12 Soft Skills Employers Look For In An Applicant

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Meeting the qualifications of a job description is an excellent start but it does not necessarily mean you have everything an employer is looking for. Soft skills are an essential component of getting a job. In order to check the final box of being a good “fit” for a position, employers will consider your soft skills when making a hiring decision.

So, which soft skills are most important to focus on while you’re job searching?

What’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills?

Hard skills can be defined as technical proficiencies or job-specific skills, which can generally be taught and measured. Hard skills are usually listed as qualifications or expectations in the job description.

Soft skills, on the other hand, can be defined as “people skills,” personal attributes, or innate traits that cannot necessarily be learned during the job training or in a classroom. These traits are not easily quantifiable or concrete. Therefore, they cannot be measured straightforward.

Why do I need soft skills?

Soft skills are important because employers are looking for a variety of these skills when interviewing a candidate. According to Forbes, 94% of recruiting professionals believe that soft skills outweigh experience when being considered for promotion to leadership positions.

Here is an example:

Being adaptable is a soft skill that might be extremely important in a certain kind of position, but not as relevant in other cases. If you are interviewing for a job that involves constant change and the ability to adjust on the fly, adaptability is a soft skill that the hiring committee will prioritize. This is because this trait is generally innate and is challenging for a supervisor to teach. Interviewers are hoping that this is a skill you already possess.

Your golden ticket to landing the job is proving that you are an ideal fit for the position. You can do this by highlighting your strongest and most relevant soft skills.

Focus on applicable and position-specific soft skills and incorporate them into your cover letter, resume, and interview answers to differentiate you from the competition.

What are the soft skills employers look for?

While there are hundreds of important soft skills employers look for in an applicant, below is a list of 12 universal soft skills that you can develop which are relevant to most positions regardless of the field:

  1. Strong communication skills
  2. High emotional intelligence
  3. Ability to work both independently and on a team
  4. Empathy
  5. Strong work ethic
  6. Open-mindedness and adaptability
  7. Strong leadership skills
  8. Good attitude
  9. Patience
  10. Good problem-solving skills
  11. Good time management
  12. Strong attention to detail

To summarize, soft skills are crucial to your job search and ultimately your career because employers are looking for the whole package. While you don’t need to have each one mastered, it is important to have a good baseline in several soft skill areas. Take a look at the actionable steps below to learn more!

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Actionable Steps


Familiarize yourself with your strong soft skills

Highlight and focus on relevant and position specific soft skills. Incorporate these skills into your cover letter, resume, and interview answers.


Develop your weak soft skills

Don’t get discouraged if you’re not a pro in each area. No one is perfect – we always have room for growth! Take time to do some self-reflection and identify your weaker soft skills. Allow yourself an opportunity to practice in order to make improvements, and stay open-minded and receptive to feedback.


Read the longer version

You can learn more about the soft skills employers are looking for by reading the following articles. These are reviewed to be the best by our professionals: What Are Soft Skills by The Balance Careers, Top Soft Skills Employers Value also by The Balance Careers, and 15 Soft Skills You Need To Succeed When Entering The Workforce by Forbes.

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About the Author

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Dr. Alyssa Harmon-Salter

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Alyssa holds an Ed. D. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. For the last 7 years, she has coached hundreds of college students on how to be successful academically and in prepping for a job.
Full Bio | LinkedIn

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