Written on September 15, 2022
In every job description, you’ll see bulleted lists of the ideal candidate’s attributes. The hard skills, which regard technical knowledge and capabilities, will often vary by the position. However, soft skills make you a valuable addition to your team; weaving professional character traits into your applications and interview discussions correlates with landing that dream job.
Identifying and articulating your soft skills to others will be one of your greatest job-hunt resources. It will be a core part of how you kill it in an interview, well after you create the perfect resume. While many candidates will have overlapping technical skills, your interpersonal talents and temperament will set you apart. It’s also pretty exciting: you get to be recognized for the numerous personality traits you’ve spent your life building.
Not to mention, according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 89 percent of recruiters said an applicant’s lack of soft skills were the reason it didn’t work out.
The ability to identify your own soft skills, then match them up with the qualities an employer is looking for, typically relies on ongoing self-awareness. Check out Jackfruit’s article on building confidence at work for tips on how to check in with yourself at work - and why fostering emotional intelligence in the office is intertwined with professional confidence.
But once you find and label the attributes you’re proud of, the next step is iterating them during recruitment. It’s not quite practical to just list your soft skills at the bottom of your resume; you won’t have the space, and they’ll be standing alone, unsubstantiated.
Meaning, you want to communicate your best features on paper, online, and in person. Hard skills, like speaking French, speak for themselves. Soft skills, however, need to be shared in context, vis-à-vis projects and stories where you’ve applied them.
You can express your soft skills verbally and in writing.
You can express them organically, via people skills.
That means presenting your social intelligence by…
Here are 5 soft skills employers find most desirable in 2022, and common examples of how you can manifest each ability. Let’s get started!
Emotional intelligence is mutually beneficial among employers, employees and applicants. All parties have expressed a marked desire to create a self-aware workforce and work setting.
EQ is defined by a person’s holistic ability to recognize and appropriately manage their emotions, while interpreting the emotions of others. Core subsets, psychologist and author Dr. Daniel Goleman says, include 1) self-awareness, 2) self-regulation, 3) social skills, 4) empathy, and 5) motivation.
(Note: Self-regulating means adjusting or compartmentalizing your feelings appropriately in order to produce a positive outcome in a given situation.)
In AAC&U’s annual study of employer views on what skills matter most, 55% of employers named self-awareness as a “very important” trait in college graduates seeking jobs. They also named empathy (50%) and taking initiative (63%) as very important.
To quickly reiterate, when boasting your soft skills, you’ll need to put them in context.
Concrete work experiences that purvey EQ, which can be incorporated into your resume, cover letter and interview conversations:
- Instances of working in teams
- Professional challenges that you proudly overcame; stories of conflict resolution
- Powerful feedback and advice that was revelatory and which you grew from
- Any meetings and presentations you’ve led, in which your audience was engaged and/or impressed
In-person behaviors that show EQ:
- Making eye contact
- Perfecting your handshake
- Dressing the part
- Enthusiasm; using action words with a can-do mentality
- Empathy, including being considerate of others’ time
- Having on-topic answers, even if you have to confirm you’ve understood their question correctly beforehand
Before diving deeper into the appeal of data analysis skills, let’s talk about digital literacy, which falls somewhere between a hard and soft skill.
More than half of employers consider digital literacy “very important,” and only 9% say it’s “not very important” to their job openings.
If you are a jack of many technological trades, you can specify real-world applications of data analysis and digital literacy, to avoid using umbrella terms like “tech-savvy.”
Concrete work experiences that purvey digital literacy, and can be described in a resume, cover letter, interview or portfolio:
- Performing in-depth online research & fact-checking
- Using of photo and video editing software
- Implementing online marketing campaigns
- Having experience with various social platforms
- Understanding internet and data privacy
Most instances of data analysis and presentation—in which you’re using and visually representing the relationships between various data sets—also connote digital literacy.
A Few Real-world Applications of Data Analysis:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) Projects
- Customer Behaviors & Retention
- Successful Marketing Campaigns
- Risk Management
- Energy Optimization
According to AAC&U, ninety-one percent of employers feel data analysis, as a subset of digital literacy, is “very important” or “somewhat important.”
And according to the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE), in their study of the attributes employers want to see on college students’ resumes, roughly 77% of respondents evaluating the class of 2022 desired a candidate with analytical and quantitative skills.
Workplace communication is quite broad. It includes sending emails, attending video calls and in-person meetings, working with a team, writing reports and more.
