Soft Skills Explained: What They Are and How They Help You Succeed in the Workplace

James Clift | April 3, 2019

Standing out among other candidates can be challenging, no matter what position you are striving for. In order to differentiate yourself you must bring more to the table than your work experience and hard skills.

While it’s true that hiring managers are looking for someone with the right qualifications for the job, they also want someone who will work cooperatively with their coworkers, get work done efficiently, and create a positive work environment.

Strong soft skills are integral to a successful career and are guaranteed to impress employers.

But what are soft skills, how do you develop them, and just how will they benefit your success in the workplace?

What Are Soft Skills?

The term ‘soft skills’ refers to a person’s social skills and personal attributes, such as their ability to create a harmonious atmosphere when interacting with others.

When working with other employees, it is crucial to establish a productive and peaceful work environment. A person with good soft skills has the ability to create that atmosphere using their great communication and teamwork skills.

Many people believe that simply having the right qualifications and experience is enough to land them the job and impress hiring managers.

What’s wrong with that way of thinking is that every candidate who has been interviewed likely has the same set of skills as you. Employers aren’t as likely to be impressed by your resume as much as by what additional benefits you bring to the table.

Showing off these soft skills in an interview is an instant way to set yourself apart from other candidates and stick in the minds of the hiring manager.

Soft Skills Definition

According to Dictionary.com, soft skills are “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude.”

It’s easy to see why hiring managers would seek someone with these abilities. Relying on hard skills will only take you so far in your career. Your ability to deal with different people, attitudes, and environments is just as important.

In order to be a successful employee, the ability to thrive in any work environment and cooperate with any type of person is vital.

Soft Skills Vs. Hard Skills

While your soft skills are your social and cooperative abilities, your hard skills are the skills you developed through education and experience.

Hard skills are learned and trained, whether it be through earning a college degree, obtaining a certification, completing an internship, or all of the above.

When giving out your resume and completing job applications you are giving employers an overview of your hard skills, such as the qualifications, training, and experience you will need for the job.

The ultimate difference between hard skills and soft skills is this:

  • Hard skills - the teachable abilities specific to certain industries or tasks, proving to hiring managers that you know how to get the job done right.
  • Soft skills - the ability to create a harmonious atmosphere with coworkers, socialize with others, communicate well, and work as a team in order to maintain a positive and productive work environment.

Hard skills in the field of internet marketing, for example, are skills such as knowledge of SEO, content marketing, and web content, all of which can be acquired through education and job experience.

4 Soft Skills Hiring Managers Want You to Have

Like hard skills, soft skills can also be learned and developed, and since hiring managers care so much about these skills, it’s important to develop as many as you can.

However, the definition of soft skills is quite broad, and the list of examples never seems to end.

As a result, it can be difficult to choose which soft skills are best for the position you’re applying for, and which to improve first.

Despite the myriad of skills out there, there are 4 essential soft skills every hiring manager wants you to have.

1. Leadership Skills

Even if the position you want isn’t one of much authority, strong leadership skills will still impress hiring managers.

Plus, demonstrating leadership skills in the workplace will help you succeed in the position you’re already in, setting you on track for advancement in your career.

Taking responsibility for your work, having confidence in your abilities, and showing the initiative to lead your colleagues are all behaviours that will impress your superiors and create a productive and efficient work environment for you to thrive in.

Soft skills are transferable skills, meaning they can be used in almost every area of work and in every position. Leadership is one of the most important transferable skills to possess.

2. Teamwork Skills

More than likely, your career will require you to interact with coworkers.

For this reason, the ability to create a collegial atmosphere while collaborating with your peers is a very attractive skill to have.

Not only will managers and employers be impressed, but your colleagues and coworkers will appreciate you as well.

Having teamwork skills is not just about being able to work well within a group and make a good impression for your managers. It’s also about building healthy relationships with the people you work with and building bridges in your industry.

3. Communication Skills

Teamwork and communication skills go hand in hand, but your ability to effectively express your thoughts in a professional way goes beyond your collaboration with coworkers.

Knowing how to voice your opinions, concerns, and questions in a respectful manner is important for interacting with your boss and management as well.

When you are a great listener with strong communication skills, the likelihood of any misunderstandings or accidents is greatly reduced.

Not to mention, this skill will often establish more trust between you and those above you.

4. Critical Thinking & Problem-Solving Skills

The ability to think quickly and come up with solutions to sudden problems is a trait hiring managers admire in candidates and employees.

Choosing to strengthen your skills in this area will benefit you in many ways, as it is one of the most sought-after attributes in employees nowadays.

Additionally, strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills will complement your abilities in communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Improving this area of your personal attributes will benefit the other three.

How Soft Skills Will Put You on the Path to Success

Improving your soft skills is part of investing in yourself as well as your career.

Outstanding personality attributes that make work more efficient, productive, and peaceful for you and your colleagues are irresistible to employers and attractive to peers.

Showcasing your soft skills during your interview will help you stand out among the other candidates, many of which are relying solely on their hard skills.

Employers aren’t looking for robots who promise to get the job done perfectly, but people who have a proven record of knowledge and training and the ability to thrive in whatever setting they are placed in.

The development of soft skills doesn’t stop after the interview, however.

Constantly improving these attributes and putting them into practice in the workplace is a surefire way to advance your career, improve productivity, and perform outstandingly in the eyes of superiors.

Blost post author James Clift

About the author

James Clift

James is the CEO of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

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