Soft Skills List and Examples

Soft Skills for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews

Three young professionals
••• Adam Lubroth / Getty Images

Soft skills are the personal attributes you need to succeed in the workplace. These are often related to how you work with others – in other words, these are people skills. Soft skills are different from hard skills, which are directly relevant to the job you are applying for. These are often more quantifiable, and easier to learn. 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 you're applying for, you need at least some soft skills. Employers want employees who are able to effectively interact with others. These skills are also very hard to teach, so employers want to know that job candidates already have these skills.

Below is a list of six important soft skills that most employers look for in employees. It includes lists of related soft skills that employers also tend to seek in job applicants. Develop these skills and emphasize them in job applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews. The closer a match your credentials are to what the employer is looking for, the better your chances of getting hired.

How to Use Skills Lists

You can use the skill words listed below as you search for jobs. For example, include the terms in your resume, especially in the description of your work history. You can also incorporate them into your cover letter. Mention one or two of the skills mentioned here, and give specific examples of instances when you demonstrated these traits at work.

You can also use these words in your interview. Keep the top skills listed here in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you've exemplified 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. Also review our lists of skills listed by job and type of skill.

Top Soft Skills

Communication Skills
Communication skills are important in almost every job. You will likely need to communicate with people, whether they are clients, customers, colleagues, employers, or vendors. You will need to be able to clearly and politely speak with people in person, over the 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 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 a situation and make an informed decision. 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 come up with solutions. Skills related to critical thinking include creativity, flexibility, and curiosity.

  • Adaptable
  • Artistic sense
  • Creativity
  • Critical observer
  • Critical thinking
  • Design sense
  • Desire to learn
  • Flexible
  • Innovator
  • Logical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Resourceful
  • Think outside the box
  • Tolerant of change and uncertainty
  • Troubleshooting
  • Value education
  • Willing to learn

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 manage situations and people. If it is a job that has the potential for advancement, the employer will want to know that you have what it takes to become a leader in the future.

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

Positive Attitude
Employers are always looking for someone 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.

  • Confident
  • Cooperative
  • Courteous
  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Friendly
  • High energy
  • Honest
  • Patient
  • Respectable
  • Respectful
  • Sense of humor
  • Work-life balance

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 department 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 and difference in a team. Another related skill is the ability to accept and apply feedback from others.

Work Ethic
Employers want job candidates with a strong work ethic. People with a strong work ethic complete tasks on time, 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 your strong work ethic in your job application.

  • Attentive
  • Business ethics
  • Competitive
  • Dedicated
  • Dependable
  • Follow direction
  • Highly organized
  • Independent
  • Make deadlines
  • Motivated
  • Multitasking
  • Organization
  • Perseverant
  • Persistent
  • Planning
  • Proper business etiquette
  • Punctual
  • Reliable
  • Resilient
  • Results oriented
  • Scheduling
  • Self-directed
  • Self-monitoring
  • Self-supervising
  • Stay on task
  • Strategic planning
  • Time management
  • Trainable
  • Work well under pressure