Gaining Soft Skills to Boost Your Résumé

by Ashley Eneriz

When employers look at résumés and interview potential hires, they aren’t just looking for someone with work experience and a degree. Yes, hard skills and technical know-how—such as speaking a different language or having the ability to write code—are attractive to employers. But all occupations require a certain set of soft skills for job success, too! With this in mind, it’s wise to work on honing these skills to boost your résumé.

What Are Soft Skills, and Why Are They So Important?

Soft skills are a set of abilities that relate to your personality or habits. Stephanie Cothran, a career consultant at Azusa Pacific University, noted that soft skills can be difficult to quantify but often center around communication and other abilities that can be more challenging to teach. She explained that in the field of nursing, for example, a great bedside manner is considered a soft—yet very important—skill.

Some examples of other soft skills include:

  • Cooperative mentality
  • Organization
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Time management
  • Adaptability

Hard skills are often touted as the most desirable traits in job applicants, but soft skills are just as important to have, as they can influence how an employee excels in the workplace. “When hiring managers are thinking about who they want to hire, they’re thinking about character,” Cothran said. “They can teach you the hard skills, but it takes a lot of resources to teach those soft skills.”

The Best Soft Skills to Boost Your Résumé

Every occupation will benefit from different sets of soft skills. For example, the personality traits that make a powerful defense attorney can differ from the soft skills that make a successful creative marketing manager.

Yet some soft skills are essential to every occupation. Cothran said that charisma, work ethic, and communication skills are essential to highlight when you’re searching for a job. She added that a skill like critical thinking is one of the most sought out abilities.

“These are all things that you would not want to put in your skills section,” Cothran said. “But if you’re able to show them in the context of your positions, then people are able to see that.” For example, to show leadership skills, list how you led a volunteer group or fundraising event.

How to Determine If You Have a Gap in Your Soft Skill Set

If you want to increase your chances of getting the job you want, Cothran suggested researching the top soft skills in your specific industry and then asking honest people in your life to let you know when you’re missing the mark on certain soft skills.

For example, if you’re planning to go into health care and your parents help you realize you have a gap in empathy, don’t become discouraged. “Bring it to the Lord,” Cothran said. “This is where our faith has opportunities to manifest itself.” Your lack of empathy doesn’t mean you need to switch degrees, but rather pray for understanding and compassion, and take active steps to strengthen your empathy.

How Do You Learn Soft Skills?

Soft skills may not be as easy to learn as a hard skill like accounting or typing. Colleges don’t offer courses on empathy or give out certifications when you learn to be adaptable. Instead, taking a diverse load of courses each semester will help mold these desirable soft skills within you.

“Take classes that help you build self-awareness,” said Cothran. “Maybe get outside of your comfort zone and take an art class.” Cothran also recommended taking classes in ministry and sociology because they require students to be reflective and ask deeper questions.

Other activities such as volunteering, traveling, or wilderness exploration can develop soft skills such as quick thinking or teamwork. For example, when you’re navigating a new country, you have to communicate well with your traveling companions and with strangers. And you can’t help but exercise your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking skills when you spend time camping with limited essentials!

Interested in learning more about soft skills that will boost your résumé and help you succeed in your chosen career path? Get in touch with Azusa Pacific University’s Career Center to get one-on-one support as you pursue your calling.