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What Are Soft Skills?

September 22, 2017

So what do employers mean when they talk about soft skills? According to Ashley, a hiring expert from Textron, “Soft skills are often skills that can be transferred from job to job and are seen as personal qualities and not a skill that can be taught.” 1 These types of skills can only be truly evaluated by someone who has worked with you for some time. Basically, anything it takes to do your job that is not a technical skill is considered a soft skill.

It is much more difficult to determine if a potential employee possess soft skills, but companies have become more focused on this in the past few years, and some have begun to structure their interviews differently as a way to judge these skills. Traci, a hiring expert from Accenture, expands on this point: “In addition to meeting candidates face-to-face, employers also build their interview processes specifically to measure things like communication skills and critical thinking.” 2 This may mean you are asked to solve a case study or solve a hypothetical problem with a client. Methods like these will allow an interviewer to gauge things like communication skills, how you interact with others, and conflict resolution.

In addition to demonstrating these skills during an interview, job candidates should be highlighting these on their resume. Soft skills can be demonstrated through all sorts of part-time work or volunteer activities, so don’t leave these off your resume! Just make sure you are appropriately conveying the skills you gained through that customer service position or your time volunteering at the local food bank.

These types of skills are absolutely essential to a successful career. Lori, a hiring expert from Cigna, stresses the importance of soft skills here: “These are the skills that really determine someone's career trajectory since they are the key components to how far someone can go in an organization. For example, you may have excellent accounting skills, but if you can't talk to business partners, it will be hard for you to move your career forward.” 3 It is easy to focus on improving in areas that are directly related to your field, but you would be remiss to ignore these broader skills. And while it may seem much more difficult to improve your soft skills, it certainly isn’t impossible. By doing some research and making a conscious effort, you can develop soft skills that will help you throughout your career.

Soft skills can seem like much more of a grey area than technical skills, but regardless of what career path you choose to pursue, they will likely play an important role in obtaining and excelling at a job.

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