When it comes to creating the skills section of a resume, most job seekers have little trouble determining the technical or hard skills they want to highlight. These types of skills are often closely tied to a person’s day-to-day responsibilities. But what about the less tangible abilities – like decision making or interpersonal skills – that make you stand out as a candidate? These are called soft skills, and they can be just as important to the success of your job search.
Some hiring agents define soft skills as people or social skills while others think of them as more general competencies like dependability, punctuality, and attention to detail. Either way, soft skills are more subjective and tougher to quantify than hard skills, like quality assurance, product development, or data analysis. However, they are valuable skills to put on a resume and can help you earn interview invitations.
But how do you know the best soft skills for your resume? And how do you make something subjective and unquantifiable into a persuasive argument that will get you hired?
Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as it sounds.
Whether at work or at home, you use a range of capabilities every day. However, the skills you include on your resume need to be relevant to the position you’re applying for. Here’s how you can choose which competencies to include in the skills section of your resume:
If you’re applying for a specific position…
Go through the job description and highlight all the hard skills in one color and the soft ones in another color. Make sure you don’t overlook soft skills disguised as personality traits (like self-motivated and persistent). Once you’ve compiled a list of skills from the job ad, think about a time you used each of these abilities. For instance, refer to past work experiences or volunteer work you’ve done. If you can think of a time that you’ve demonstrated the skill, include it on your resume.
If you’re searching for jobs based on your skills…
Consider your recent work experiences, like projects you’ve contributed to, positions you’ve held, or challenges you’ve overcome. What are some of your major accomplishments? What did you do that made you succeed? Don’t worry about separating your hard and soft skills at first. Start with brainstorming and then go back and categorize.
Now it’s time for some investigation. First, search for the top competencies employers are looking for, both for the overall job market and your specific industry. Note any that describe you and add them to your soft skills list. To get you started, here’s a look at the top soft skills employers were looking for based on an analysis of more than 35 million jobs posted on iHire in 2018.
Second, research each employer before you apply to figure out what types of skills they’re looking for. Aside from the required technical skills, do you have any other capabilities – like problem solving or customer service – that might matter to the company? If so, make sure you add those soft skills to your resume.
If your list gets too long or difficult to manage, focus on your most valuable skills. Think of times that you went above and beyond your job duties or when your contributions significantly impacted your employer’s bottom line. These accomplishments are what convince hiring managers to call you in for an interview.
Certain hard skills must be included in the skills section of your resume to show you meet the job requirements. Soft skills can be used to demonstrate your expertise as well, but they’re harder to prove. Usually, they require further context to show the employer that you truly have these talents.
Soft skills work best in two parts of your resume: the summary paragraph and your achievements section(s). In the summary, you want to include as many of the skills from the job description as possible plus any skills that you will reference in other parts of your resume.
The professional experience section is your chance to prove how good you are at using the skills necessary for the position. The job seekers you will be measured against will also have most (if not all) of the same skills on their resumes – otherwise they wouldn’t have passed the initial screening by the applicant tracking system (ATS). The key is to show that you are better at using these skills than your competition.
It isn’t just about having the skill; it’s about how well you use it.
That’s why you need to talk about your past work experiences and accomplishments where you used each skill to reach a specific goal. Showing how you used your soft skills to reach quantifiable achievements will provide the further context needed for the hiring manager to gauge your fit for the job.
To get you started as you develop your list of skills, here are some soft skills examples that are commonly used on resumes. We’ve broken them into categories below.
Resume Example: Built trusting relationships with patients and family members, educating them on treatment plans, actively listening to concerns, and ensuring fellow medical personnel were up to date on individual care needs.
Resume Example: Following company merger, led teambuilding activities, clearly communicated performance objectives, and achieved cohesion among newly formed departments.
Decision Making Skills
Resume Example: Ran customer survey to gain valuable insights into product and service preferences, identify key areas of improvement, and implement changes to increase sales and satisfaction.
Work Habit Skills
Resume Example: Readily took on additional responsibilities following major reduction in force, continuing to meet deadlines for core duties while learning new skills on own initiative.
Resume Example: Expertly coordinated community outreach event, setting activity schedules, negotiating vendor contracts, and launching marketing campaign within tight deadline.
Hard skills and technical skills are easy to come up with when you’re applying for a position, but job seekers who develop a soft skills list for their resume have a better chance of standing out among the competition. By doing your research and considering your key talents, you’ll be able to beef up the skills section of your resume in no time.
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