What Are Soft Skills? (Definition, Examples and Resume Tips)

Updated July 5, 2023

Soft skills are personality traits and behaviors that will help candidates get hired and succeed in their work. Unlike technical skills or“hard” skills, soft skills are interpersonal and behavioral skills that help you to work well with other people and develop your career.

In this article, we’ll take a look at soft skills, how they’re different from hard skills and the best soft skills to get hired and find long-term success.

Key takeaways:

  • Soft skills are your personal attributes. They directly relate to how well you can work with and interact with others. 

  • Unlike hard skills, soft skills are more difficult to learn, given their innate nature.

  • Soft skills are applicable across industries and to any profession.

Image description

A man and woman sit across from each other at a desk next to a list with the title "Examples of Soft Skills" and these skills:

• Communication
• Problem-solving
• Creativity
• Flexibility
• Work ethic

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are abilities that relate to how you work and interact with other people. Commonly noted soft skills include communication, teamwork and other interpersonal skills. Employers look for candidates with soft skills as these skills are hard to teach and are important for long-term success. Soft skills are different from hard skills, which are technical in nature and job-specific.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What's the Difference?

Soft skills employers notice

In a recent Indeed survey of 1,000 hiring managers, we asked them to list what attributes are common to the top performers at their company. The top five attributes they named were¹:

  1. Problem-solving

  2. Effective communication skills

  3. Self-direction

  4. Drive

  5. Adaptability/Flexibility

Other sought-after soft skills include:

  • Effective communication

  • Teamwork

  • Dependability

  • Adaptability

  • Conflict resolution

  • Flexibility

  • Leadership

  • Problem-solving

  • Research

  • Creativity

  • Work ethic

  • Integrity

Tip: Anyone can improve their soft skills with experience and practice.

Examples of key soft skills

Soft skills include innate personality traits and abilities that can be learned. Broad types of soft skills include communication, problem-solving, creativity, adaptability and work ethic:


Effective communication skills will be helpful through the interview process and in your career overall. The ability to communicate well involves knowing how you should speak to others in different situations or settings.

For example, when working on a project, you might need to communicate when you believe an idea or process is ineffective. Finding a way to tactfully, and skillfully, disagree with others on a team without creating conflict is an important skill employers value.

Related communication skills:

  • Active listening

  • Confidence

  • Conflict resolution

  • Negotiation

  • Public speaking

  • Writing

  • Nonverbal communication

  • Empathy


Employers highly value people who can resolve issues quickly and effectively. That may involve calling on industry knowledge to fix an issue immediately as it occurs, or taking time to research and consult with colleagues to find a scalable, long-term solution.

Related problem-solving skills:

  • Creativity

  • Research

  • Risk management

  • Teamwork

  • Critical thinking

  • Analysis

  • Decision-making

  • Resourcefulness

  • Troubleshooting


Creativity is a broad ability incorporating many different skill sets, including other soft skills and technical skills. Employees with creativity can find new ways to perform tasks, improve processes or even develop new and exciting avenues for the business to explore. Creativity can be used in any role at any level.

Related creativity skills:

  • Curiosity

  • Learning from others

  • Open-mindedness

  • Taking calculated risks

  • Innovation

  • Experimentation

Related: Resume Writing 101: Tips for Creating a Resume (With Examples)


How easily do you adapt to change? If you’re working in a technology-driven field or a startup, adaptability is especially important. Changes in processes, tools and/or the clients you work with can happen quickly. Employees who are capable of adapting to new situations and ways of working are valuable in many jobs and industries.

Related adaptability skills:

  • Consistency

  • Organization

  • Optimism

  • Flexibility

  • Enthusiasm

  • Cooperation

  • Patience

  • Growth mindset

Work ethic

Work ethic is the ability to follow through on tasks and duties in a timely, quality manner. A strong work ethic will help ensure you develop a positive relationship with your employer and with colleagues, even when you’re still developing technical skills in a new job. Many employers would rather work with someone who has a strong work ethic and is eager to learn than a skilled worker who seems unmotivated.

