5 Key Soft Skills Employers Look for
in Today's Job Market

See also: Soft Skills

While often overlooked, the importance of soft skills in today's competitive job market can't be overstated. Yet you might be wondering, "What exactly are soft skills, and why should I care about them?"

Soft skills are those intangible qualities that go beyond your technical expertise and make you a great employee. These are the skills that help you work well with others, adapt to change, effectively communicate your ideas, and more.

In a world where technology is advancing at an ever-accelerating pace, and the job market is increasingly more competitive, employers are on the lookout for candidates who excel in both hard skills and soft skills. In fact, soft skills can be the key to setting you apart from other job applicants and boosting your overall employability.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the 5 key soft skills that employers are looking for in today's job market, and advise you on how to develop them:

  1. Communication
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Adaptability
  4. Teamwork
  5. Emotional intelligence

In addition to that, we'll tell you how to showcase these soft skills effectively on your resume and depend on them during the job search process.

What are soft skills, and why do they matter?

In the workspace, we recognize two different essential types of skills — hard skills and soft skills.

  • Hard skills refer to technical or job-specific skills that are required to perform a specific task or job. These skills are typically acquired through education, training, or experience. They can be measured and quantified.

    Examples of hard skills are:Programming languages (e.g. Java, Python), accounting, project management, data analysis, languages (e.g. Spanish, German), etc.

  • Soft skills refer to interpersonal, social, and communication skills that are more difficult to quantify and measure. Soft skills are often described as personality traits or emotional intelligence that are essential for success in the workplace.

    Examples of soft skills are: teamwork, communication, leadership, adaptability, problem-solving, creativity, empathy, etc.

While hard skills are important to perform the technical aspects of a job, soft skills are critical for building relationships, collaborating with colleagues, and achieving long-term success in any organization.

In fact, that’s the reason why many employers often prioritize soft skills over hard skills when considering job candidates, as they can be more difficult to teach and develop.

5 key most in-demand soft skills

Now that we know what soft skills are and why they matter, let's take a look at the most essential soft skills one can possess in a workplace.

1. Communication

In our increasingly connected world, the ability to communicate effectively is more essential than ever. 

Good communication is the glue that:

  • Holds teams together
  • Resolves conflicts
  • Drives projects forward
  • Ensures that everyone in the team is on the same page and understands their roles and responsibilities
  • Makes it possible for everyone to feel heard and valued 

When communication in the workplace breaks down, so does productivity and morale. That's why employers are on the lookout for candidates who can articulate their thoughts clearly and listen attentively to others — whether online or offline. 

Remember, effective communication is the key to success in any role, so make it a priority in your professional development. 

How can you become a better communicator?

  • Be an active listener. Listen attentively to what other colleagues are saying, ask questions to clarify, and paraphrase their words to ensure you understand their message. This shows respect and encourages open dialogue.

  • Be concise and clear. Keep your message simple and straightforward. Avoid jargon and use plain language to ensure your message is easily understood.

  • Be mindful of non-verbal cues. Pay attention to your body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. These can often convey more than words alone.

  • Be open to feedback. Ask for feedback on your communication style and be willing to make adjustments as needed. This demonstrates your commitment to growth and improvement.

  • Practice empathy. Put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand their feelings, perspectives, and needs. This will help you establish rapport and build trust with your colleagues.

How can you demonstrate communication skills on your resume?

If communication is crucial for your role, here's how you can show it off on your resume:

  1. Include specific examples. Rather than just saying "excellent communication skills," provide concrete examples of how you've used these skills to achieve results in your professional life. For instance, you might mention how you presented a project proposal to a large audience or collaborated with a diverse team to develop a new product.

  2. Highlight relevant experience. If you've worked in roles that required strong communication skills, such as customer service, public relations, or teaching, be sure to emphasize these experiences on your resume.

  3. Showcase your writing abilities. If you have a knack for written communication, consider including a well-written cover letter or providing a link to a professional blog or portfolio with your application.

  4. Use strong action verbs. When describing your past accomplishments, use action verbs like "negotiated," "presented," or "mediated" to emphasize your communication prowess.

2. Problem-solving skills

Regardless of the industry, employers value candidates with strong problem-solving skills. That's because problems are inevitable in any work environment.

