"Are soft skills worth highlighting on a resume? And if so, what's a good way to do it?"
First things first: Yes, soft skills do play an important role in hiring. Employers aren't looking for robots that can only execute on a job description. They need people who can positively impact the culture and see what's around the corner- people with depth (this goes triple for executives btw). Soft skills are a way to address this. However, doing so CREDIBLY is something that trips many jobseekers up.
Simply put: if you've got a keyword section on your resume that has things like "Goal-Oriented" and "Emotional Intelligence" in there, you're doing it wrong!
1. Identify The Most Important Soft Skills to Highlight
Soft skills are like dessert- quality is more important than quantity! The first step is to thoroughly evaluate target job postings to identify major soft skills employers are on the lookout for (and that you possess).
Let's say you do this and identify the following skills:
- Interpersonal- ability to work in teams, relate to people, and manage conflict.
- Project Management- organization, planning, and consistently taking initiatives from start-to-finish. Not just for dedicated Project Managers anymore- many employers want to see this as a skill set for employees of all stripes.
- Problem Solving- ability to use creativity, logic, past work experience and available resources to solve issues.
2. Develop Powerful Accomplishments
If you've ever come across a resume which truly pops, chances are it's because soft skills have been tightly integrated with accomplishments. Hard numbers may reassure an employer that you're a safe bet, but they inspire little passion (that's why "dry" resumes which do nothing but list one metric after another tend to make your eyes glaze over). But when you add soft skills into the mix, ideally in a way that lends depth to you the PERSON (not just you the candidate) you've got something special.
Utilize the STAR Method to Reframe Career Accomplishments. Get away from day-to-day responsibilities. What wins did you pull off? What projects would have crashed and burned without your efforts? How did you better things? Now break down what you've come up with in the following manner:
S = Situation. What was the problem? Be as specific as possible. Overly general accomplishments do not work.
T = Task. What's the goal?
A = Action. Which specific steps did you take to reach the goal? Focus on what you did, not the team. If describing team contributions, be sure to credit them or risk looking like an egomaniac!
R = Result. Final outcome. This is the time to talk yourself up. Take credit for what you accomplished, and if you can highlight multiple positives, even better!
Now that you have your STAR accomplishments, integrate them within your resume. Remember: resume accomplishments are most effective when you highlight the result first, followed by how you got there. Here are examples of soft-skills based accomplishments which hew to this structure:
- Interpersonal: Established Risk Management as a key pillar of the organization, building and training 20-person in-house team responsible for ERM systems and processes development, as well as major cross-divisional initiatives.
- Project Management: Delivered over $5M in annual cost savings, along with improved business agility, through total project management of paper-to-digital record archiving initiative. Worked heavily with teams across Houston, Toronto, and London offices to attain aggressive 1-year implementation target.
- Problem Solving: Increased revenues by 12% through overhauling outdated and ineffective proposal process, consulting with SMEs within the industry, developing standardized language and offerings, and training 8 U.S. sales teams in adopting new approach.
One last tip, don't confine soft skills to just your resume! Weave them into the stories you share during the interview, and show employers that you consider them to be crucial to your worth.
Anish Majumdar is an internationally recognized Career Coach, Executive Resume Writer, and LinkedIn Expert. His posts and videos reach a combined audience of 30M professionals every month.
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