OK, What Exactly Are Soft Skills?
Soft skills are synonymous with “people skills.” The term describes those personal attributes that indicate a high level of emotional intelligence.
Unlike hard skills, which describe a person’s technical skill set and ability to perform specific tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries. It’s often said that hard skills will get you an interview but you need soft skills to get – and keep – the job.
Your hard skills are easy to quantify, i.e. a proficiency in a coding technology or a fluency in a foreign language. However, soft skills are much harder to assess and far more subjective. For instance, hard skills are acquired through formal education and training, whereas soft skills are either innately developed or built through experience and training.
Are soft skills really important? The short answer is, yes. They can differentiate you from other candidates during your job search.
We know that the most qualified person for the position doesn’t always land it. Why? Because more often than not they weren’t able to communicate effectively or create a connection (both are soft skills) with the hiring manager.
Look at it like this: if you have the technical know-how required to do the job but lack the soft skills, you could end up having great ideas but unable to communicate and implement them effectively.
Soft skills definitely become more important the higher up you go in an organization, especially when dealing with diverse groups of people.
Can you improve your soft skills? Of course! There are plenty of tactics for ramping them up. Do you need help with your communication skills? Try taking a class in public speaking. If you’re still in school, take on assignments that require you to get in front of others.
So, should you still apply for the job that lists “strong leadership skills required” or should you wave the white flag and not bother? Apply with the understanding that you will have to prove yourself in other areas. Make sure you express your desire to develop your soft skills while simultaneously showcasing your technical aptitude. The good news is that your soft skills can be improved with just a little time and commitment.
The next time you’re tempted to toss in phrases like “great communication skills” or “strong leader” into the skills section of your resume, spend some time and effort to refine those strengths so you don’t spend the whole interview praying that the recruiter won’t ask about them. Even better, be prepared to describe an instance where you achieved a goal by using your soft skills. You’ll be much better off in the end!