List of Soft Skills Employers Love [2020 Updated]

soft skills

Soft skills are the types of skills that you might want to list on your resume, bring up in your cover letter or express during an interview. These are the skills that make a job seeker a more precise applicant for the company. They usually match the type of position or job function you’re applying or interviewing for.

All employees have soft skills. And all employees and job seekers should be mentioning the soft skills that they have. For example, “written communication skills.” This would be considered a soft skill. And is a widely respected soft skill as well.

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Why Are Soft Skills Important?

Mentioning soft skills allows an employer to feel more secure in your etiquette, talents, and abilities as a professional. Employers want to feel assured that you know how to conduct yourself in a professional environment. Whether this is with your other coworkers or when speaking with clients or customers.

When you list soft skills that you know are important to a particular job function, it shows the employer that you’ve had enough previous experience to recognize what’s important and what’s not important in your every day work.

What’s The Difference Between Hard Skills And Soft Skills?

Hard skills are abilities that have higher degrees of personal experience related to them. For example, your ability to do mathematics. Your ability to write. Your ability to engineer. Hard skills are more closely related to your personal talents.

When in contrast, a soft skill is something that comes along with that hard skill. Usually considered a function that allows you to do that hard skill more effectively. For example, if I were a professor, my soft skill would be “presentation skills” and my hard skill would be “University level educator.”

Soft Skills Are Changing Due To Technology Advances

One of the most influential pieces of knowledge that you might be able to gain from this article is that machines are covering more of the small tasks that are associated with your work life. This is because the advance of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has made minor details related to the work environment, almost effortless.

As you think about your soft skills, it will be vital that in the coming years, you position your skills as those are vital to the workplace, that can’t be replicated or replaced by machines.

This is not to be confused by the notion that your job will disappear. In fact, IBM recently performed a study that showed that few jobs will actually disappear. But what is fundamentally changing is the way we work.

For example, the IBM research showed that “occupations are down between 2010 and 2017. Across more than 18,500 tasks, for each occupation, on average, workers were asked to perform 3.7 fewer tasks overall in 2017 than seven years earlier.”

They also said, “Tasks that are more likely to be done by AI or machine learning are disappearing from employers’ job requirements more often than those more likely to be done by a worker.”

Once again, supporting the fact that our soft skills need to be positioned as tasks machines cannot perform.

Example Of Good Soft Skills For The Business & Finance Department

With that research in mind, if you were applying for a job within the business and finance department, here are the soft skills that you might not want to list on your resume due to the fact that they are becoming more automated.

They include:

What is becoming more important is:

As you can see, our soft skills are positioned as a very humanistic quality. Soft skills that might be more minor, will carry less weight.

Related: 7 Resume Length Mistakes To Avoid (How Long Your Resume Should Be)

Soft Skills And Your Industry

Another changing fact is that certain soft skills are more applicable to industries that they haven’t been before. For example, let us say you were applying for a position as a hairstylist, your soft skill of knowing “design” may be more important than you might think. This is because you might be able to help the business owner with marketing promotions or help with business operations. That soft skill can be a valuable addition to the team.

Related: How Long Should A Cover Letter Be? Ideal Word Count Revealed

When thinking about your soft skills, think about what other areas of interest your future employer might have a need for and how you might be able to highlight your abilities that come close to it. Think of 3-4 soft skills that are very relevant to the job function and then 1-2 that are slightly less relevant but still valuable to the business.

The Two Very Best Soft Skills To Show You Have (That Will Beat Artificial Intelligence)

New research by IBM (performed by the IBM Institute for Business Value study), after polling more than 18,500 tasks, has shown that the two very soft skills to show on your resume are time management and willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change.

These two skills make sense as it more closely resembles how a more modern business might be conducted. Where environments undergo rapid changes as they respond to more volatile market conditions for their business.

Best Modern Soft Skills To List On The Resume Or Cover Letter (Soft Skills List)

Times are changing. And so should your soft skills. While, there’s plenty to list that are classics, such as “verbal communication”, let’s start with the soft skills that are most distinguishable as presented by the recent IBM Watson research.

They are:

And a list of the more classic forms of soft skills would be:

Jennifer Stine, Vice President and Ph.D., at Academic Leadership Group supported some of our findings by saying, “teamwork, team leadership, the ability to work in diverse and multi-cultural environments and lead diverse and multi-cultural teams are all in-demand skills. The ability to adapt to change and lead through change will also be increasingly important. Another important area is the cross-disciplinary problem-solving.”

ATS Systems (Applicant Tracking Systems) And Soft Skills

When you’re thinking about what soft skills to list on your resume or bring up in your cover letter, it’s vital to understand what Applicant Tracking Systems are. Applicant Tracking Systems are tools that Human Resource departments use to help automatically scan the resume and cover letter documents for keywords. These keywords then help to prioritize the top candidates for the Human Resources team to look over.

Once again, we’re seeing a shift in the job market due to AI (Artificial Intelligence). What you need to know as a job seeker is that you’ll be required to think through how your resume and cover letter contain these keywords. For example, your discussion about “Stanford University” in your cover letter may target a keyword that causes you to be a more prioritized candidate.

Related: 8 Things You Need To Know About Applicant Tracking Systems by Jobscan

At all costs, keep your two soft skills to the ones that were proven to be most successful, as Applicant Tracking Systems will be searching for them. Remember, they are time management and willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change.

Writing And Talking About Your Soft Skills

Jennifer Stine, Vice President, and Ph.D., from Academic Leadership Group gave us a demonstration on how you’ll want to position your soft skills. She advises that you give situational examples, “Here is the situation I faced, and here is what I did. This can be done both in a cover letter and in an interview.”

Additional, Jennifer mentioned that when you’re thinking through your cover letter or resume, as it pertains to the summary level, “It is important to emphasize both technical skills and soft skills — they should be given equal attention.”

Skills FAQ

Questions from job seekers about their skills

Are these all transferable skills?

Yes. A transferable skill is something that can be taken with you from one job to the next. This is the development of personality traits that can make you a stronger professional. For example, a strong work ethic is something that your potential employer is going to value. Other skills like analytical reasoning, strong communication skills, critical thinking, and any other essential skill can show you've grown in your career and are ready for the next phase of your career.

Can these skills help me land a job interview?

Yes. But it is more vital to use your skills to describe your work than to list a skill section on your resume. It is the use of your skills that gained your work experience that will make your career stand out to the hiring manager or recruiter. Think of it this way, your professional skills is what makes you an effective worker. And this can be vital in your job search.

How would I describe my skills to a hiring manager or recruiter?

Think creatively about how you might be able to position your skills with the job you want. Think about what's allowed you to have some career success and how other job candidates might be positioning themselves. Then, try to position your skill sets as the tools you use to get work done. For example, don't simply state, "My communication skill is that I talk to teams". Or "My leadership skill is that I lead". Try to speak to what you've accomplished and let your skills be communicated that way.

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author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


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