The 6 soft skills an employer wants to see on your CV

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As a job seeker you are striving to write a CV that ticks all the boxes for an employer. Having fully researched the company and the role, you have tailored your application to perfection and are now just awaiting the phone call or email back to confirm an interview – so what more do I need to do?

Well, unfortunately there are some less-obvious skills that an employer also wants to see on a CV, and they don’t usually appear on the job advert.

So what are these skills, and how can I achieve them? 

Try to imagine how many other candidates may have the exact same skills, qualifications and experience as you, and in some cases may even have more. When faced with so many good applicants, an employer has to delve deeper into a CV to find out if they really do have what it takes to work for their company.

The skills an employer also looks for are called ‘soft’, and there are six core soft skills  that matter to most employers.

What is a soft skill? 

According to ‘Child Trends‘,

“Soft skills refer to a broad set of skills, competencies, behaviors, attitudes, and personal qualities that enable people to effectively navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals. These skills are broadly applicable and complement other skills such as technical, vocational, and academic skills.”

A soft skill differs from a ‘hard’ or specific skill that relates directly to completing certain tasks. Here is a list of hard skills so you can see the difference –

  • Speaking another language
  • Typing speed
  • Operating machinery
  • Computer software programmer

A soft skill however relates to other skills you use outside of the ones above, and could also be considered personal traits or attributes. There are some soft skills which come natural, whilst others can often be difficult to obtain and are developed through work experience or direct training.

Here’s a great video which explains what soft skills are and why they are so important in the workplace:

But what are the most important soft skills to an employer?

Communication 

You’ll find very few jobs that don’t require some kind of communication between workers, departments and customers. But the type of communication skill that’s required will vary greatly from role to role. The key to showing the employer that you have the communication skills they are looking for is in knowing how the job functions.

Remember, you won’t get to demonstrate your communication skills in an interview if your CV isn’t up to scratch, and if this type of soft skill is essential for the position you need to get that message across in your application if you want to make it to the next stage.

Depending on the role, focus upon what matters to the company. For instance, a sales role clearly relies heavily on having great communication skills, and a great way to showcase this in your CV is to provide your previous sales/revenue numbers. Detail how you hit your targets consistently, as well as other achievements – top salesperson for 2018 for example.

Other roles require a lot of written communication – this could be between co-workers and customers. Your CV itself will be judged by the hiring manager to see how eloquent you are, so this would be the first place you have to ensure is absolutely perfect if you want to impress on your written communication.

Another great way to demonstrate this written soft skill is by providing links or examples of your work. This could be a blog post, article, or website that you’ve created. It could also be a journal, an essay or dissertation from university. These are all great ways of highlighting your written communication skills.

Ability to work well as a team 

There are not many roles out there that are completely solo, and even the smallest of interactions with other team members is likely to occur on a daily basis. Some occupations require constant interaction with co-workers and other departments, creating the need for a CV that clearly demonstrates this ability to a high level.

Don’t assume that your previous positions will identify this skill, as again you need to provide actual examples to prove this to the employer. Even if you have a huge amount of experience working as part of a team, this doesn’t mean to say you were effective.

The best way to prove to an employer that you have the team working skills they require is to provide examples of how your performance helped contribute to a successful outcome. Be careful not to make this part all about you and how your amazing efforts saved the day. Instead, focus upon how the team collectively achieved the success and explain what your role was. Too much attention on yourself in this situation could result in the employer perceiving you as over confident, which would never work well in a team.

A great team player is someone who is able to give and take constructive criticism and feedback, and move forward together as a well oiled machine. You would also have to be a very helpful and selfless individual who would go out of there way without a second thought to assist someone in need. 

Work ethic 

Having a strong work ethic is probably one of the most important soft skills an employer would expect to see in each of its employees. This kind of personal attribute will ensure you arrive to work on time, offer to help other departments, work overtime when necessary, and much more.

An employee who has a great work ethic will often be more valuable than someone who is highly qualified, but lacks the drive to succeed. So how do you achieve a strong work ethic?

To become a hard worker you often have to be passionate about what you do, feel a sense of achievement and reward, and have a positive mental attitude. Without just one of these aspects you would probably struggle to have a strong work ethic. So it’s vital that you are applying for a job you enjoy and are happy with the benefits you will receive from your performance.

The hardest part about having a strong work ethic is proving this to an employer on your CV. How would you go about that?

There are lots of ways you can demonstrate this on your CV –

  • Work related hobbies
  • Examples of overtime
  • Examples of going that extra mile for a company and/or customer
  • Attendance record
  • Great sales figures – hitting targets

Overall, your CV has to ooze ‘hard work’ and dedication for the career you love.

Time management/organisation 

An efficient employee will be able to manage their own time effectively, and always be well organised and focused upon achieving all the daily tasks and goals. Once your initial induction and training has been completed, you will have to fly from the nest and run things on your own. Your time management skills will now be put to the test, and your effectiveness as an important team member will rely on how well you can organise yourself to ensure everything that needs to be done – gets done.

An employer will usually have processes in place to help you keep organised – a diary/calendar system, pen and paper, whiteboards, system processes, and so on. Making good use of these will help ensure you meet deadlines and keep efficient throughout the day. However, there are also many instances when you would need to come up with your own solutions to help things run smoothly.

An employer will always provide the necessary tools to do the job, but someone who is great at managing their time and organising their tasks will go that one step further by creating their own systems. In some cases these improvements may turn out to be an idea that’s rolled out to other team members and departments.

To show that you have this soft skill in abundance your CV could provide examples of how you consistently met deadlines, managed projects to success, and/or came up with some fantastic ideas to make things go smoother. 

Problem solving 

A great problem solver will be able to carry out their duties each day with little involvement from management or other team members. The ability to solve an issue, whether it’s internal or a customer complaint will save a lot of time, energy and training. Again, some people are able to create solutions quite naturally, whilst other employees may need more guidance and help from their team or manager.

A good problem solver always has a fantastic knowledge of the business – the customer, the product/service, the daily tasks, and so on. To demonstrate your problem solving skills on your CV, consider any past scenarios where you overcame adversity to solve a difficult situation.

Leadership skills 

This will not always apply to every role, so you have to bear this in mind when constructing your CV. Of course, if you’re applying for a management or supervisory position, then showcasing this soft skill would be an integral part of your CV and you’d fail without it.

When applying for a role beneath the management level, consider taking a lighter approach to demonstrating leadership qualities in case you over step the mark. You don’t want the employer to assume you’re looking for an instant promotion to management level, as this approach could put them off.

If you do have aspirations to reach a management position within the company, and you feel that showing some leadership qualities in your CV would help your cause further down the line and impress the employer now – then go ahead. Have a few examples on your CV whereby you were called upon to supervise or train other team members. Or even show examples of when you stepped up and thought like a manager to solve a problem.

In a lot of cases you need to be very subtle with showing your leadership qualities, and use it to your advantage. Most employers like to see someone who can think for themselves, solve problems, and step up above their pay grade from time to time when necessary. Although the soft skill of leadership is probably not nearly as important as the other five, you could find that this is the icing on the cake.

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