How to develop your soft skills
Soft skills are general skills that most employers look for when recruiting and are needed for most jobs. They are sometimes called transferable skills or employability skills by employers.
Hard skills are skills needed to do a specific job, generally gained through work, learning or training. Soft skills are more likely to be the kind you pick up through life experience, like how you:
- communicate and behave with others
- make decisions
- organise yourself and work
Employers will be looking for people with soft skills that fit the culture of their company. Your application and interview will need to show that your soft skills match theirs.
You may want to develop new soft skills or need advice on how to show that you have them when you are in job interviews.
Here we focus on the top 5 soft skills employers are looking for. See our advice on how you can develop these skills and stand out from other candidates in the interview process.
Communication is an important skill for a wide range of jobs and sectors, like:
- digital and IT – clear email communication
- marketing – write good communications for your audience
- retail – dealing with customers
- care and social work - helping and caring for people
Develop your communication skills by meeting new people and working with them. You could:
- join a sports team or creative arts club
- volunteer somewhere you will talk to the public
- try public speaking
- take an online course - like how to give work presentations
If you want to build your confidence, you could practice and build your communications skills with family and friends like:
- organise an activity - like a quiz
- practice situations - ‘how would you handle a customer complaint’
- practice writing emails or letters
- roleplay with an interview
Employers associate good leadership skills with management skills. But it also shows employees can look after their own workload. Even if you are not a manager, you are likely to have had leadership experience, like:
- time management
- conflict management
- problem solving
To develop your leadership skills you could:
- tutor a student
- organise your schedule by creating a timetable
- resolve conflict between friends or colleagues
- motivate others – you could do this by organising activities, fun or educational like a quiz
- teach skills to others – you could create instruction manuals or videos to share with family and friends
A good attitude is something a lot of employers look for. Employers look for people who see solutions, not problems.
This soft skill is easier to show an employer in an interview stage. You could show that you have a good attitude and are happy to meet people.
Employers want someone that will be happy to be at work and get along with the other members of the team.
To develop your positivity skills you could:
- motivate a team – sports team or creative arts club
- try to get the best out of a hard situation
- network - whether for work or education, this shows a good attitude to learning and growing
- be part of a team, like sports or creative arts – show you’re a team player
Flexibility tells employers that you are adaptable to different situations. It shows you can handle change and adapt at short notice.
It also tells employers that you will help in situations that are not part of your job role. That you are willing to go over and above what you need to do sometimes.
To develop your flexibility skills you could:
- have to rearrange your day because of an emergency
- doing more than one task at a time
- do something outside of your comfort zone
- do a challenge that stretches you
- change your plans to help someone at short notice
Problem solving skills
Employers look for problem solving skills because it shows you can find problems and fix them.
To develop your problem solving skills you could:
- play logic puzzles and games
- keep a journal – looking at your mindset and how you look at solving problems
- develop your communication skills
- learn to do data analysis
- try brainstorming and developing plans for problems you have
Match soft skills to your employer
- research the employer – what is their company culture. Look on their website and see what their company beliefs are
- look at the job description you have. You should be able to find some of the soft skills they are looking for.
- use the star method to help you relate the soft skills into your answers and examples.