Top 10 Soft Skills in the Workplace – and why they matter

September 15, 2021  •  Reading Time: 9 min.

It’s not always easy to prove yourself in an interview. Whether it’s an internship, an apprenticeship or a management position: recruiters want to know who they’re dealing with and also about your (soft) skills in the workplace.

The importance of soft skills: Strong soft skills are a critical element for professional success.

In contrast to hard skills (technical skills that can be demonstrated, for example, through a university degree, certificates or further training), soft skills are a collective term that summarizes a wide range of skills and attributes. They can also be referred to as key competencies, soft factors or social competencies.

three people around a table working together, a laptop, pen and paper and several cups on the table

What is a soft skill?

Soft skills are personal strengths that are needed when dealing with others and to accomplish various tasks.

Soft skills encompass all the characteristics, abilities and qualifications that, in addition to hard skills, determine professional and private success. They relate to personal competencies, social competencies and methodological competencies.

  • Personal competence concerns the way we deal with ourselves. This includes topics such as self-confidence, self-observation and self-discipline. Soft skills, which are assigned to personal competence, relate to the individual, but also have an impact on the social environment.
  • Social competence is most important when it comes to interacting with one another. Interpersonal skills include teamwork, empathy, and people skills. Social competence thus encompasses all soft skills that concern interaction with other people.
  • Methodological competence is about mastering and learning certain methods and techniques. These include the ability to approach and solve problems in a structured manner. It also entails knowledge of ways to motivate oneself and work efficiently.

When it comes to soft skills, there is another factor involved: emotional intelligence. It is the basic prerequisite for all soft skills. Our emotional competence determines how we can deal with our own emotions and the emotions of those around us. The higher it is, the better our ability to perceive our own and others’ emotions and to deal with them accordingly.

Let’s get right to the key skills in the workplace! Find the most important examples of soft skills here:

List of Top 10 Soft Skills

1. Communication

The ability to communicate effectively is a very important soft skill, perhaps even the most important skill.

If you have strong communication skills, you will be able to approach others, express your opinion and present your work appropriately. Did you know that active listening is also part of communicating and fostering interpersonal relationships in the workplace? This means that you don’t have to be the person with the most social skills in your workplace. Being able to talk well is certainly important, but sometimes listening to others and giving them constructive feedback or helping them with problem solving is even more important.

2. Creative & Critical Thinking

The days when managers valued yes men and those who follow orders are long gone.

Today, independent and critical thinkers count, because the different perspectives and contributions of employees are valuable to modern companies. An absolute core soft skill is also creativity. Due to the digitalization of many tasks, the ability to think creatively and out of the box is becoming increasingly important. Those who are able to find creative approaches, introduce new ideas, possess critical thinking skills and offer solutions are highly valued.

3. Leadership

Leadership skills are in demand in almost every company today, especially in management positions.

One speaks of leadership competence when a person uses certain competencies to guide the behavior of his or her team in such a way that the expected results are achieved. To do this, the leader must be able to motivate his or her employees. A leader should therefore be able to engage the team with a positive attitude and personality traits.

five people in a modern cafe like office space, 4 sitting at a table, one standing in front of them on a flipchart

4. Teamwork

The ability to work in a team is the willingness and capability to interact productively and constructively with other people.

This is measured above all by the willingness and ability to work with others toward common goals. The ability to work in a team means having the will to communicate with others, to work together to resolve conflicts constructively and to demonstrate problem-solving skills, and not to insist on one’s own point of view at the expense of viable compromises.

5. Work ethic

One of the top soft skills! Employers are looking for applicants with a strong work ethic.

These individuals come to work on time, complete their tasks in a timely manner, and remain focused and organized. They can manage their time and complete their work efficiently. They can work independently, but people with a strong work ethic can also follow instructions.

6. Responsibility

Responsibility shows that you consider the consequences of your actions in advance and act accordingly.

In professional life, this means consistent action, personal integrity and ethical behavior.

7. Time management

If you can manage the time available to you well, you will not only work more effectively, but also much less stressfully.

And that also means you’re more relaxed, make fewer mistakes and are therefore more satisfied with your work.

8. Flexibility

Flexibility means adaptability. You are flexible when you can adapt quickly and easily to changing requirements and circumstances.

