Should you have a soft skills resume section?

Before focusing my business solely on soft skills solutions for companies and organizations, I offered resume writing services and worked with hundreds of individual job seekers. I created a soft skills resume section for my clients who received excellent feedback from employers and began landing interviews and job offers.

Of course, I recommend revising your entire resume—not just this section—but I strongly believe a tailored soft skills resume section will set you apart in your job search and improve your odds of landing interviews.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills—interpersonal skills—are a combination of talent and ability. In today’s world, many employees haven’t been taught essential soft skills and arrive at work lacking basics like time management, communication skills, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and more.

Why employers scan for soft skills on resumes

Employers cannot afford to hire candidates with weak soft skills. When they do, they invest significantly in new hires (throughout the hiring, onboarding, and training process) who will not be retained long-term. Poor hiring decisions affect productivity, collaboration amongst team members, morale, and company culture, too.

Did you know that 67% of HR managers said they’d hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if technical skills were lacking, while only 9% would hire someone with strong technical skills but weak soft skills? And that 93% of employers claim that soft skills are an essential or very important factor in making hiring decisions?

The bottom line is soft skills in the workplace is a big deal, and that’s not going to change.

If you’re revising your resume, understand that if you don’t highlight your soft skills and indicate specific ways you’ve showcased those soft skills in the past, employers may have to pass. Hiring a candidate who demonstrates poor soft skills—or who is silent about these skills altogether—is risky.

How to determine which soft skills to feature on your resume

Which 3-5 skills would you consider your best assets? It may be difficult to identify your strongest soft skills on your own. Get some help. Work with a career coach, your career services staff (if you’re in college), or check out a great list of soft skills online to get your brain churning. Talk to people who’ve worked with you in the past or former classmates. Ask them to help you identify which soft skills you’ve demonstrated repeatedly while working on projects.

Identify a job you’re interested in applying for. Did you know that most job postings can be broken down into three main components: company/organization description, job functions, and job requirements? Check out the job posting. Look for mention of soft skills throughout the job posting. In most cases, you will find these skills mentioned in either job requirements or job functions. Employers are desperately seeking candidates who already possess essential soft skills. It makes more sense to hire someone who does not require six months of training in communication skills than to hire someone who does.

Now you get to play match-up. Compare your top 3-5 soft skills with the skills’ preferences or requirements in the job posting. Hopefully the employer is looking for the same skills you feel are your greatest assets.

Jobscan can help automate this process by identifying soft skills in the job description and comparing it to what’s already on your resume.

Soft skills resume matching

Try it yourself here:

What if none of them match? Ask yourself a few questions.

  • A) Am I really qualified to apply for this position?
  • B) Do I possess the soft skills the employer is looking for, even though I don’t feel they’re my top 3-5?

If you can answer yes to these two questions, carry on.

Creating a soft skills section for your resume

Now that you know which soft skills to highlight on your resume, create a specific skills section. Call it something simple and straightforward. “Soft skills highlights” works fine.

You want to create no more than three bullet points featuring three soft skills in this section. Keep it simple and short. Each bullet point should summarize an example of a time when you demonstrated the soft skill you’re highlighting. Think of these bullet points as soft skill accomplishment statements. Remember to quantify and qualify your examples whenever possible.

Here are two examples to get you started:

  • Manages, multiple tasks, completing projects on time: Trained 450+ students in computer skills, maintained elementary school library, ordered library materials, managed 12 staff members.
  • Strategic problem-solver: Moved organization from fully-insured contract to self-insurance; saved $400,000 by negotiating with vendors.

Lastly, keep in mind you can’t create this section once and never look at it again if you want to create a hard-hitting resume. You should tailor this section each time you apply for a job. Why? Because each industry, company, and job role requires a unique set of soft skills. Each job posting will make it clear which soft skills you need to fit well within the organization and to succeed in the job role.

This section is not just an opportunity to showcase all your assets. It’s an opportunity to match your assets to the company’s preferences. Bottom line: It’s not just about you. It’s a two-way street, as with everything else in the hiring process.

 

One final thought: keep in mind that in order to highlight your soft skills on your resume, you must possess them. If you find yourself lacking great soft skills, do something about it. Seek some training or coaching. Don’t wait until your lack of soft skills causes you to miss a great promotion or to lose a terrific business opportunity.


Bethany Wallace - Soft Skills Resume CoachBethany Wallace helps facilitate communications transformation in the workplace through implementing soft skills solutions. Owner of a communications and consulting business, she helps mission-minded organizations, employers, and educational institutions to fulfill their missions by implementing soft skills solutions. She offers tailored training packages, executive coaching, professional development, and keynote presentations.

Bethany has worked for 12 years in higher education as an English faculty member, career services director, and advisor. She previously served as Content Manager for College Recruiter, a technical writer for HP, and has garnered management experience in the non-profit sector as well. In addition to managing her business, Bethany conducts research with business partners, volunteers in the community, and mentors other women. Connect with Bethany on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.

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