Whether it's a technical glitch, a sudden change in client requirements, or an internal conflict, the ability to think critically, analyze situations, and quickly find effective solutions is crucial in any industry. 

Candidates who can demonstrate their problem-solving prowess are seen as valuable assets, capable of overcoming challenges and driving the success of the whole company. 

And while problem-solving talent can be a quality that you're born with (e.g. being level-headed and quick to think comes in handy when solving an issue), this skill can also be trained or improved. Here's how:

  • Practice critical thinking. Train your brain to analyze situations and consider multiple perspectives by regularly engaging in activities like puzzles, debates, or exploring new topics.

  • Learn from failures. When you encounter setbacks, take the time to reflect on what went wrong, and identify what you can do differently next time.

  • Collaborate with others. Seek input from colleagues with diverse backgrounds and experiences. They may offer new insights and ideas that you might not have considered.

  • Stay curious. Be open to new experiences (in and outside of your work life) and learning opportunities that can expand your skill set and knowledge base.

It also may be helpful to get familiar with common problem-solving techniques in workplaces, such as:

  1. Root cause analysis. This method involves identifying the underlying cause of a problem and addressing it to prevent the issue from recurring.

  2. Brainstorming. As a collaborative approach, brainstorming encourages the generation of multiple ideas and solutions from a diverse group of people.

  3. SWOT analysis. This technique involves identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to a particular problem or situation, helping to inform decision-making.

Highlighting problem-solving experience on a resume

To showcase your problem-solving skills on your resume, consider the following tips:

  1. Examples speak louder than adjectives. Describe situations where you successfully tackled problems or challenges, highlighting the strategies you used and the outcomes you achieved. Don't enumerate but demonstrate.

  2. Emphasize relevant experience. If you held roles that required strong problem-solving skills, such as project management or consulting, make sure to highlight these experiences on your resume. Using bold font will help you achieve this.

  3. Include quantifiable results. Whenever possible, use numbers to back up your problem-solving claims. For example, you could mention how you identified “cost-saving measures that led to a 20% reduction in expenses”.

  4. Use the right action verbs. Start your bullet points with strong action verbs like "resolved," "implemented," or "troubleshoot.”

3. Adaptability

To thrive in such a dynamic environment, professionals must be able to adapt to rapid changes in the workplace and job market and adjust their skills and mindset. 

Because of that, employers seek flexible candidates who can navigate uncertainty, learn new skills quickly, and embrace change as an opportunity for growth.

However, not only does adaptability make you more attractive to employers, but it also contributes to your long-term career success

  • It makes you embrace new challenges. Adaptable individuals are more likely to take on new projects, learn new skills, and seek opportunities for growth, which can lead to promotions, higher job satisfaction, and a more fulfilling career.

  • It future-proofs your career. As the job market evolves, you can pivot more easily, making you less vulnerable to layoffs or job obsolescence.

So how can you boost your adaptability?

  1. Cultivate a growth mindset. Believe in your ability to learn, grow, and adapt. Embrace challenges, persist through obstacles, and view failures as learning opportunities. You can try and achieve this by reading self-help books, trying out therapy, or meditating.

  2. Stay informed. Read news, and keep up-to-date with industry trends, emerging technologies, and best practices. This knowledge will help you anticipate changes and adapt proactively. For example, if AI is changing your industry, get familiar with ChatGPT and learn to use it to your advantage.

  3. Be open to feedback. Welcome constructive feedback and see it not as a criticism but rather as a tool for improvement. This shows your willingness to learn and adapt to new ways of working.

  4. Develop a diverse skill set. Invest in your professional development by acquiring a mix of technical and soft skills. This will make you more versatile and better equipped to handle change. Taking online courses may help you with a quick acquisition of new knowledge.

How to showcase adaptability on your resume and in interviews

To show off adaptability on your resume and during interviews, consider the following strategies:

  1. Showcase instances where you navigated change. Whether you took on additional responsibilities, volunteered for cross-functional projects, or successfully transitioned to a new role or industry, it will show that you're easy to adapt.

  2. Use selected action verbs. Start your bullet points with action verbs like "adapted," "pivoted," or "embraced" to convey your adaptability.

  3. Prepare specific examples for interviews. Be ready to share anecdotes that illustrate your adaptability. Discuss the challenges you faced, the actions you took, and the results you achieved.

