What Soft Skills Do You Need as a Graduate When Applying for Jobs?

Posted by GradConnection

In recent years, more of an emphasis has been placed on ‘soft skills’ in the workplace. Contrasting technical or practical skills - which comprise what you are qualified to do or processes have experience in - soft skills are personal qualities that, ideally, have been developed and shaped throughout one’s life, though especially at work or university. 

What are soft skills?

Forbes lists 11 examples of the most essential soft skills that attract employers:

  1. Communication (verbal and written; talking and listening)
  2. Leadership
  3. Teamwork
  4. Creativity
  5. Time management
  6. Adaptability
  7. Problem solving
  8. Work ethic
  9. Critical thinking
  10. Conflict management
  11. Emotional intelligence

How do you address soft skills in job applications?

You are likely to see at least one, if not more, of these in the key selection criteria of job descriptions. While writing your application, think about times in your workplaces or studies where you developed these skills, and furthermore, how you can relate those situations to the job you’re applying for. See more of our top tips on how to address key criteria (including soft skills!) in your job application.

How do you address soft skills in job interviews?

You may be asked to describe a scenario where one of your soft skills was tested in a job interview. Try to prepare at least some points to respond to these kinds of questions, as your responses give potential employers a good idea of how you might contribute to their workplace. A handy formula to remember is the STAR method, where you outline the Situation, describe your Tasks and the subsequent Actions you took, and finally explain the Result/outcome. This method is suitable for practical skills and soft skills. Particularly for soft skills, it is valuable to tangibly demonstrate how your problem solving, for example, helped your workplace overcome an issue. Keep in mind too that a job interview itself is a test of your communication skills, so if your potential workplace values verbal communication (the vast majority do), try to be as prepared as possible so you can demonstrate your communication skills. And don’t be too humble! 

How do you improve your soft skills?

Like with practical skills, improving soft skills is a matter of practice. The only difference is it can be hard to get yourself into situations where your soft skills will be developed organically (whereas with practical skills, you can just practise, like playing a three-octave D-major scale over and over again). This is where getting involved in the community helps. Try volunteering, getting involved in clubs/societies at uni, or you can even try out some team building activities with friends. Everything you do that involves other people will expand your communicative capabilities, alongside teamwork, leadership, adaptability, conflict management - the list goes on. There are also online courses and products that can aid with creativity and time management - those are definitely worth a Google if you believe you need some support in these areas. Another aspect to consider is the earlier you start, the easier it is to change. Sure, you might have five or 10 years of bad time management habits behind you, but if you can begin working on it before you graduate, you’ll be unstoppable. (If time management is your biggest issue, try to avoid getting short extensions for a whole semester, or at least try a reduction from last semester’s number. Unless something urgent comes up, of course.)

Why is it important to keep working on your soft skills?

It may seem like a lot of effort to go to for skills that you can’t “prove” on paper; you can’t graduate from the University of Work Ethic or the School for Critical Thinking. However, continuing to develop your soft skills is an investment in your future not only as a worker but as a human being. Soft skills help every aspect of your life! So identifying your weaknesses, working on them, continuing to challenge your strengths, and starting early (i.e. now!) will benefit everything you do in the future. 

Stay soft in this tough world. You’ve got this!


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