Important Personal Skills That Employers Value

Woman at work
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Candidates with strong personal skills are in high demand for a wide variety of jobs. We’ve all worked with someone who is excellent at engaging with colleagues and is always dependable. This individual has honed their personal skills. They communicate effectively with others, self-express, and self-manage.

Your personal skills shape not only your professional trajectory, but your private life as well. Overall, employers look for job candidates with strong personal skills because they positively contribute to the office culture, and are reliable in a variety of ways.

What Are Personal Skills?

Unlike hard skills that can be measured, like computer programming skills or legal knowledge, personal skills are soft skills – intangible qualities or traits that enhance our interactions. They are just as, if not more, important to employers, though you'll need a mix of both.

Having personal skills are critical to your success in any job, as they allow you to work well with employers, employees, colleagues, clients, and vendors.

Those with strong personal skills can communicate ideas clearly and listen well to others. They also exude a positive attitude at work, which is key to any healthy company culture.

Company leaders seek employees with personal skills because they are better able to effect positive outcomes for their companies. These individuals are typically more reliable, meet deadlines, and complete tasks. In addition, these subjects are motivated and passionate about their work, which contributes to their success.

Types of Personal Skills

Emily Roberts. © The Balance, 2018

Below is a list of the most important personal skills that most employers look for. It also includes sublists of related skills that employers tend to seek in job applicants. Develop and emphasize them in job applications, resumes, cover letters, and interviews.

Critical Thinking

Employers want candidates who can solve problems on their own using creative thinking and make informed decisions using thoughtful analysis. Critical thinkers are useful in every industry, from healthcare and engineering to education. Whether you are a restaurant manager, an engineer, or a teacher, you need to be able to understand problems, think critically, and devise solutions. Skills required for critical thinking include creativity, problem solving, and curiosity.

  • Artistic aptitude
  • Creativity
  • Critical observation
  • Critical thinking
  • Curiosity
  • 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

Problem Solving

How well do you problem solve? Problem solving is going to come up in virtually every job. Employers value strong problem solvers, as they effectively and swiftly make decisions while largely keeping their emotions at bay. They gather as much information as they can and let intuition, logic, and innovative thinking drive the best solution. Being a great collaborator and open to the ideas and opinions of others is also very important. So be sure to highlight your ability to work with others to find the best solution.

  • Accuracy
  • Assertive
  • Conflict management
  • Decision making
  • Diplomatic
  • Ethical
  • Humble
  • Influential
  • Insightful
  • Intuitive
  • Listening
  • Patience
  • Perceptive
  • Practical
  • Realistic
  • Reflective
  • Teamwork

Flexible/Dependable

Dependability and flexibility work in tandem, as flexible employees are always dependable, and vice versa. Employers hire candidates who demonstrate reliability, responsibility, and trustworthiness. Flexible employees can adapt to change, take on projects outside of their scope, and shift their schedule if necessary. A flexible and dependable employee is also willing to help their colleagues with projects, even when the subject matter is unfamiliar.

  • Accountable
  • Adaptability
  • Capable
  • Competence
  • Dynamic
  • Helpfulness
  • Honesty
  • Loyal
  • Punctual
  • Reliable
  • Responsible
  • Teachable
  • Trustworthy

Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills, also known as people skills, are those related to how you communicate and interact with those around you. Employers want employees who are compatible with their employers, their colleagues, and clients. It is a particularly important trait when collaboration is encouraged, and those who embody it will climb the ladder more quickly than their counterparts.

Being a good listener is key to being a strong communicator. Employers want employees who can both share their own ideas and also listen empathetically to others. Listening is a very important skill in customer service, human resources, and in all leadership positions.

Displaying such skills will impress your potential employer and could lead to future opportunities for promotions and raises.

Intrinsically Motivated

Employers seek employees who are positive and passionate about their jobs, and are motivated by internal forces. These individuals tend to put the most effort into their work, and learn from their mistakes and failures. These individuals also tend to enjoy the process far more than those motivated by money and glory, thus making these candidates more pleasant to work with and trustworthy in the eyes of employers.

  • Ambition
  • Alertness
  • Amiability
  • Confidence
  • Dedication
  • Dependability
  • Determination
  • Energy
  • Hardworking
  • Independent
  • Life skills
  • Optimism
  • Positive
  • Resilience
  • Strong Work ethic
  • Productive
  • Enterprising
  • Visionary
  • Passion

More Personal Skills

Below are additional personal 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
  • Compassionate
  • Effective communicator
  • Ethical
  • Functions well under pressure
  • Generosity
  • Good attitude
  • High Emotional Intelligence
  •  Honest
  • Independent
  • Integrity
  • Interviewing
  • Knowledge management
  • Meets deadlines
  • Memory Skills
  • Motivating
  • Personal Development
  • Outgoing
  • Performance management
  • Positive work ethic
  • Process improvement
  • Quick-witted
  • Results oriented
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-supervising
  • Stress management
  • Team player
  • Time Management
  • Tolerant
  • Trainable
  • Training
  • Troubleshooting
  • Willing to accept feedback
  • Willingness to learn
  • Works well under pressure

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

ADD RELEVANT SKILLS TO YOUR RESUME: Use keywords applicable to the job in your resume, especially in the description of your work history.

HIGHLIGHT SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: Provide examples that demonstrate how your personal skills play out at work in your cover letter.

USE SKILL WORDS DURING JOB INTERVIEWS: Highlight your skills in your job interviews. Be prepared to give the interviewer examples of how you've demonstrated each.