5 Important Soft Skills You Need to Impress Employers


With Covid-19 throwing millions of extra people into unemployment queues, competition for the jobs that are available is extremely tough. Chuck Norris tough.
You need a resume that shines — a job application that jumps out at a potential employer, screaming, “Pick me! Pick me!
While many jobs require specific skills or qualifications, nearly ALL jobs require soft skills. Soft skills are difficult to define but you probably know them as ‘people skills’. They include things like getting along with others, managing your time, having empathy, or being a team player.
The best thing about soft skills is that they are valuable across many industries.
I once interviewed a young woman for a technology role. During our conversation, she revealed that she had worked as a personal care attendant in a nursing home. When I asked her why she hadn’t included that experience on her resume, she said that she didn’t think looking after old people was relevant to the role we were discussing.
She didn’t realize the immense value of the transferable soft skills she had developed in that previous job. She was able to give me numerous examples of situations where she had demonstrated empathyworking independentlydealing with difficult people, influencing and persuadingmanaging her time, and multitasking. Every one of those soft skills was relevant to the technology role.
Look to all areas of your life to identify your soft skills.
You don’t necessarily need to provide work examples to demonstrate your value to a potential employer. You may have been a tutor, volunteered in a soup kitchen, coached or captained a team, run a parents’ group, coordinated a fundraiser, or kept a household running. There are loads of ways to highlight your abilities.
Here are five of the most sought after soft skills in 2020. With the help of Hollywood, I will explain what each of these skills is and shows you examples of the type of behavior employers are looking for. I’ve also included a couple sample questions to help you prepare for an interview.

1. Creativity and Adaptability

A white light box sign with black letters saying ‘Think outside the box’. The sign is sitting on black leather desk chair.
Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

What is it?

Employers favor people who are able to come up with innovative solutions, particularly when things don’t go to plan. The rapidly evolving nature of work makes an employee with the ability to adapt to change and approach tasks with a creative mindset highly valuable. You want to show persistence, and that you can keep working towards your goal if you hit a roadblock.

A Hollywood Example

2015’s acclaimed sci-fi film, ‘The Martian’ is an absolute masterclass in being adaptable, thinking creatively, and solving problems. Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars, presumed dead after being swept away from his crew during a ferocious storm. He finds himself alone, with limited food supplies and no way to let NASA know that he is alive. A qualified botanist and engineer, Mark apply his knowledge and ingenuity to stay alive, establish contact with Earth and problem solve himself back home.
The movie closes with Watney back on Earth, addressing a class of astronaut candidates. He describes precisely the mindset needed to demonstrate creativity and adaptability to an employer. (I know that not many jobs will present you with life and death problems, but you get the idea.)
“At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you. Everything’s going to go south and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now, you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem…and you solve the next one…and then the next. And if you solve enough problems you get to come home.”

Possible Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time you had to come up with a creative idea to solve a problem.
  • Have you ever been working towards a goal and hit a roadblock? What did you do?
  • Have you ever been asked to do something you’d never done before? How did you react and what did you do?

2. Collaboration

A man and woman sitting at a desk having a discussion in front of a computer.
A man and woman sitting at a desk having a discussion in front of a computer.
Photo by NESA by Makers on Unsplash

What is it?

Collaboration means teamwork. Employers are looking for people who work well with others and who can identify the different strengths and weaknesses of people within the team and working together in the most efficient way. Most importantly, it means being able to work effectively with others even if you don’t always agree with them.

A Hollywood Example

The diverse crew from ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ perfectly demonstrates the need for collaboration and building a strong team to achieve your goals.
Detention throws four students — Martha (shy bookworm), Bethany (shallow Instagrammer), ‘Fridge’ (athlete), and Spencer (nerd with allergies) — together, cleaning out the school basement. When they find an old video game console and start to play, it sucks them into the game’s dangerous land, Jumanji.
Each of the students is transformed into their chosen game character — Martha becomes martial arts expert, Ruby Roundhouse; Bethany becomes male cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon; Fridge becomes puny zoologist, ‘Mouse’ Finbar, and Spencer become the strong and handsome, Dr Smolder Bravestone, explorer and archaeologist.
Initially, the companions argue as they try to work out what has happened and what they need to do to escape the game. Each character has specific strengths and weaknesses, which also causes friction as Fridge and Bethany feel like their characters are useless. As the group comes up against various challenges, they realize that each character has a crucial part to play and without the unique abilities of each member of the team, they cannot win the game.

Possible Interview Questions

  • Tell me about your most satisfying team experience. What was your role in the team and how did you contribute to its success?
  • What do you think makes a team successful?

3. Empathy

Rear view of 2 young children walking down a deserted dirt road. The taller has their arm around the smaller one’s shoulders.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

What is it?

Empathy is the ability to read another person’s mood or emotions and respond appropriately. Everyone has ‘good’ days and ‘bad’ days. Maybe they’re tired, feeling unwell, or dealing with difficult circumstances outside of the workplace. Empathy allows us to put ourselves in someone else’s position so that we can communicate with them effectively. It builds cooperation, strengthens teams, and increases productivity.