In terms of the work environment, this means that the structure of commitment and behavior tends to be more casual and offers room for possible alternative actions in a decision-making situation. This requires a person who is open to change and can adapt quickly.

9. Problem solving

The ability to solve problems is also one of top skills.

While meetings often end without a result and people are generally reluctant to make decisions, every team needs a solution-oriented decision-maker.

10. Positive attitude

People who enjoy their work are more successful.

A person like this devotes him or herself to his or her tasks with enthusiasm and becomes absorbed in them. Enthusiasm is the positive basic attitude that welcomes challenges and approaches them dynamically. It is a form of intrinsic motivation – and it can move mountains.

Other soft skills include:

  • Courtesy
  • Integrity
  • Resilience
  • Professionalism
  • Decision making
  • Conflict resolution
  • Networking
  • Empathy
woman sitting in front of a pc screen, looking slightly desperate, being comforted by another woman who is holding her shoulders with her hands

Why is it so important to possess soft skills?

Soft skills are increasingly important in professional life and essential for a steep career and learning curve. Whereas such skills have always been underestimated in the past, they are now becoming very important to HR managers and are often the key to success.

Soft skills in the workplace are in demand right now, because skills related to your personal, social and methodological competencies are essential to take the company to the top and achieve quality results.

Soft skills are often even more decisive than hard skills for HR managers today. This is because in the world of work, adjustments are taking place more and more frequently that require a change and expansion of one’s own knowledge base. This is another reason why soft skills will continue to be important in the future, because they are and will remain crucial in all areas of collaboration.

For this reason, companies are making an effort to hire employees with strong soft skills, and recruiters are specifically asking about soft skills-related competencies during interviews:

Soft skills interview questions

When assessing candidates during a job interview, recruiters may ask, for example, about an applicant’s time management skills or whether he or she is a team player and will fit into the overall work environment. Here are some examples:

Soft skills: The 3 top interview questions and answers

1. Communication skills: “Do you prefer to talk or act?”

The important thing here is to match your answer with the company profile. In some positions, talk is more important, in others, action is required. Nevertheless, it’s the mix of both that makes the difference.

You could put it this way: “Both aspects are important for successful communication. They are not mutually exclusive, but both are necessary for effective communication in a team. I am communicative, team-oriented and contribute to my colleagues.”

2. Teamwork skills: “How to behave the collaboration in a team is not working?”

Teamwork is important in any business. Even though teamwork can be chaotic and inefficient, don’t present yourself as a bad team player. In any case, show that you are open and can deal with people.

“I address the problems in the group to find out what is missing for successful cooperation. In an open dialogue, the tasks can be redistributed to achieve a better work plan”

3. Resilience: “What is more important to you when you are pressed for time: meeting the deadline or paying attention to detail?”

With this tricky question, how exactly you express yourself matters. On the job, you shouldn’t sacrifice diligence or let a deadline slip by. The recruiter wants to know how resilient you are in difficult situations.

“Generally with the right planning and work allocation, this situation could be avoided. When I am under time pressure, I work extremely concentrated and carefully. Neither the diligence nor my deadline is something I want to neglect. I try to reconcile both by completing the task thoroughly but quickly.”

Soft Skills spelled out in black letters, underlined with a red line that is being drawn by a hand

Should I include soft skills on my resume?

You can list your soft skills on your resume, but there are a few things to keep in mind: Do not, under any circumstances, simply list all the skills you think you possess. You must always support your skills with examples. Therefore, you can refer to your soft skills in your cover letter. In your resume, which is more about hard facts, i.e. hard skills, you should not name soft skills directly. Recruiters will recognize that you have leadership skills if you write, “Managed multiple concurrent projects with my team to completion, resulting in x% ROI.”

FAQ

Why are soft skills in the workplace so important?

Soft skills help to shape interpersonal relationships and develop a sense of positive corporate culture. In this regard, soft skills have an absolutely positive impact on the work performed, especially in a team.

What’s the importance of soft skills during the application process?

Hard skills can be learned. However, applicants with the necessary soft skills who fit perfectly with the corporate culture are much harder to find. Soft skills can therefore be a decisive factor in the job interview.

What are soft skills interview questions?

Flexibility: “Can you adapt quickly to changing work situations?”
Motivation: “Where do you see yourself professionally in five
years?”
Self-initiative: “What do you do when you get stuck?”
Conflict skills: “How do you deal with criticism?”

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