Soft skills are the secret to getting a job: here’s how to find yours
Ruth Bushi

Soft skills are the secret to getting a job: here’s how to find yours

The key to being more employable isn’t what you know – it’s what you’ve done that can make the difference.

First published date June 07 2018 Amended date June 07 2018

When it comes to being employable, you’ll hear a couple of terms bandied about a lot. If you want an effective CV, you’ll need to know how they work!

Hard skills are job-specific and qualify you to do a particular role or work in a certain industry. That might include being familiar with certain software and processes or having a certificate or experience of similar roles.

Soft skills are far more flexible. You can pick them up through academic or personal life, and they’re relevant across lots of jobs. These transferable skills are more about behaviours and personal qualities than qualifications: punctuality and people skills, for instance.

Soft skills are your secret weapon

Going on about your patience, perseverance or Duke of Edinburgh award isn’t just a CV space filler – a 2018 survey by LinkedIn reveals soft skills are more important to some employers than hard skills. Here’s why they’re a winner:

  • Soft skills trump lack of experience or a career break. They may even outdo hard skills altogether for some roles or employers.
  • Re-evaluating your personal skills can open up more or overlooked positions to apply for.
  • They help employers spot multitaskers who can contribute company-wide, rather than just in one position.
  • If you’re ever short-listed for a job, life experience could even nudge you past another candidate with the same qualifications.

For all those reasons, regularly reviewing and bulking up on soft skills can make a difference throughout your career. Let’s dig into it a bit more.

The transferable skills employers want

According to LinkedIn, four skills are in demand right now:

  1. Leadership
  2. Communication
  3. Collaboration
  4. Time management

As with anything else that makes onto your CV, the most crucial skills are the ones relevant to the role you’re applying for. Other popular attributes include:

  • Being able to make a good argument or persuade others
  • Creativity, or thinking outside the box
  • Confidence with numbers, oral presentations or technology
  • Decision making
  • Empathy
  • Going the extra mile
  • Problem solving
  • Perseverance or patience
  • Research, analytical and reporting
  • Teamwork.

There are tons more you’ll see listed in job ads or implied in the application pack. Go through both with a fine-toothed comb to spot them! There are even predictions on the skills that will make you successful in the future.

Finding your soft skills

Soft skills come from lived experience. They’re things you learn for yourself by doing them – and you can pick them up almost anywhere.

Studying (academic or personal development)

Essays and presentations cover persuasion, research and analysis right off the bat. Depending on your course and how it was delivered, you may also have collaboration and communication skills, not to mention attendance and deadline-meeting super powers.

Hobbies and student societies

Showing up regularly on time for activities shows commitment, time management and (for group events) team work. Solo player? You might have evidence of initiative, being able to work alone, or problem solving instead.

Family and personal life

Learned to juggle conflicting priorities, keep others on schedule, keep the peace, overcome adversity or achieved goals? Bingpot.

You have to ‘prove’ soft skills

Job-boosting soft skills can’t help you if you sit on them! Unlike qualifications and certificates, you have to demonstrate how you’ve used soft skills.

Once you’ve identified which you have, think of a specific time you used each one, and what the outcome was. Turn it into an anecdote that you can drop into your CV or bring up at interview.

Keep working at it

Soft skills aren’t just face-savers when you’re light on work experience – they’re hugely valuable to employers in their own right. Course providers have cottoned on to this, so there are places and modules to develop new or existing skills, but remember that the most valuable qualities ultimately come from experience and practice.

Once you’ve identified the skills you have, find ways to build stronger evidence for them, or to grab fresh skills. Even throwing yourself into a personal challenge this year could arm you with attributes to crow about, so don’t just think it: do it!


Ruth Bushi

Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK's largest student money advice site.