Home > Basics > What Are Soft Skills? Definition and Examples

What Are Soft Skills? Definition and Examples

woman looking at resume

Forage puts students first. Our blog articles are written independently by our editorial team. They have not been paid for or sponsored by our partners. See our full editorial guidelines.

Soft skills are non-technical skills that describe how you work and interact with others. Unlike hard skills, they’re not necessarily something you’ll learn in a course, like data analytics or programming. Instead, they reflect your communication style, work ethic, and work style.

>>MORE: Jumpstart your career with National Urban League’s Career Readiness Virtual Experience Program.

These skills include everything from how you talk to teammates to how you think about workplace problems. In this guide, we cover:

Why Forage?

Our free courses are designed to help you get noticed by the world's top employers and build practical, valuable, real-world career skills.

Soft Skills at Work

Soft skills apply to all kinds of jobs and careers. For example, a professor and an investment manager can both be great communicators and have exceptional leadership skills, although how those skills translate into their professions can look quite different. No matter what field you’re interested in, these skills won’t just come in handy — they’ll be integral to your success at a company.

“We all have soft skills because they are part of who we are,” Sabrina Cortes, resume writer, says. “Top soft skills are teamwork, attention to detail, time management, organization, verbal and written communication, leadership, emotional intelligence, adaptability/flexibility, problem-solving/conflict resolution, and interpersonal skills … Unfortunately, all too often, these personality traits are overlooked [by applicants]. But they play a role in each job out there.”

What Are Soft Skills Examples?

list of soft skill examples

These skills generally fall into several different categories:

Communication Skills

Communication skills describe how you interact with the people you work with — from your boss to your friendly colleague to an important client. These skills are vital in getting your ideas across in a meeting, sharing status updates on a project, or effectively negotiating with a coworker about how to move forward. Some soft communication skills include:

  • Public speaking
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Confidence
  • Friendliness
  • Empathetic listening

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills are essential in all types of roles, even if you’re not directly managing someone. Adding these skills to a resume shows your potential employer that you’re confident in taking charge and leading by example. Some soft leadership skills include:

  • Decision-making
  • Adaptability
  • Team-building
  • Reliability
  • Delegation

Teamwork Skills

No one works in a silo, even if they’re on a team of one. Teamwork skills are critical in any job to work harmoniously with stakeholders across projects, teams, and departments. These skills aren’t just about getting along, though. It’s also essential to know when to disagree and push back to get the best result. Some soft teamwork skills include:

  • Empathetic listening
  • Conflict resolution
  • Rapport-building
  • Decision-making
  • Respectfulness

Problem-Solving Skills

Companies hire people to help them solve problems and find the best solutions. No matter what role you’re taking on, you’ll need to think creatively, analytically, and logically to understand why problems are happening and how to solve the issue.

Whether it’s understanding why there’s not enough traffic to a website or how to raise students’ test scores, problems in the workplace are everywhere, and companies want new hires to bring fresh and innovative ways to solve them. Problem-solving skills include:

  • Analysis
  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Innovation

Critical Thinking Skills

These skills help people identify the root cause of an issue. Critical thinkers analyze, research, identify, and think outside the box to make sense of information. At work, critical thinking helps people solve problems and challenge preconceived notions to help create the best path forward. Some soft critical thinking skills include:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Research
  • Questioning
  • Decision-making

Time Management Skills

Time management skills ensure employees perform their jobs efficiently and productively. While time management is essential to any role, these skills are critical in hybrid and remote work environments. Employers want to know they can trust employees to get things done even if they’re not physically in an office with them. Some time management skills include:

  • Prioritization
  • Detail-oriented
  • Diligent
  • Ambitious
  • Motivated

Why Are Soft Skills Important?

These skills are indispensable to employers because they make you an engaged, communicative employee and a helpful team member. Knowing your soft skills can also help managers understand the big picture of how you work and interact with others.

“Employers want to see how well [potential employees] work with people and can think beyond their learning,” Joanne Rosen, Chief Operations Officer at Write Choice Resumes, explains.

Soft skills are also integral to your success at a company. According to a Leadership IQ study, 89% of new hire failures were a result of poor soft skills, not a lack of technical failures. New hires were more likely to fail because they lacked soft skills like coachability, emotional intelligence, and motivation. Only 11% of new hire failures were a result of technical incompetence.

These kinds of skills not only show your employer why you’re fit for the job, but also that you’re more likely to succeed once you land the role.

Yet not all soft skills are created equal in employers’ eyes. According to a 2022 survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 86% of employers are looking for problem-solving skills on student resumes; 76.3% say they value the ability to work on a team.

Conversely, employers in 2022 do not value verbal communication skills as much as they did in previous years. In 2021, 73.2% said they valued these skills but in 2022, that percentage fell to 58.8%. Written communication skills are becoming a priority in an increasingly remote and asynchronous workforce.

“In my experience, it’s valuable [for students] to convey these three key soft skills: time management, communications, and customer service,” 5X Certified Resume Writer Virginia Franco says. “They are most relevant to entry-level success across diverse industries and job functions.”

What Soft Skills Should I Include on My Resume?

One of the best ways to know what skills to include on your resume is to look at the job description. Just as you’d include hard skills based on a job description’s requirements, reading what a company is looking for can help determine what skills to include.

Is the company looking for someone who can handle communicating big ideas with customers and clients? Demonstrate those communication skills. Does it want someone strategic who can tackle big issues? Show that you’re an excellent problem-solver.

If you have other soft skills that don’t necessarily relate to the job description or what the company is looking for, you can leave them off your resume.

How to Include Soft Skills on a Resume

Resume experts agree that you don’t necessarily need a dedicated skills section to flaunt your soft skills on a resume.

“Soft skills need to be demonstrated, not listed,” Rosen says. “Example: Rescued at-risk account by communicating with the client about needs and creating innovative customer-facing solutions.”

By using the phrases “communicating” and” “creating innovative, customer-facing solutions,” the candidate shows off their communication skills and problem-solving skills.

You can also use a professional summary to flex these skills.

“I like to mix soft skills with hard skills,” Wendi Weiner, attorney and resume expert, says. “You can include a sentence in your professional summary that speaks to some of your soft skills. Example: ‘Record of leading projects from concept to completion through strong problem solving, team building, and solid time management.’ The hard skill in this sentence is project management, and it’s leveraged by the soft skills of problem-solving, team building, and time management.”

If you do include a skills section on your resume, you can use the same section to list both hard and soft skills. It’s a great way to save on space while sharing a well-rounded picture of your abilities.

Looking for other ways to prepare yourself for entering the workforce? Learn the skills you need to launch your career with ANZ’s Job Ready: Workplace Skills Virtual Experience Program.

Image credit: GaudiLab / Depositphotos.com