When you think of the skills you need to land a job, it can be tempting to focus on what are known as hard skills. Hard skills include technical or administrative skills that can be easily measured and quantified, such as computer and machine proficiency. But soft skills, which involve things that make you enjoyable and easy to work with, can be equally important. They are sometimes thought of as people skills. For job seekers, soft skills are particularly important, as they can make a difference when employers must choose between candidates with hard skill sets that are broadly similar.
Employers also tend to think of hard skills as more trainable than soft skills, so they may place greater value on the soft skills you demonstrate during an interview than on the hard skills demonstrated by your resume.
Soft skills are particularly important in the modern economy because of the prevalence of service-related and team-based jobs. Even employees with difficult-to-find hard skills can be unproductive if they cannot function in a team or handle a client or customer relations aspect of their job. The soft skills that are most important to an employer will vary, but in general they include the ability to listen well, a strong work ethic, self-confidence and knowledge of how to handle criticism effectively, flexibility, and a team-oriented outlook.
During a job search, you should conduct a self-assessment to determine which soft skills you excel at and which you might need to strengthen. In addition to taking steps to buff up your soft skill set, you should highlight your best soft skills in your resume and other job application materials. Employers often list particular soft skills as desirable qualities in job descriptions, so tune your search to match your strengths with an employer’s needs and be sure to demonstrate those skills during the hiring process.