Remember, change is inevitable, but with the right mindset and skills, you can turn it into an opportunity for growth.

4. Teamwork

Employers love job seekers who can demonstrate their ability to work effectively within a team, as it leads to increased productivity, smoother project management, and a more enjoyable work atmosphere.

A positive team can also generate creative ideas, boost morale and job satisfaction, reduce employee turnover, and foster a healthy work environment.

So if you're looking to boost your teamwork abilities, try implementing these strategies:

  1. Seek feedback. Ask your colleagues for input on your performance within a team setting, and use their feedback to identify areas for improvement.

  2. Actively participate. Engage in team discussions and contribute your ideas, even if you're not the most vocal or extroverted member of the group.

  3. Be dependable. Complete tasks on time and consistently deliver high-quality work.

  4. Practice conflict resolution. Learn how to address disagreements in a constructive and respectful manner, fostering a positive team atmosphere. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

Demonstrating teamwork ability during the hiring process

To show off your teamwork skills to potential employers, consider incorporating these tactics into your job search:

This is how you can show teamwork on your resume:

  • Use action words like "collaborated," "facilitated," or "supported" to describe your teamwork experiences.

  • Highlight any team projects or accomplishments, emphasizing your role in contributing to the team's success by using bold or italics.

And this is how you can show teamwork in your cover letter:

  • Dedicate two or three sentences to a specific example of how you've excelled in a team setting. Then, explain how these experiences prepared you for the position you're applying for.

And finally, this is how you can demonstrate teamwork in your job interview:

  • Be ready to discuss your teamwork experiences in detail, focusing on your contributions and the outcomes achieved. Using a STAR method comes in handy.

  • Be prepared to answer behavioral questions that explore your ability to work within a team, such as "Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult team member."

5. Emotional intelligence

Being a strong team member and a good communicator has a lot to do with being an emotionally intelligent person.

But what is emotional intelligence (EI)?

In short, it's the ability to recognize, understand, and manage our own emotions as well as the emotions of those around us. It's not just about being sensitive or empathetic; it's about using that understanding to navigate social situations and maintain positive relationships — including relationships in the workplace.

People with high emotional intelligence tend to be:

  • better team players
  • problem-solvers
  • effective communicators
  • they can adapt to change more easily
  • are more resilient in the face of setbacks

Thanks to that, research has shown that emotional intelligence is just as important as technical skills and IQ when it comes to predicting job success.

While for some, it's more challenging to develop emotional intelligence, the good news is that it can be developed and improved over time. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Practice self-awareness. Reflect on your emotions and try to identify your triggers. What are the things that make you angry or frustrated at work, and why? This will help you better understand yourself and how you react to or avoid certain situations.

  2. Work on self-regulation. Find healthy ways to manage your emotions at work, such as going for a walk, meditating, or talking to someone.

  3. Practice social skills. Engage in activities that require communication with others and train yourself to become a pleasant person to be around. For example, join a social club at work or start volunteering in your free time.

How to showcase emotional intelligence during the hiring process

Now that you've worked on enhancing your emotional intelligence, it's time to show it off to potential employers. Here are some ways to incorporate your EI into your resume and interview responses:

On your resume: Include specific examples of how you've used your emotional intelligence in the workplace. This could be through conflict resolution, leading team building, or adapting to change.

In an interview: Prepare stories that demonstrate your emotional intelligence in action. For example, you could share a time when you successfully navigated a difficult conversation or helped a colleague through a challenging situation.

Key takeaways

In conclusion, once you look at all of the most desired soft skills — communication, problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, and emotional intelligence — you'll see that they're, in fact, connected.

The person who's in possession of these qualities can be characterized as well-rounded, mature, and people-oriented. As a result, they'll be a valuable addition to any team in a wide variety of industries.

If you naturally don't possess these qualities, the idea of acquiring them may feel overwhelming right now. But there's nothing one can't improve with focus and consistent practice.

All you have to do is follow our tips in this article. We hope that you can make the most out of them, and we wish you the best of luck on your professional journey.

About the Author

Kaja Jurcisinova is a staff writer at Kickresume, the most accessible and visually innovative AI resume builder that has already helped more than 2.5 million people worldwide get hired at top companies.