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These days, in the age of the internet and the proliferation of cookie-cutter online guides for preparing your resume, companies are commonly inundated with dozens, maybe even hundreds of resumes for each job opening that may all look very similar. Everyone knows how to list their employment history and ‘hard’ skills on their resume - such as their certifications, qualifications and job-related practical skills.
Listing your ‘soft’ skills is something that most people don’t put a lot of thought into, but it’s a way for you to go one step further and make your resume stand out from those who have only listed the practical things they can do.
If you’re unsure about where to start, here’s a quick guide to identifying and listing your soft skills on your resume:
What Exactly Are “Soft Skills?”
Let’s start by defining what soft skills are. The one thing that this phrase doesn’t mean is that you are “soft” – meaning that you are a soft or weak people manager, and that you let people push you around. Far from it.
Soft skills are also referred to as ‘people skills’ or ‘transferable skills’. The term can apply to any of a myriad of different traits you may have that enable you to be flexible, adaptable, and good with people.
Here are some examples of positive soft skills:
- Being a happy, optimistic person
- Getting on well with others
- Having self-confidence and being confident in your work
- Being dependable and reliable
- Have a good sense of humor
- Being great with customers and co-workers
- Being compassionate
- Having tact and knowing when to use it
- Being good at selling yourself
- Being open and non-judgmental
- Being good at resolving conflicts
- Being a good communicator
- Knowing how to listen
- Able to motivate, inspire and lead others
- Having emotional intelligence
Why Having Good Soft Skills Makes You More Hireable
When they build a resume to help then get a job, most people focus almost exclusively on the ‘hard’ facts, such as where they went to school or university, what qualifications they have, where they worked and for how long.
The trouble with such a resume is that it says almost nothing about you as a human being. For example, two wildly dissimilar people – let’s call them Bob and Billy - could attend the same college, get the same grades, follow similar career paths and then apply for the same job. Presented with their resumes side by side, how would a recruiter choose between them?
Traditionally, that is what the interview is for: to help the hiring manager choose between a number of equally qualified candidates who all "look good on paper". But what information does the interview add that is not available on these two resumes? The answer is that the recruiter gets to see your character when they meet you in person, which is not something that is easy to capture on a two-page paper resume.
But what if you could capture some of your personality on your resume? You can, if you list your soft skills and do it well. Let me explain a little further.
Going back to Bob and Billy, maybe Bob is very open and confident, but he’s also very outspoken, rude and pushy to the point where he often offends people – including clients. Billy may be a little shy and it takes him a while to warm up to you, but he is well-liked by his current staff and his clients love his warmth and friendliness.
If Billy lists his soft skills on his resume, he will straight away have an advantage over Bob. The company recruiter may not then need to invite them both to an interview to know that Billy is the better hire.
How to Provide Proof of Your Soft Skills On Your Resume
What if Pushy Bob lies on his resume about his "amazing" skills with people? There’s nothing to prevent him from doing so. Bob may even be able to get through the interview without revealing his less-than-desirable personality flaws. Sweet Billy can still win the job by making himself sound so appealing on paper that Bob never gets invited to the interview.
How? Through presenting his personality on paper in a way which provides proof to the potential employer that he is telling the truth.
Here are our top 4 methods for selling your soft skills on your resume:
1. Provide Employer Testimonials
In the old days, these used to be called references. These days, nobody has the time to call up your three ex-bosses and ask them if you were a nice person. If a company is really interested in you, they may do this after the interview prior to making the hiring decision, but certainly not before it.
You can move things along a lot faster if you contact your old employers and ask each to email you a few lines about what you were like as a person to work with. Not just whether you hit your sales figures, but more in-person details such as whether you were always on time to work, how you got on with your colleagues and whether they would work with you again.
When you have 2-3 good replies, add these onto the end of your resume in the place you’d traditionally provide your professional References. If the employers are willing, you can add their name and number or contact email in case the recruiter wishes to confirm the references are real, or to talk about you further.
2. Provide Co-Worker Testimonials
As above, but ask your old co-workers to say something nice about you that they wouldn’t mind you sharing with a new employer. These carry slightly less weight than a testimonial from your boss or manager, but if you can’t get an old employer to respond to you (or say anything nice about you!) then this is an acceptable replacement.
If you use LinkedIn, the site provides a handy feature called Recommendations which will allow you to use a built-in wizard that will automatically message your connections and ask for a reference. Better still, these nice mini-references are displayed on your LinkedIn profile page. If you have a ton of recommendations, this will straight away make you look better to potential employers.
3. Provide Customer Testimonials
These are harder to get hold of than the above two options, but if a customer or past client has mentioned you by name in a positive online company review such as a Yelp review, you can use it on your resume. Anything posted online is considered "public domain", and you can use a quote and the customer's full name on your resume without too many concerns. It's wise to avoid providing their personal contact details, but you can freely add their city or state. For example - "Joe Bloggs, Bakersfield, CA." If your resume is a digital one, you can also provide a link back to the original review, to give it more credibility.
Yes, you could potentially create false customer references. If you do so then proceed with caution, as should the new employer discover you have been untruthful with them, you may lose your job or badly damage your credibility with the new company.
4. Provide Your ‘Soft Skills’ Success Stories
Every employer likes to hear a good success story, the more heartwarming the better. If you have room on your resume or cover letter, try crafting a one-paragraph story for your two most recent jobs, giving details of how your soft skills helped you out in that job. The goal of this is to: a) demonstrate you actually have the skills you’re claiming to have, and b), show how your possession of that skill was of benefit to the company.
Job: Waiting Staff Member at Mel’s Diner
Example of Soft Skills: “I pride myself in always going above and beyond for the customer. For example, while working at the diner one day, I met a very distressed mother who had ordered food for her three children and then realized she’d left her purse at home. I told her I’d pay for her meal if she promised to eat here again at least once more this month. Not only did she return the next day and pay me back, but she came in every Friday for the rest of the year with her friends. She also wrote us a nice Yelp review praising our customer service.”
Soft Skills = the Icing on the Cake
At the end of the day, hiring companies do prioritize the hard facts, but your soft skills should be the icing on the cake that really sells you to them. After all, your new manager or boss will be the one working with you in person every day, so they want an employee who both has the practical talent they need, and who is also a person they trust, enjoy working with, and want to have around.
If you can convince potential employees of that, using your resume to showcase yourself as a great human being as well as a great employee – you’ll find that a lot more doors open up to you.
Tune in next Tuesday for more great resume, cover letter and interview tips! Same time, same place!