What Are Soft Skills and Why Are They Important?

soft skills

If you are on the market for a new job, you are not alone. With roughly 7.6 million job openings across the US, people are leaving their jobs for better opportunities every single day. If you’ve been browsing potential new careers, there’s no doubt you’ve seen employers express interest in “soft skills.” So what are soft skills are why do employers care about them so much?

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are a mixture of social, people, and communication skills. Combined with your personality traits, they allow you to understand an environment and work well with those around you. They contrast with “hard skills,” which are typically more technical, specifically teachable, and can be defined or measured. Think of a person’s writing ability or familiarity with a software program.

Soft skills are intangible and usually unteachable, meaning you can’t sign up for a class to acquire them. Common examples include:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Leadership
  • Time Management
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Problem-Solving
  • Adaptability

Why Are They So Important?

Soft skills are important because of their rarity. Not everyone has the ability to think critically, the same way not everyone knows how to create websites. But it is often easier to teach someone to use a program than it is to change the way they interpret a problem. For this reason, managers are sometimes forced to pick between candidates who possess hard skills or soft skills, but not both.

One person may be gifted in the technical areas of a job but isn’t a strong communicator. Another may lack experience in the technical disciplines, but has a track record for creative problem-solving and leadership experience. Often, the latter candidate is more attractive, as hiring either person comes with the expectation of them learning the skills they lack. Because hard skills are easier to teach, employers look to hire those who will ultimately be successful with the right training from leadership.

To illustrate this point, LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report, 92% of talent professionals reported that soft skills are equally or more important to hire for than hard skills.

How Do I Showcase Them?

The challenging thing about soft skills is demonstrating you possess them. Anyone can say they are a good problem solver and adaptable on their resume, but how do you prove this? The best opportunity you may get is in your cover letter. Use the cover letter to tell a story that lets these intangibles shine through your background and experiences. Give specific examples of a project that was a success and connect it to a solution you devised.

This strategy is the same if you find yourself in an interview. List relevant experiences and connect your soft skills to why you were successful. If you can prove you have attained these skills, most hiring managers will be thrilled to speak with you!