Find Your Next Job With The 5 Most Important Soft Skills

Whether you’re newly laid off or currently employed and looking for your next great role, now is the time to find it. The job market is healthy, unemployment is low and this is one of the biggest hiring months of the year. But there are also a lot of people looking for work. This means your application will need to stand out, your resume will have to get attention and your interviews must hit all the right notes.

Companies are looking for all kinds of skills, but it’s the soft skills which will set you apart—because soft skills aren’t really soft at all. They are the capabilities which ensure healthy teams, great leadership and effective cultures. When you have the chance to express your skills and capabilities—all of them—you contribute to your own happiness, but you also make a significant difference in the success of your organization.

New data demonstrates which soft skills are most in demand. These are what you’ll want to highlight so you can distinguish yourself as the candidate employers just won’t be able to pass up.

Making a Match

When employers seek new recruits, they’re looking for a great match to the skills they need and a constructive fit for their culture. But they’re also looking for people who can add new value and take teams and results to the next level. As a result, you increase your chances of getting hired when you align with their existing aspirations for a candidate and also demonstrate how you can add something fresh to the culture and the organization.

Employers are also looking for people who can hit the ground running today, but who have potential for future contribution as well—those who will develop and expand their skills and contributions. So think both present and future in the way you sell your talents.

On your resume and in your conversations, you’ll want to reflect key skills and use the terms which match what employers are seeking. But in your discussions, be sure to go beyond telling to showing what you can do. When you interact with recruiters demonstrate your friendliness and attention to detail. And when you’re interviewing be prepared with examples and stories which prove your leadership, innovation or flexibility.

Also be sure to ask questions yourself, so that you’ll get a match for your needs and a great company that you want to grow with over time. You’re making a case for yourself, but you also deserve the best, so be selective about what’s right for you.

The Skills and Characteristics to Highlight

These are the top areas to emphasize and explain throughout the touchpoints in the recruiting and selection process.

#1 – Leadership

No matter the role, organizations are looking for great leaders. Employers want people who will positively influence others, take initiative and set the stage for success. Data from global job board Adzuna, drawing on more than a million job ads, found that management was the number one capability organizations were seeking—reflected in 36% of ads. The characteristic of leadership was ranked number seven, and confidence was ranked number eight.

Use these words in your written materials (applications, resumes, and the like), but also share the story about how you identified an issue and took the lead to solve it. And talk about the moment when you motivated others around you.

You lead when you identify issues, solve problems, take initiative and engage others around you. These are the kinds of things to expand upon through examples. They will be the sticky stories which will convince employers you’re a great leader—whether or not you’ll have direct reports.

#2 – Fresh Thinking

Organizations also prioritize innovation. Market competition is fierce, and organizations are keenly aware they must continually innovate in order to win. And in order to be innovative, companies must hire innovative people.

That’s probably why a study by SimpleTexting–assessing six and a half million job ads posted on LinkedIn—found “innovator” was the number one characteristic identified in job ads. Likewise, the Adzuna data found innovation was number nine in the top ten skills desired. And the SimpleTexting data identified thought leadership as the sixth-most desired characteristic.

Use words like innovation and thought leadership, and be ready with the example of how you brought fresh thinking to the customer or got the project back on track by approaching the issue in a new way.

#3 – Energy and Positivity

These are challenging times with new models for work, heightened requirements for agility and greater expectations among teams. Data shows when people work with others who are engaged and productive, there is a positive spillover effect. As a result, organizations want to hire people who are adaptable and who work well with others under challenging circumstances. These characteristics have always been important, but especially in times when change is happening quickly and wellbeing is a priority, employers want people who will have a positive effect on others.

The Adzuna data found flexibility was the number two most important characteristic, and friendliness was number six in importance. Similarly, the SimpleTexting study found the second-most important characteristic sought by hiring organizations was “dynamic” and “team player” was number three.

People want to work with those who are energized, positive and likable. Of course you’ll have ups and downs because you’re human, but overall, make a case for your ability to work well with others. Share examples about how you stayed optimistic and determined in the face of a change, supported a colleague in a difficult situation or went all-out for a teammate.

#4 – Getting Things Done

With all the press about quiet quitting and the celebration of slacking, companies want more. They want to hire people who will demonstrate commitment and invest in their personal success as well as the accomplishments of the team and the organization. You don’t have to sell your soul or promise your first born, but you do need to show you’ll seek to contribute and to do your best.

The SimpleTexting data found a proven track record was number four in the list of top ten attributes companies were seeking, followed by people who were empowered (fifth) and self-starters (eighth). Your ability to motivate yourself, make things happen and inspire others will set you apart.

#5 – Doing Things Well

Of course companies don’t just want action or slipshod effort, they want to hire people who will do things well. According to SimpleTexting, they want people who are data-driven (ninth most important)—using evidence to guide their decision making. Adzuna data found employers also want organizational skills (fourth most important) and people who have attention to detail (tenth on the list).

Classic management theory defines that efficiency as doing things right and effectiveness as doing the right things. Companies want both, and these characteristics help define each. You’ll want to make a case about your persistence, perseverance and judgement in the positions you’ve had and how you’ll apply these in a new role.

Hard Skills

Beyond soft skills, the Adzuna data also identified the top job skills organizations are seeking. In order from most to least important, they are sales, engineering knowledge, reporting, email writing, Excel, finance knowledge, marketing knowledge, writing, business development and Microsoft Office skills. And according to SimpleTexting, many jobs will also require you to be literate in SQL, HTML, CRM, QA and B2B methodologies.

Making Your Mark

You will make your mark with potential employers in the recruiting process—and land the job—when you’re competent with basic job skills, but especially when you’re able to lead and inspire, energize and adapt and when you can not only get things done, but get them done well.

Reflect these in your application and your resume, but also be ready to articulate your experience and inspire with stories of where you’ve succeeded. Share examples of where you’ve stumbled and learned as well. Employers will love what you have to offer today, but also value where you’ll go (and grow) together over time.

And be sure to assess an organization as much as they’re evaluating you. You deserve a great fit today, as well as great potential for growth with the employer tomorrow.