Soft Skills = Success: Demonstrating Soft Skills in your Job Application – DOs and DON’Ts

by Julie Watson, former Head Editor, INALJ Pennsylvania
previously published 4/24/13

Soft Skills = Success:  Demonstrating Soft Skills in your Job Application – DOs and DON’Ts

julie_watsonThis is the third in a series of articles on soft skills.

Soft skills are very important (see parts one and two of this series), both during the job search and while on the job. Many job seekers know that they have solid soft skills, but aren’t sure how to demonstrate them on a resume. It’s a difficult task because soft skills are best demonstrated in real life, not on paper. It is possible to include them in your application materials though. Start by looking at the job description. Is the employer looking for any specific soft skills? If so, you should definitely address them. Common soft skills found in job postings include oral and written communication skills, problem solving, teamwork, and leadership. It varies though, and this is an example of why you should tailor both the resume and the cover letter specifically to each job for which you apply.  Once you’ve identified the soft skills the employer wants, you can determine how to add them and other relevant ones to your resume and cover letter.

DOs

  • Do embed your proficiency in a soft skill into the duties of a job on your resume. For example, you can list contributions you made to a relevant group project to showcase your teamwork skills, and you can list a leadership position you’ve held in a club or professional organization (and the goals you met in it) to showcase your leadership skills.
  • Do list accomplishments instead of (or in addition to) responsibilities for a position. A discerning reviewer will be able to infer that you did quality work and have a strong work ethic by looking at your accomplishments.
  • Do use quantitative data to show how you saved time or money by improving a work process.
  • Do use the cover letter to show your soft skills. Address each desired and preferred qualification (I like to give each a bullet so readers can easily pull them out), including desired qualifications like communication skills, flexibility, and attitude. Also, consider writing a paragraph to explain how you identified a problem, found the solution, and implemented it effectively.
  • Do remember that the best way to show off your soft skills is in real life. For example, to demonstrate your communication skills, answer the phone politely, write coherent emails, and get back to people on time.

DON’Ts

  • Don’t simply list that you have a certain soft skills in your job application materials. Stating that you are a “highly motivated self-starter with excellent communication skills and the ability to overcome tough obstacles to get the job done while making a positive impact on the community” sounds hollow at best and egotistical at worst (and is quite breathtaking I might add!).
  • Don’t list any soft skill on your resume that you can’t back up with a concrete example from real life. Writing down that you have a soft skill is easy, but demonstrating them in an interview is more difficult.
  • Don’t forget that the resume is better at displaying hard skills than soft skills. The focus of the application is the hard stuff and the interview is the best time to show off your soft skills and the emotional intelligence that is their foundation.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 18.5 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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