What Are Soft Skills?

soft skills

Theresa Chiechi / The Balance


Soft skills are non-technical skills that relate to how you work. They include how you interact with colleagues, how you solve problems, and how you manage your work.

Key Takeaways

  • Soft skills are non-technical skills that impact your performance in the workplace.
  • You likely already have soft skills from your school and work experience.
  • You can also develop soft skills at work, school, volunteer activities, and by participating in training programs and classes.
  • Include your soft skills in your resume and cover letter.
  • Demonstrate your soft skills during job interviews.

How Soft Skills Work

Soft skills relate to how you work. Soft skills include interpersonal (people) skills, communication skills, listening skills, time management, problem-solving, leadership, and empathy, among others. They are among the top skills employers seek in the candidates they hire because soft skills are important for just about every job.

Hiring managers typically look for job candidates with soft skills because they make someone more successful in the workplace. Someone can be excellent with technical, job-specific skills, but if they can't manage their time or work within a team, they may not be successful in the workplace.

Soft skills are also important to the success of most employers. After all, nearly every job requires employees to engage with others in some way.

Another reason hiring managers and employers look for applicants with soft skills is that soft skills are transferable skills that can be used regardless of the person's job. This makes job candidates with soft skills very adaptable and flexible employees.

Alternate names: Interpersonal skills, essential skills, noncognitive skills

Example of Soft Skills

Soft skills are particularly important in customer-based jobs, for example. These employees are in direct contact with customers. It takes several soft skills to be able to listen to a customer and provide that customer with helpful and polite service.


Even if you're not in a client-facing role, you need to be able to get along with co-workers, managers, vendors, and other people you interact with at work.

Types of Soft Skills

Soft skills include the personal attributes, personality traits, and communication abilities needed for success on the job. Soft skills characterize how a person interacts in his or her relationships with others.

Soft skills include:

How To Get Soft Skills

Unlike hard skills that are learned, soft skills are similar to emotions or insights that allow people to “read” others. These are much harder to learn, at least in a traditional classroom. They are also much harder to measure and evaluate.

Job Training Programs

Some job training programs cover soft skills. They may discuss soft skills so job seekers know what they are and the importance of highlighting them on their resumes. There are also free online courses that can help you improve your soft skills.

On-the-Job Training

If you've been working for a while, chances are you've already developed some soft skills. For example, if you've worked in retail, you've worked in a team environment. If you've helped unhappy customers find a resolution, you've used conflict resolution and problem-solving skills.

Education and Volunteering

If you're new to work, think of other activities you've done, either through school or on a volunteer basis. Chances are you've had to communicate, adapt to changes, and solve problems.

You can also reflect on the soft skills you need to develop. For example, instead of just discussing problems with your manager, suggest solutions to those problems. If you see a colleague struggling, offer to pitch in. If there's a process that could improve your workplace, suggest it.


Employers typically don't directly ask if you have soft skills. Instead, they present situations and ask what you would do to assess whether you have soft skills.

How To Highlight Your Soft Skills

When you're applying for a new job, highlight your soft skills, as well as your job-specific ones. First, make a list of the soft skills you have that are relevant to the job you want. Compare your list of soft skills with the job listing.

Include some of these soft skills in your resume. You can add them to a skills section.

You can also mention these soft skills in your cover letter. Pick one or two soft skills you have that appear to be the most important for the job you’d like. In your cover letter, provide evidence that shows you have those particular skills.

Finally, you can highlight these soft skills in your interviews. You can demonstrate your soft skills during the interview by being friendly and approachable. If you pay close attention while the interviewer is talking, you will show your listening skills.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why are soft skills important?

Soft skills are important because they help you work well with others. Communication skills, teamwork, and adaptability enable you to connect with co-workers, express your ideas, receive feedback, and achieve consensus. 

How can I improve my soft skills?

You can learn new soft skills or improve your existing skill set through online classes, leadership training, and mentorship programs. You can also build your people skills simply by identifying your growth areas and setting goals to improve. For example, if you know you need to learn better listening skills, you can start by listening carefully to what co-workers say and asking for clarification when you need it. 

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. CareerOneStop. "Soft Skills."

  2. iCIMS. "New Research Defines the Soft Skills That Matter Most to Employers." 

  3. South Dakota Department of Education. "Soft Skills." 

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