A soft skill is not something that every job seeker has heard of, and because of this are missing a huge opportunity to write a better job application. So what is a soft skill and why are they important for a CV?
Let’s start with hard skills as these are easy to explain. A hard skill relates to something specific. This could be typing, accountancy, machine operation, software use, and so on. These specific or hard skills are often a requirement when applying for a job. So if you don’t have them or the essential qualifications, you may not even be able to apply.
For more information on the hard skills you can use for your CV, see our list of hard skills.
Soft skills refer to a whole range of more personal attributes – communication, problem solving, organisation, etc. Depending on the role you would be required to have a high level of soft skills in certain areas. When applying for a sales role you would be expected to have great communication skills, and an employer would want you to demonstrate this on your CV.
There are certain soft skills which are the most common an employer would want to see on a CV. Find out which in our article ‘‘The 6 soft skills an employer wants to see on your CV’.
A huge mistake most job seekers make on their CV is to write cliché statements:
‘I have fantastic communication skills and am able to work well as part of a team’
The problem with this is that the employer is not able to take your word for it, and would instead prefer you to write a CV that clearly shows you are capable in this area. This brings us on to how you can show your soft skills on a CV:
Start with the job advert
Before you attempt to add soft skills to your CV you need to have an understanding of which ones are relevant to the employer. The way a job advert is written varies greatly from one to the next. Some are easier to see which soft skills are required, whilst others can be tricky.
Let’s look at a paragraph from an example job advert. The title is Customer Sales Advisor for a company which sells warranties for electrical appliances. We have also highlighted the most important parts:
Your role as a Customer Sales Advisor will mean you are the first point of contact for a new customer. You will talk the customer through our warranty process and answer any questions they have. You will be required to take opportunity of every call to help and advise our customers on the warranty available in accordance with their needs.
When you come across a job advert like this you can begin to realise which soft skills would look great on your CV. The most obvious soft skill is communication, but you can see there is a sales angle to this also. The company is clearly expecting you to be able to up-sell their warranty products and generate more revenue. Building up a rapport with the customer is essential if you want to gain their trust and confidence in your recommendations.
Let’s take a look at the soft skills we’ve deduced from this paragraph:
- Sales skills
- Ability to build up a rapport
Bear in mind that this is only a short part of a longer job advert, so there is likely to be a lot more soft skills you can extract. With this new found knowledge you are in a very strong position to write a far better CV.
Avoid bloated words and phrases
“Bloated resumes are filled with words that talk around your skills and say nothing about your actual accomplishments. Hiring managers and recruiters have a trained eye to these fluff words and will perceive a poor impression of your abilities”, so say experts at the Sparks Group, a leading recruitment agency. Instead, use words like these alongside your achievements to SHOW rather than TELL an employer that you have the requisite skills:
Use your work experience or education
Making bold statements about your soft skills and personal attributes is not going to cut it. Many years ago you would probably get away with simply stating you have these skills, but if you want to move with the times you have to take a different approach.
The standard of CV writing along with the expectations of the employer has risen dramatically in the last decade. This is mainly down to the amount of help you can now find online, and with the recent surge in popularity in using CV templates, both the content and the presentation is now far better than it has ever been.
With expectations so high you cannot afford to write a generic CV with lots of cliché statements. Instead, you should use your work experience and/or education to demonstrate the relevant soft skills. This is a far better approach as you have a credible way to provide the evidence an employer needs when selecting candidates for an interview.
An outdated way of presenting the work history for a CV is to list all the tasks and responsibilities for each role. This is now considered a lazy approach and should be avoided if you don’t want to bore the reader. Employers are only looking for what matters to them and by providing only relevant information you are in a better position to outshine your competition.
Don’t be afraid to give actual numbers and figures on your CV which prove your high level of performance. This could be revenue generated, problems solved, contracts negotiated, and so on. The employer would be able to recognise that without certain soft skills, you would have not been able to achieve what you did.
Example of integrating soft skills into your CV
Listing a task does not give any indication of how you actually performed that task. It demonstrates that you are familiar with the task, but provides the employer with no evidence as to how you performed and what you achieved.
Think back to all of your previous roles and look for job which required you to use the required soft skill effectively to achieve high results.
To give the employer a clear indication of your level of performance you should provide details of how you demonstrated the soft skill, along with your results. Those two ingredients will instantly provide credibility and increase your chances of getting an interview.
“Use your stories, your experiences. Because you are so much more than a couple of keywords.” ~ Lily Zhang @ The Muse
Here is a brief example. You can find a lot more examples on our CV templates page: ‘198 free CV templates in Microsoft Word‘.
I managed teams from 10 to 50 people, achieving the completion of all projects on time and to budget with budgets ranging from £300k – £1.2m. I managed several high visibility projects concurrently Agile methods in a fast-paced environment across multiple disciplines, partnering with Creative, Account Management, Planning and Production departments.
I was responsible for planning, leading, organising, and motivating teams, achieving a high level of performance and quality with all projects delivered on time and on brief. This required me to negotiate and prioritise stakeholders’ requirements in line with my knowledge of the company’s needs.
I used good judgement and skill to create a bespoke project management approach in each situation that was suitable for planning and managing the effort to achieve the project goals within designated project constraints. I also resolved several major difficulties across two of the projects, taking a creative approach to problem-solving and focusing on details while maintaining the “big picture” view.
To support the growth and development of my teams, I launched a successful mentoring programme and brought 23 junior members of the team through to intermediate level as a result, 5 of which I mentored personally. This in turn improved staff turnover rates in the department with a 25% decrease.