Soft Skills & How to Sell Them
A guest writer from one of the UK’s leading jobs boards explains why soft skills are so important in the workplace. Find out what they are, and how best to talk about them in your CV and job interviews.
Teamwork photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Empathy and sense of humour are among the most in-demand soft skills
In the current post-Covid cost-of-living crisis, there is an abundance of jobs and a shortage of candidates. This could help explain why employers are increasingly interested in a candidate’s soft skills as well as – and even instead of – their experience.
This is excellent news if you’re a school leaver, student or graduate who has little work experience. Not only will these soft skills serve you in a job interview – they’ll also look good on your CV.
What is a soft skill?
Soft skills are those qualities that help you work well with others and make you an asset in the workplace. They are the behaviours or personality traits that make you a great co-worker and employee. They include qualities like empathy, willingness to learn, a sense of humour, time-management skills, and flexibility.
Having any of these qualities means you’re more likely to work well in a team, to cooperate with your co-workers and to accommodate growth and change as part of your working life.
Do you have any of these soft skills?
Even if you have no formal work experience, chances are you have one or more of these skills. Were you an active member of a club that required you to turn up on time and work as a group? Did you play a sport that required you to follow the rules of the game, train hard, and coordinate your efforts with your teammates?
Certainly, as a student you’ve had to learn how to stick to timetables and exam schedules. You’ve turned up to class and lectures, managed your workload, and taken responsibility for your own efforts and, sometimes, those of your fellow students.
It’s worth writing a list of soft skills and considering which ones apply to you.
How to include soft skills in your CV
When writing a CV, it can be useful to start with a CV template to get some ideas about both content and layout.
If you have no formal work experience, you can highlight your saleable skills in the ways we’ve already mentioned. Here’s an example that shows off a number of soft skills:
- As a student studying Business Management, I managed a workload that included two assignments, three seminars and five tutorials each term.
- I volunteered as club secretary for the university debate society, managing the accounts and the membership numbers.
- I worked as a student ambassador for the Student Union.
What you’ve shown here is: a willingness to get involved; timekeeping skills; experience of handing money; experience in a people-facing role; and, assuming you got your qualification, perseverance and determination.
If you do have work experience, you can add your soft skills to the list of experiences and regular skills you’ve acquired.
Highlighting soft skills in a CV: Example 1
Let’s say you worked as a marketing intern.
What you could say:
As a marketing intern, my key responsibilities were:
- Working as part of the FMCG marketing team
- Carrying out work as required
- Handling incoming emails and calls to the team
- Sending out marketing emails
What you should say:
As part of a busy FMCG marketing team with a global manufacturer whose revenues exceed £40m a year, my key responsibilities were:
- Proofreading and sending monthly marketing mailshots to 6,000+ business partners
- Participating in brainstorming sessions to develop new ideas
- Handling internal queries from co-workers and stakeholders, both written and in person, and responding or escalating as required
- Regularly liaising with the software team to discuss use cases
- Updating online marketing resources on a monthly basis
Not only have you added more flesh to the bones of your role – you’ve also demonstrated a broad range of skills: collaboration, teamwork, customer service, initiative, the ability to take decisions, and people skills.
Don’t forget that the purpose of a CV is to indicate to a recruiter not just what you’ve already done, but what you are capable of.
Highlighting soft skills in a CV: Example 2
Here’s another example to help demonstrate a great way to flesh out your CV and demonstrate your soft skills as well as your experience.
What you could say:
As a shop assistant, my key responsibilities were:
- Working in a small local hardware store
- Serving customers
- Restocking shelves
What you should say:
As a shop assistant at an independent hardware store, I was part of a small, enthusiastic team of counter staff. In this role I was responsible for:
- Meeting and greeting the shop’s customers
- Serving a variety of customers of all ages from the local town, including:
- listening to their requirements
- suggesting and advising on the best solution for their needs
- handling enquiries and complaints
- Researching products on the shop’s website to keep my skills up to date
- Learning about new products as they arrived
- Monitoring, replenishing and tidying the displays throughout the shop
As in Example 1, the two lists describe the same job role, but the second one indicates what you’re capable of, and gives a recruiter far more information about your experience, your skills and your potential.
How to demonstrate your soft skills at an interview
A job interview gives you the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your soft skills in real time.
First, aim to arrive promptly, with no more than 10 minutes to spare. This gives plenty of time for any security requirements, such as signing in, gives you time to compose yourself – and, most importantly, demonstrates your timekeeping ability.
How you conduct yourself throughout the interview gives you the opportunity to demonstrate several other soft skills, such as the ability to communicate effectively and confidently, to listen actively, and to collaborate effectively with those around you.
If you are given a test to complete in the interview, you can showcase qualities such as problem solving, flexibility and confidence.
Remember to show your personality. Let them see your curiosity and your sense of humour – soft skills like this are highly sought after.
Notice how many soft skills you’ve demonstrated without even referring to any past experience or your formal skillset!
How to describe your soft skills at an interview
When it comes to responding to interview questions, it’s worth preparing a few scenarios in advance. For example, think of an instance when you had to adapt quickly to change. Perhaps you turned up for a seminar and found your assignment partner was off sick. How did you manage the situation? Did you find a way to continue without your partner, or did you postpone? Were you happy with the outcome – what did you learn from the situation?
The ability to adapt to changing circumstances, to overcome adversity and maybe even to turn a situation to your advantage – all these demonstrate to an interviewer the kind of person you are, and whether or not you would be a good fit for the job on offer.
Practice makes perfect
Of course, you can’t prepare for every question that might arise in an interview, but it’s worth taking a look at common interview questions and preparing a few answers in advance.
It’s a great idea to get a friend or family member to ask you questions about your soft and core skills. Practise answering questions until you feel relaxed and confident – even if you’re thrown a curveball you haven’t prepared for.
Remember what the interviewer wants to know: are you the right fit for the job on offer? Don’t try and be someone you’re not, or you might find yourself in the wrong role!
By CV-Library’s Content Team
Founded by Lee Biggins in 2000, CV-Library is one of the UK’s largest online job sites and attracts over 4.3 million unique job seekers every month.
Find out more: