Top Soft Skills Employers Value With Examples

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Image by Ran Zheng © The Balance 2019 

Candidates with strong soft skills are in high demand for many different types of jobs. Soft skills are the interpersonal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. These are related to how you work with and relate to others—in other words, people skills.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are different from hard skills, which are directly relevant to the job to which you are applying. These are often more quantifiable, and easier to learn than soft skills. A hard skill for a carpenter, for example, might be the ability to operate a power saw or use framing squares.

Regardless of the job to which you're applying, you need at least some soft skills. In order to succeed at work, you must get along well with all the people with whom you interact, including managers, co-workers, clients, vendors, customers, and anyone else you communicate with while on the job. These are the types of skills all employers value.

Employers want employees who are able to interact effectively with others. These skills are also very hard to teach, so employers want to know that job candidates already have the soft skills to be successful.

List of Soft Skills

Below is a list of the most important soft skills that most employers look for. It also includes sublists of related soft skills that employers tend to seek in job applicants. Develop these skills and emphasize them in job applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews. Showing the interviewer that you have the skills the company is seeking will help you get hired.

Communication

How well do you communicate? Communication skills are important in almost every job. You will likely need to communicate with people on the job, whether they are clients, customers, colleagues, employers, or vendors. You will also need to be able to speak clearly and politely with people in person, by phone, and in writing.

You will also likely need to be a good listener. Employers want employees who can not only communicate their own ideas, but who also listen empathetically to others. Listening is a particularly important skill in customer service jobs.

Critical Thinking

No matter what the job, employers want candidates who can analyze situations and make informed decisions. Whether you are working with data, teaching students, or fixing a home heating system, you need to be able to understand problems, think critically, and devise solutions. Skills related to critical thinking include creativity, flexibility, and curiosity.

  • Adaptability
  • Artistic aptitude
  • Creativity
  • Critical observation
  • Critical thinking
  • Design aptitude
  • Desire to learn
  • Flexibility
  • Innovation
  • Logical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Resourcefulness
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Tolerance of change and uncertainty
  • Troubleshooting
  • Value education
  • Willingness to learn

Leadership

While not every job opening is a leadership role, most employers will want to know that you have the ability to make decisions when push comes to shove, and can manage situations and people. The ability to step up to the plate in a difficult situation and to help to resolve it is something employers look for in prospective employees

If you are interviewing for a job that has the potential for advancement, the employer will want to know that you have what it takes to become a leader.

Other skills related to leadership include the abilities to resolve problems and conflicts between people, and to make executive decisions.

Positive Attitude

Employers are always seeking people who will bring a positive attitude to the office. They want employees who will be friendly to others, eager to work, and generally a pleasure to be around. Being able to keep things positive is especially important if you’re working in a fast-paced, high-stress work environment.

  • Confidence
  • Cooperation
  • Courtesy
  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Friendliness
  • Honesty
  • Humorous
  • Patience
  • Respectability
  • Respectfulness

Teamwork

Hiring managers look for job candidates who can work well with others. Whether you will be doing a lot of team projects or simply attending a few departmental meetings, you need to be able to work effectively with the people around you. You need to be able to work with others even if you do not always see eye to eye.

Some skills related to teamwork include the ability to negotiate with others, and to recognize and appreciate diversity in a team. Another related skill is the ability to accept and apply feedback from others.

Work Ethic

Employers look for job candidates with a strong work ethic. Such people come to work on time, complete tasks in a timely manner, stay focused, and stay organized. They are able to budget their time and complete their work thoroughly. While they can work independently, people with a strong work ethic can also follow instructions.

A strong work ethic is difficult to teach, so employers will be impressed if you can demonstrate it in your job application.

  • Attentiveness
  • Business ethics
  • Competitiveness
  • Dedication
  • Dependability
  • Following direction
  • Independence
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Motivation
  • Multitasking
  • Organization
  • Perseverance
  • Persistence
  • Planning
  • Proper business etiquette
  • Punctuality
  • Reliability
  • Resilience
  • Results-orientation
  • Scheduling
  • Self-direction
  • Self-monitoring
  • Self-supervising
  • Staying on task
  • Strategic planning
  • Time management
  • Trainability
  • Working well under pressure

More Soft Skills

Here are additional soft skills for resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Required skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill.

  • Assertiveness
  • Business ethics
  • Business storytelling
  • Business trend awareness
  • Customer Service
  • Effective communicator
  • Emotion management
  • Ergonomic sensitivity
  • Follow instructions
  • Follow regulations
  • Follow rules
  • Functions well under pressure
  • Good attitude
  • Highly recommended
  • Independent
  • Interviewing
  • Knowledge management
  • Meets deadlines
  • Motivating
  • Perform effectively in a deadline environment
  • Performance management
  • Positive work ethic
  • Problem solving
  • Process improvement
  • Quick-witted
  • Results oriented
  • Safety conscious
  • Scheduling
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-supervising
  • Stress management
  • Team player
  • Technology savvy
  • Technology trend awareness
  • Tolerant
  • Trainable
  • Training
  • Troubleshooting
  • Willing to accept feedback
  • Willingness to learn
  • Work-life balance
  • Works well under pressure

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: Include the terms most closely related to the job in your resume, especially in the description of your work history.

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: You can incorporate soft skills into your cover letter. Include one or two of the skills mentioned here, and give specific examples of instances when you demonstrated these traits at work.

Use Skill Words During Job Interviews: You can also use these words in your job interviews. Keep the top skills listed here in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you've used each. Each job will require different skills and experiences, so make sure you read the job description carefully and focus on the skills listed by the employer.