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What Are Soft Skills?

Also referred to as transferable skills, soft skills are not related to people’s occupation. They rather reveal their personalities and general character disposition. When applicants are questioned about their soft skills, it is their intuition and personal attitudes that become exposed. Soft skills also manifest how well they interact with others. Because employers are concerned to hire not only highly professional candidates but also those who would perfectly fit their organization, they put in extra effort to learn about their soft skills during personality tests and interviews. They want to ensure that, once their freshly hired employees apply themselves to tasks in the new workplace, they will be able to engage and collaborate with a diverse group of co-workers. All soft skills in people are either innately developed or acquired through experience.

How Do Soft Skills Differ from Hard Skills?

Hard skills are those skills and abilities that are required for your advertised position. Broadly speaking, they are the expertise needed to perform your job tasks well. Hard skills are related to the job you applied to do and are usually specified in its description, when a position is advertised. These are skills acquired through education or training. Applicants hone them while studying in a college or taking training classes or participating in various certification programs. Hard skills are also developed during apprenticeship period or on-the-job training.

Hard skills are tested during face-to-face or panel interviews in the first place, before recruiters turn their attention to applicants’ personality traits. Although employers are careful not to hire difficult, unaccommodating people, they even more readily avoid employing unprofessional candidates who simply do not possess required knowledge and abilities to perform their tasks well. Examples of the quantifiable hard skills include but are not limited to the following competencies:

  • Computer programming;
  • Web design;
  • Accounting;
  • Mathematics;
  • Writing;
  • Typing;
  • Machine operating;
  • Foreign language proficiency.

Hard skills are further measured when job candidates start working in the new workplace. Employers will always check whether their new employees live up to their expectations and, if they find that they need to sharpen their abilities, they might ask them to participate in workshops or receive an additional certification.

Soft skills, by contrast, are not quantifiable. Known as interpersonal or transferable skills, they show how well job applicant interacts with other people. Soft skills are much more difficult to identify during interviews. While mathematical or writing talents are easily verified by recruiters, such soft skills as, say, work ethics and time management cannot be straightforwardly manifested in a short interview conversation. To facilitate the identification of soft skills, employers usually pose to their job applicants behavioral and situational questions. These questions invite applicants to bring examples of specific challenging situations they successfully resolved in the past. To answer this type of questions well and, in doing so, demonstrate all required soft skills, think of a suitable situation before you enter the interview room. This situation should set off your problem-solving, communicative, and team-working skills most advantageously. When talking about it, also try to follow the STAR or the CAR formats, which will allow you to answer recruiters’ questions fully and clearly.  

What Soft Skills Employers Look for in Applicants?

Whatever your expertise and however good you are in your profession, possessing soft skills is also indispensable for your success in any workplace. Every job requires employees to communicate with others, even if they work from home or perform their tasks single-handedly. Soft skills are important also because, being transferable, they can be used in a variety of positions, which is appreciated by employers. Employees with a wide range of soft skills are adaptable and can unproblematically be transferred to another department or given a different role to perform. The soft skills usually sought by employers are the following:

  • Communication – Regardless of your position, you need excellent communication skills to flourish in your working environment. That is, you need to know how to communicate well in writing and verbally. Nonverbal communication – body language and vocal tone – are also important, since it generates others’ trust in your actions and words. To create meaningful or, at least, easy relationship with colleagues, employees also need to interact with them with friendliness and respect.
  • Flexibility – Being flexible in your workplace means to possess the ability to respond to new tasks and changes in the structure of the organization or its environment with readiness and in goodwill. Flexible, adaptable employees are highly appreciated by managers, especially in times of instability or when the company is in a state of flux.
  • Leadership – If you have applied for a managerial role, you are expected to possess the ability to direct others and lead by example. You also need to demonstrate how well you can make informed, executive decisions and resolve problems and conflicts between co-workers.
  • Positive Attitude – As in other spheres of our life, it is of paramount importance to have a positive attitude in a workplace. People cannot weather storms and function productively under stress at work unless they remain optimistic and upbeat. A general positivity is also a desirable trait in employees, because such people are friendly to others and create a pleasant atmosphere in the organization.  
  • Work Ethics – Trying to eliminate people with evident counterproductive tendencies, employers shortlist only those candidates who appear to have strong work ethics. Such candidates are serious about deadlines, by which they diligently accomplish established objectives. Well organized, employees with good work ethics are also firmly focused on their tasks and pay no attention to destruction around them. Nor do they waste working time in idle web surfing or phone calls unrelated to their work. Such employers also never leave their work halfway through, bringing their tasks to perfection. During your interview, bring up examples of how you made the accomplishment of your tasks your priority in your previous workplace. Your strong work ethics can also be emphasized on your résumé in the section where you enumerate the responsibilities you shouldered in the past.
  • Decisiveness – Being good at making decisions quickly and with confidence will recommend you to any position. Employers are particular about hiring decisive people who can take proper, quick actions without sliding into recklessness. Resolute employees excel in putting things into perspective, weighing up various options, considering alternative possibilities, assessing information, and anticipating results and consequences of their and others’ actions.
  • Conflict Resolution – This is another valuable soft skill that employers seek in job candidates. Masterfully resolving conflicts implies the talent for persuading others, including your opponents, and exerting beneficial influence on all participants involved in the disagreement. If your future responsibilities include negotiating between arguing parties, you will be expected to know how to look for satisfactory solutions acceptable to all parties. Your potential employers will also want you to demonstrate strong interpersonal skills and the ability to established rapport with your clients, coworkers, and managers.  

How to Emphasize Your Soft Skills?

Soft skills are notoriously difficult to measure during interviews. Hard skills are more easily demonstrated and evaluated: employers just administer tasks or tests to job applicants and quickly evaluate their expertise in calculating, programming, writing, typing, or other professions. Yet they cannot as effortlessly evaluate whether you are a good team member and whether manage your time well. Therefore, you need to give your recruiters a helping hand and highlight your soft skills on your résumé or cover letter or talk about them during your phone or face-to-face interviews.

It might be a good idea to include a section listing your soft skills on your résumé, if you have not done this yet. Simply enumerate all relevant skills under the title “Soft and Hard Skills.” You may also emphasize your skills under job entries in the section describing your work experience, together with the responsibilities you held in your past workplaces.  Do not just write where you worked and when. Elaborate on the tasks you were assigned to do and skills you needed to activate to fulfill them successfully.  

If your job application requires a cover letter, you may highlight your hard and soft skills on the letter itself. Use more creativity when writing about your soft skills, because they require practical manifestation to be convincing.  Instead of merely enumerating your soft skills, as you would do with your hard skills, bring up an example from your work experience where your talents and abilities have been demonstrated.

Illustrate your self-description with practical examples from your work experience also during your face-to-face, panel, or group interviews. You will sound more impressive and authentic, when you tell your interviewers about real challenging situations that you faced and successfully resolved in the past. To illuminate your soft skills more conspicuously, follow the STAR and the CAR formats. In so doing, you will make your soft skills shine through vividly and strongly, engaging your recruiters’ sympathies along the way.    

JobTestPrep makes it its business to help job applicants pass their interviews with unqualified success. In addition to collecting exhaustive information about different types of interviews and skills required for various positions, we have also compiled a top-notch PrepPack™, with whose help you can practice for your phone and in-person interview. Purchase our test simulations and interview kit and prove to your potential employers that you have all required soft skills to perform your duties well.


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