Some sources say cut soft skills from your applications completely, others say to include them. It’s all very confusing – what do hiring managers actually want to see? Well, soft skills aren’t completely useless. Plenty of jobs want to see evidence that you’re capable of certain soft skills, and some may even have them listed in the job posting. Here’s the quick guide to where, when and, most importantly, how to include soft skills in your application.
“If you’re going to mention soft skills in your application, make them count!” Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr, advises. “Steer clear of boring filler skills like hard-working, strong team player, or excellent communication skills—hiring managers have heard those a hundred times.”
This means that anything generic and vague needs to go. Anyone can describe themselves as “hard-working”. When picking soft skills to include, you need to make sure they’re the kinds of soft skills that you can back up with evidence. For instance, instead of simply saying that you have a “creative vision” – have you been responsible for art projects or creative campaigns? If you bring up your “creative vision”, follow up with examples immediately. If you don’t have examples, dump it and leave it out.
Include Them in your Cover Letter Only
Since soft skills should be tied together with evidence, they should only be kept to your cover letter where necessary. “Expand on your soft skills in your cover letter while keeping your resume focused on hard skills and specific duties, achievements, and experience,” says Christie. This way, soft skills don’t look like application filler; you have actual successes to back them up throughout your cover letter.
Tailor to Each Job
When you include soft skills in your cover letter, make sure that you’re only using ones that are applicable to the job posting. Some job postings will specify that they require certain soft skills – teamwork and leadership are common ones, for example – so, that clues you into which soft skills you should be including in each individual letter.
If the job posting doesn’t mention any required soft skills, only bring up those that you think would be relevant at the job. For instance, if you’re applying for a management position, you can discuss your leadership ability, or if any of the responsibilities fall under the creative vision umbrella, you can detail those.
Change the Wording
Plenty of applications all have the same soft skills written all over them – consider playing around with the wording when you’re constructing an application. With just some word changes, you can make the soft skills you already have listed more applicable to certain jobs and specific to your skillset. “For example, if you’re applying to a role where you’ll be supporting the CEO, upgrade the basic ‘strong oral and written communication skills’ to ‘executive communications,’” suggests Christie.
Another option is to simply expand on the skills that you have listed, dividing them up into specifics. “Get detailed and take something generic like ‘tech-savvy’ and instead list out the specific types of software that you’re versed in to make it more meaningful,” says Christie. That “creative vision” bullet point? Maybe you should instead list all the creative arts you’re experienced in, if you have the space. What about “leadership”? List off the duties you’ve had in previous leadership positions instead.
When it comes to soft skills, keep them to your cover letter and make sure they’re as specific and tailored as possible. Only include skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for and what you have actual valid experience in. Everything else can be completely cut from your application, but the key ones you do include will be sure to impress any hiring manager.
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Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
Feature Image: Adobe