Since, on average, individuals spend 70-80% of their day in some form of communication, the importance of expressing yourself well in person and on paper cannot be overlooked.
NACE’s study found that roughly 73% of respondents looked for a candidate with a strong ability to express themself, when evaluating both the class of 2021 and 2022.
“The pandemic has exacerbated the need to excel at communicating, to make sure nothing gets lost in translation because we’re working in different places, and also the need for empathy in this difficult time.”
- Andrew McCaskill, LinkedIn Career Expert
To break down the weight of each type of correspondence…
When evaluating an applicant’s resume, 82% of employers list written communication skills as a top priority, says NACE.
- Submitting a persuasive and grammatically-correct resume & cover letter
- Sharing a portfolio and/or website with shining writing samples
- Ensuring well-written emails
The same study shows that 67.4% of employers opt for applicants with verbal communication skills.
- Having experience leading meetings & making presentations
- Taking phone calls regularly
- Avoiding filler words during conversation
Communication skills go hand-in-hand with collaboration: a whopping 86% of employees cited a lack of collaboration and ineffective communication as the main cause of workplace failures.
Accordingly, 78.7% of employers watch out for an applicant’s ability to successfully work with a team.
- Regularly working with teams
- Successfully navigating conflicts
- Structuring group check-ins and team-building exercises
Despite the importance of active listening as a form of engagement—for both speaker and listener—a 2022 Gallup study found that only 19% of employees are truthfully engaged in their work.
The ability to give your undivided attention to a colleague or supervisor’s input is a crucial part of all workplace exchanges. It means you’ll both get the most out of your interactions.
To show a person that you’re actively listening to them, you can paraphrase their thoughts to confirm you’ve understood them, but only after they’ve finished speaking. You should also make eye contact, nod when you agree and strive to ask thoughtful questions in your response.
- Paraphrasing the other person’s thoughts
- Confirming you’ve understood them
- Waiting until they’ve finished speaking; not interrupting
- Making eye contact and nodding in agreement
- Striving to ask thoughtful questions in response
- Remembering your conversation later on, if they refer back to it
Employers look forward to applicants who are forward-thinking: those with a marked interest in innovation, even in the face of initial skepticism.
Why? Because innovation drives business growth. According to McKinsey, 84% of executives say that innovation is important to their growth strategy.
In addition, it portends a workplace atmosphere that is energetic and uplifting. Your ability to adapt to an ever-changing world is an asset that will drive your department forward.
According to Julie Sweet, Accenture CEO, the most important skill her company looks for in any employee, regardless of their expertise level, is the ability to learn.
“And if you’re an innovative company and you’re trying to show that innovation, then there’s no better way than introducing your company to new joiners through some of the most cutting edge technology.”
- Julie Sweet, for the Harvard Business Review
Behaviors that will showcase your innovative mindset on a resume, cover letter, interview:
- Taking risks (and sharing those which paid off)
- Engineering solutions to everyday problems that your business or larger
- Being entrepreneurial
- Staying up to date with current events and analyzing society
- Speaking up during meetings
- Networking to collaborate with other innovators
- Pursuing ambitious goals
More than 90% of employers use social media as they scout out new hires, says Zippia. Even if a candidate has a top-quality resume, 54% of employers have rejected candidates based on their social media profiles.
You might choose to make your accounts private, but either way, your online and offline etiquette will not be overlooked. You want to appear well-rounded, not like the college campus-equivalent of Mr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde.
The following list summarizes a few common steps toward (and away from) manifesting professionalism:
WHAT TO DO…
WHAT NOT TO DO…
When you are offered a job at-long-last, after investing hours in professional networking and tracking job applications, it can be very fulfilling. You will certainly feel proud of your hard skills: the progress you’ve made by scoping out an industry or through formal education.
However, you would be remiss not to give yourself credit for the personality traits and social temperament you’ve developed with years of practice. After all, the candidate that an employer selects is someone balanced; they’ll hire the applicant they’d like to see around everyday.
“What people get admired and appreciated for in [a] community are their soft skills: their sense of humor and timing, their ability to listen, their courage and honesty, their capacity for empathy.”
- Dr. Morgan Scott Peck
All of this to say, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back on account of your soft skills, which make you a relatable and congenial individual. Ultimately, know that you scored the job not only because of your resume’s hard skills, but also your character traits and larger identity, which glue each bullet point together.