involves compromise and communication and it’s a crucial skill when working within and between teams. Conflict resolution would be a useful skill if your role involves any kind of teamwork or collaboration as within teams there may always be a difference of opinions.

Adaptability

This soft skill involves adjusting to situations changing easily and efficiently. This can include flexibility and being able to learn new processes and skills quickly. Adaptability is a crucial skill when working for a smaller company as you may have to be doing lots of different tasks as the team of people is smaller. Fast growth environments also require adaptability so you can work with and manage shifting pressures as a company grows. 

Confidence

Confidence is needed in all aspects of life but can help with decision-making, public speaking and teamwork when in a working environment. It’s crucial to be confident when building credibility for yourself. Confidence is often displayed by clear, calm and charismatic speaking. You can work on your self-confidence by encouraging positive self-thoughts and by practising public speaking. 

Ability to work independently

Although teamwork is important, the value of being proactive and getting work done yourself mustn’t be forgotten. Self-motivation and drive can help improve your ability to work independently. Even when working independently, communication is important when reporting back on your work to your manager. For people who work well independently, you may consider a career in consulting.

Attention to detail

This involves completing tasks while focusing on every aspect of the project and ensuring every singular part is to the highest standard. It’s important to maintain this thoroughness while also ensuring efficiency in making sure your work is completed to deadlines. If you have great attention to detail, maybe consider a career in finance or data analytics.

Positivity 

Displaying a positive attitude to your work helps you with your job role and career progression. Enthusiasm and an eagerness to get involved no matter the task is sought after by employers. You must find a balance between having a positive attitude and a belief that success is possible while also being realistic with deadlines and workloads and not taking on more work than you are able to deliver. 

Taking responsibility

In a working environment, those who fail to take responsibility for their own work and tasks are unsuccessful in any role. Taking responsibility involves having ownership over projects that are your own as well as your company’s wider goals and objectives. You must take initiative to complete tasks as well as accept responsibility and form solutions if things go wrong. To improve your responsibility skills, you could volunteer and take ownership of a new initiative that you’d be interested in doing to help your company.

Creativity 

Creativity is a soft skill required not just in creative roles and industries but in all aspects of work as it’s needed to generate new ideas. It’s the process of performing tasks with innovative thought to approach the task in the best way possible. This may involve asking lots of questions and making suggestions and improvements at all times. Creativity is required in marketing, PR and the media industry as well as in other sectors such as HR where creativity is required to come up with new ideas to produce the most effective workforce.

Motivation

Motivation is a soft skill essential for any workplace. It’s having the attitude and commitment to work well at all times without constant monitoring. Motivation can be demonstrated through positivity, commitment and taking initiative. This skill is required in every sector and job type. It’s particularly important to display motivation when you are in a temporary role that you would like to be permanent, for example, an internship, or if you are hoping for a promotion, as it demonstrates a drive and desire to get your tasks done and do well in your job.

Multitasking

Balancing multiple tasks and projects over a singular period of time is a skill needed when managing a heavy workload. It’s the ability to keep tracking and progressing on tasks while focusing on another task. Strong multitasking skills are important for productivity and prioritisation. There is a balance that must be maintained of keeping up with your varying tasks while also ensuring you aren’t spreading yourself too thin and that all your work is being done to a high standard.

Willingness to learn

Being eager to learn and progress is a great way to demonstrate your motivation to be working in a role or at a company. This is an attractive skill in all employment. It shows that you can pick things up quickly and have the commitment to progress and try new things efficiently. You could demonstrate that you possess this skill by talking about hard skills you have learnt so far and why you learnt them. 

Curiosity 

This is the desire to seek out new information and ask questions so you are equipped with the knowledge and tools to perform as well as you possibly can. Curiosity is particularly important when you are working in a new role or new industry as there will be a lot of new concepts and processes that you’ll need to take on board. It also encourages more engagement and collaboration between you and other team members if you are inquisitive 

Critical thinking

This is the analysis of a situation and coming to an informed decision or solution. Critical thinking is required in the workplace to ensure that all bases are covered and issues can be resolved. It requires observation, problem solving and inference. Jobs such as accountancy require strong critical thinking skills.

Patience

Patience is the ability to accept delays to projects or tasks without getting overly anxious or annoyed about it. It’s an important soft skill although it must also be balanced with proactivity to ensure that tasks and projects are being completed in a timely manner despite potential delays. Patience is a skill utilised often if you are in a job that involves a lot of interaction with people. For example, working with customers or clients as you may be working to others' schedules and timelines.

Not sure how your skills fit into the world of work? Find out with Career Path Test

Career Path Test matches you with sectors and roles that line up with your interests and values. You can also see how the skills you feel strongest in feature in different roles, helping you pursue a career path you'll thrive in.

Soft skills training

Completing some training can help to develop your soft skills which can be beneficial before applying for jobs and work experience. It may involve communication, organisation and leadership training as well as many other skills. This type of training is, in some cases, provided by schools. This has become increasingly important as companies are focusing more on transferable soft skills as opposed to technical skills, which can be more quickly learnt. It can help your ability to form interpersonal professional relationships which are valuable in working environments. 

How to include soft skills in a CV

When writing a CV, you can demonstrate your soft skills when talking about previous employment experiences or achievements. For example, if you discuss leading a sports team to win a final, you can mention communication, confidence and adaptability as part of this experience. This is a good way to display your soft skills without having to list them all out.

When applying for jobs, it’s important to look at the soft skills listed in the job description and ensure you have shown when you have demonstrated or acquired this skill before. It may be useful to create a list of scenarios and experiences with the soft skills required to have on hand so you can adapt your CV depending on the job role and requirements. 

Ready to use your soft skills to improve your CV? See how to write a CV.

How to include soft skills in a cover letter 

A cover letter is a great way to show you possess the exact skills the job role requires. Use the cover letter to explain why you would be an asset to the company and role. Be sure to connect examples of when you’ve demonstrated your soft skills to the actual role you are applying for and use figures and statistics to display how well something worked. 

Ready to incorporate your soft skills into your next cover letter? Read our article on structuring a cover letter.

Soft skills interview questions

You may be asked questions about your soft skills in an interview. You should answer these with the STAR technique. This is describing the Situation and the Task that you were faced with and then the Action you took and the Result from this action. For example, the question ‘describe a situation where you were under pressure and how did you deal with it?’ To answer this, you would describe the situation which caused you the pressure and the task you had to undertake. You should then go through the actions you took to relieve the pressure or solve the issue and the result of these actions.

Questions about soft skills you may be asked could be:

  • How do you prioritise tasks when you have deadlines to meet?
  • What is the most significant problem you’ve solved in the workplace?
  • Can you discuss a time when you had to manage a team through a difficult situation?
  • How do you explain new topics to colleagues unfamiliar with them?
  • Describe a situation where results were below expectations. How did you adapt to this change?
  • How would you act if someone was to disagree with you in the working environment?
  • Discuss a situation where you had to make a decision without supervision from your manager. How did you approach the situation, and who did you speak with?
  • Describe a time when you did a task for the first time. What did you do? How did it go?
  • Explain your biggest achievement and how you got there.
  • Discuss a time when you took initiative to solve a problem.

To sum up

Soft skills are essential to any job. These skills can equip you with the tools to succeed in work and are often of higher value than technical skills, particularly in early career employment. They are a great thing to talk about if you have limited work experience as you can learn and develop these skills in many different environments. 

Want to check what soft skills you may have demonstrated already? See the key career skills.

Showcase your skills in a job you'll love

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