A Hollywood Example

The acclaimed animated film ‘Inside Out’ tells the story of a young girl named Riley. The movie presents her five basic emotions — Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger as characters who influence her mood through a console located at ‘Headquarters’, inside Riley’s mind. Joy and Sadness are sucked out of Headquarters and need to find a way back. They encounter Riley’s imaginary childhood friend, Bing Bong, who offers to help them, but in the process, Bing Bong loses his most precious possession (a rocket wagon), leaving him heartbroken and unable to continue.
As Bing Bong sits forlornly, Joy is unable to empathize and tries to cheer him up.
‘Hey, who’s ticklish, huh? Here comes the tickle monster!’
When Bing Bong does not respond, Joy pulls a series of funny faces.
‘Hey, Bing Bong, look at this! Oh, here’s a fun game. You point to the train station and we all go there! Won’t that be fun? C’mon! Let’s go to the train station!’
Then Sadness sits down next to Bing Bong and speaks to him.
‘I’m sorry they took your rocket. They took something that you loved. It’s gone, forever. I bet you and Riley had great adventures.’
Sadness and Bing Bong reminisce about the happy time's Bing Bong had with Riley. Bing Bong says he misses Riley and Sadness empathizes.
‘Yeh, it’s sad.”
Bing Bong breaks down crying. They hug and then Bing Bong gathers himself.
‘I’m ok now. C’mon, the train station is this way’.
By listening and understanding, Sadness was able to connect with Bing Bong and communicate with him in a meaningful way. This allowed Bing Bong to feel seen and supported so he could continue the trek.

Possible Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you have had to deal with a difficult co-worker or customer. How did you deal with it?
  • Tell me about your worst team experience. What happened? Why do you think the team did not work well together?

4. Persuasion and Communication

Six smiling adults sitting around a workplace desk. A man and woman shaking hands across the table.
Six smiling adults sitting around a workplace desk. A man and woman shaking hands across the table.
Photo by Fauxels on Pexels

What is it?

I didn’t mean it like that” are words commonly spoken by poor communicators. Employers are looking for people with the ability to convey a message clearly, concisely, and convincingly. They want you to be able to say what you mean in a way that won’t be misinterpreted, is well organized, and won’t be lost in a flood of unnecessary, flowery, overly descriptive, wordy, long-winded, complicated, hard to digest language (see what I did there?).
Be authentic, persuasive, and able to bring others around to your way of thinking, and you will be in high demand.

A Hollywood Example

The 1957 Hollywood classic ’12 Angry Men’ showcases how an articulate, logical argument can change even the most passionately held views.
A jury of 12 men adjourns to deliberate the case of an 18-year-old accused of murdering his father. They must return a unanimous verdict, and a finding of guilt will see the accused receive the death penalty. At the first ballot, only one juror casts a ‘not guilty’ vote. He has doubts and believes more discussion is needed before a verdict is reached.
He clearly articulates some of his concerns, changing the mind of a second juror, who also pushes for further debate. As the film progresses, the first juror logically lays out the basis for his doubts about other aspects of the case, persuading the other jurors one by one until the final, most resistant juror also casts a ‘not guilty’ verdict.
It is a great example of building consensus and being able to sway others' see to your point of view.

Possible Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time you have persuaded others to do things your way.
  • Tell me about a time you have had to communicate a complex idea to someone. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

5. Critical Thinking

Rear view, shoulders and head of man staring at a wall covered in various different sized notes, papers and photos.
Rear view, shoulders and head of man staring at a wall covered in various different sized notes, papers and photos.
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels

What is it?

Employers are looking for people who can evaluate information, look at situations objectively, and seek out credible information sources before making decisions. Critical thinking skills are highly valued, particularly with the recent increase in ‘Fake News’ and the willingness of politicians and previously trusted institutions to brazenly lie in order to sway public opinion.

A Hollywood Example

The biographical film, ‘Erin Brockovich’, is based upon the life of an unemployed single mother of three children. The movie opens with Brockovich suing a doctor after a traffic accident. Her lawyer expects to win the case, and when he loses, she convinces him to give her a job, even though she has no qualifications.
She is given papers relating to a real estate deal where the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is offering to purchase the home of Donna Jensen in Hinkley, California. Brockovich is puzzled to find medical records in the file so she visits Jensen, who tells her that both she and her husband have cancer and that PG&E covers all their medical expenses. Jensen speaks very positively about PG&E’s support.
Brockovich is suspicious so she begins researching the company and possible links between the property deals and the unusually high number of medical conditions amongst Hinkley’s population. Despite the corporation telling residents that they use a ‘safe’ form of the carcinogen chromium, she finds evidence that the groundwater in Hinkley is dangerously contaminated.
Her investigation results in a major class-action lawsuit, however, PG&E’s parent company denies any knowledge of the contamination. Again, Brockovich refuses to believe them and persists with trying to find a link. She meets a former PG&E employee who provides her with evidence that the parent company had been aware of the contamination for decades.
Her ability to think critically and seek out facts resulted in a $333 million dollar settlement for the affected residents of Hinkley.

Possible Interview Questions

  • Tell me about a time you have had to make a decision based on incomplete information. What did you do?
  • Tell me about a time when you were presented with information that seemed unusual or unlikely. What did you do? What was the outcome?
Soft skills like those above are great to list on your resume, and if they’re relevant to a particular role, you should also mention them in your cover letter.
Most importantly, be prepared to give specific examples of times you have demonstrated soft skills. I will cover how to ace behavioral interview questions in another article.
Good luck, job seekers! Shine bright like a diamond and make your job application the one that the employer remembers.