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  1. Blog
  2. Applying
  3. November 18, 2020

6 Soft Skills That Stand Out in Today's Job Market

Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure—or was it emotional intelligence?

Woman video chatting with friends while working from home
Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt

In recent years, soft skills have become increasingly important in the job market. In a 2016 survey conducted by SHRM and Mercer, up to 60 percent of HR professionals said adaptability, initiative, and critical thinking—all soft skills—will become resume definers for entry-level job seekers in the next three to five years. You can become a stand-out candidate by showcasing soft skills in your job application or interview—and by heeding the advice of Tina Wascovich, career coach with The Muse and owner of Wascovich Coaching

What soft skills do hiring managers want?

There are multiple soft skills that hiring managers find desirable. According to Wascovich, “Even once you develop technical or functional skills, soft skills are still important.” You can use the soft skills listed here to show employers you know how to excel in the workplace. 

Read more: Why Your Soft Skills Matter & How to Market Them

Relationship-building

What it is

Relationship-building, which Wascovich calls a “top skill,” is about making positive connections with others. It is vital to collaboration, leadership, and career advancement.  

Why it’s so great

Hiring managers expect employees to form bonds with team members, clients, and customers. Healthy relationship-building enables you to have a more enjoyable work experience, be more productive, and position you as an asset to the company.

“Whether you’re working from a remote location or a physical location, you’ll have to interact with others to get your job done. You must work well with the boss, clients, peers, and those who report to you,” Wascovich says. 

How to showcase it

In your interview, clearly explain how you’ve cultivated a solid professional network or formed bonds with industry partners. You can also showcase this skill in your resume. “Use it as a keyword on your resume or in a skills-specific section. Lead an achievement-oriented bullet with the keyword. Or, include it later in the bullet.” For example: 

  • Built effective relationships with 20+ team members and strategic partners.

OR

  • Utilized relationship-building skills, resulting in more effective partnerships with 20+ team members and strategic partners. 

Read more: How to Harness Your Interpersonal Skills in Your Job Hunt & Career

Problem solving

What it is

Problem solving is about overcoming challenges that could negatively impact the team or the company.

Why it’s so great

In its simplest form, problem solving involves figuring out what’s not working, then coming up with a solution. In a more complex situation, problem solving could mean retaining a client or saving the company money, both of which positively impact the company.

How to showcase it

During the interview, share a specific example of a time when you resolved an important issue. Consider using the STAR method. State the situation, task, action, and result. Clearly explain how your solution helped to position the company for success. 

Active listening

What it is

Active listening requires you to fully focus on the person you’re speaking with instead of splitting your attention. 

Why it’s so great

People love a good listener! When you practice active listening, you help to reduce misunderstandings, which is important when helping customers or collaborating with team members. 

How to showcase it

There’s no better time to demonstrate active listening than during the interview. Listen carefully, repeat the interviewer’s questions as needed, and provide a thoughtful response. To get an idea of what this might sound like, check the example below.

Interviewer: What is the main skill you believe is needed to be successful in this role?

You: I believe that effective communication is most needed to be successful in this role. Earlier, I heard you say that other departments within the company rely on the person in this role for triage. By clearly communicating with members of those departments, I would be successful in moving the assignments forward and helping to meet team needs. 

Read more: How to Listen Effectively (& Why You Should)

Adaptability

What it is

Adaptability is a measure of how well you’ve adjusted to unforeseen changes. If you possess this soft skill, you may have handled a company merger, new leadership, or changes in company policy with patience and flexibility. 

Why it’s so great

Companies often go through changes, so managers value a job seeker who can take these changes in stride. This skill lets employers know that even when things don’t go as planned, you can handle whatever the job throws your way. 

How to showcase it

During your interview, explain a time when you accepted new duties, learned a new software program, or relocated for a new work opportunity. 

Initiative

What it is

Initiative is all about taking on something new without being asked. This might mean volunteering to lead a project or assisting a new team member with adjusting to the job. 

Why it’s so great

Taking initiative is a form of leadership, which is another quality hiring managers appreciate. “A leader doesn’t have to be the top person in the company,” Wascovich says. “A person in any role can demonstrate leadership.”

How to showcase it

If your job application includes a section for adding supplemental materials, consider adding a work sample. This will give you a chance to show off your best work and go the extra mile. 

Read more: Are You a Manager—or a Leader?

Emotional intelligence

What it is

Helpguide.org defines emotional intelligence as managing your own emotions to communicate effectively, relate to others, and conquer challenges. 

Why it’s so great

Emotional intelligence is akin to self-awareness, self-regulation, social intelligence, and social awareness, all of which Wascovich advises is “really important in the interview process”. 

How to showcase it

Showcasing this soft skill may be as simple as having a positive interview presence. Wascovich says, “An example of this is saying to yourself, ‘I’m aware that I have a preference for introversion,’ then elevating yourself during the interview.” You can also talk about intentional steps you’ve taken to improve yourself as a person and a professional. 

Read more: Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Are the New Successful CEOs

About our sources

Tina Wascovich, MBA, PCC is a career and leadership coach who helps professionals advance in their careers. After working with Tina, her clients have reported increased confidence in their leadership and career strategies. She has helped over 500 people overcome obstacles in their current position or prepare for interviews.

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Photo of Kaila Kea-Lewis

Kaila Kea-Lewis

Contributor

Kaila Kea-Lewis is a career coach and freelance writer, mainly covering career changes, job searching, and self-development. As a long-time advocate for remote work, she also enjoys writing about remaining productive while working from home. Her bylines include InHerSight, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur, and ZipRecruiter.

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