Related work ethic skills:

  • Attention to detail

  • Integrity

  • Persistence

  • Time management

  • Organization

  • Dependability

  • Motivation

  • Perseverance

  • Results-oriented

Related: 3 Ways to Add Personal Skills to Your Resume

Highlighting your soft skills

Showcasing your soft skills can be useful when looking and applying for jobs, in an interview or in your daily work. If you’re looking for work, you can highlight your soft skills on your resume and in your cover letter.

Soft skills for resumes

Your resume should include a section that lists relevant hard and soft skills. When deciding which skills to put on a resume, consider both what skills are called for in the job post and those you possess that can be verified by your references.

Tip: Prioritize the hard skills sought after for the role before your soft skills, as soft skills are typically evaluated in the interview stage of the process.

It’s encouraged to have 10 to 30 skills on your resume; consider having soft skills take up no more than half of the listed skills that you include. Here’s an example of what your resume skills section could look like:

Technical skills: Learning TechnologyMac OSWindows OSBlackboard
Additional skills: Strong communication skillsHighly empathicPassionate and motivated

Download Resume Template

To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

Related: 20 Skills in Demand in Today's Workforce

Soft skills for cover letters

Your cover letter should include at least one well-developed, relevant soft skill that provides context as to why you’re a good fit for the job. You can do this by explaining how your soft skill aligns with the organization’s goals, values and/or mission. Your use of soft skills in your cover letter may look similar to the following example:

“In my previous role, I displayed both passion and creativity that were highly regarded by my colleagues and managers. For example, I successfully proposed and put together a team to work on a marketing campaign targeting a younger demographic for our product. From start to finish, my team members and managers praised my ability to positively work with my team to help establish new interest in our company.”

While hard skills are important for completing technical tasks, strong soft skills will make you the kind of employee companies want to hire, keep and promote. It’s important to highlight the soft skills you have at all stages of the job search process, and continue developing those skills once you find the job you’re looking for.

Download Cover Letter Template With Example

To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

Related: 10 Reasons Why Soft Skills are Important to Employers

Frequently asked questions

Why are soft skills important?

Soft skills play an important role in resume writing, interviewing and job performance. For example, as you look for jobs, you may find that many employers list specific soft skills on their job posts in the “required” or “desired” sections. As noted, soft skills are how well you work with and interact with others, and employers across industries will want to bring these traits to their teams.

While listing your soft skills on your resume can catch the attention of employers, the interview is where you’ll be able to truly showcase these skills. While you can display some skills, such as good communication during your interview, you may want to consider weaving others into your answers to interview questions.

For example, you might talk about your problem-solving skills when answering a question like, “Tell me about a time you overcame an obstacle.” If the employer prompts you to provide references, think of those that can speak to examples that verify your soft skills and other strengths.

Are soft skills and transferable skills the same thing?

Yes, other names for soft skills include transferable skills, personal skills, people skills, interpersonal skills, essential skills and non-technical skills.

How can I improve my soft skills?

You can improve any soft skill if you make it a practice. Most soft skills are a matter of routine. For example, you can practice dependability both on the job and at home by improving punctuality (showing up to work or events on time or early, for example) and starting on projects at work earlier so you can complete them ahead of schedule.

¹ Indeed employer study conducted by Decipher/FocusVision (Base: all respondents, N=1,000)

Related Articles

How To Show Willingness To Learn on a Resume (With Examples)

Explore more articles

  • 13 Careers in Insurance (With Job Duties and Salaries)
  • 11 Jobs That Involve Giving Advice to Others (With Duties)
  • 30 Jobs That Involve Working With Your Hands (Plus Salaries)
  • How To Become an Anesthesia Tech
  • 10 Jobs That Require Creative Thinking Skills
  • How To Find a Career Coach (And When You May Need One)
  • What Are Professional Qualifications? (Definition and Types)
  • Should I Be an Accountant? Pros and Cons of the Job
  • What Is a Service Industry? (With Examples)
  • How To Get Into the Film Industry (Plus Benefits and Jobs)
  • Writing a Thank You Email After a Career Fair
  • 16 Highest Paying Sociology Degree Jobs (Plus Duties and Salaries)