What Is a Soft Skill?
Soft skills are the personal attributes, qualities, and abilities that employees and candidates possess that help them work effectively with others. Learn more.
A soft skill is a personal attribute, quality, or ability that helps employees interact effectively with others. They involve aspects of emotional intelligence, communication, collaboration, adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, and interpersonal relationships.
Soft skill vs. technical skill
Technical skills—or hard skills—are specific and measurable abilities that are directly related to a particular job or industry. For example, technical skills might be proficiency in a specific programming language, like C++, or the ability to use software like Adobe Photoshop in graphic design.
Both soft skills and technical skills are important in any job.
What are the most important soft skills?
The most important soft skills for an employee will vary depending on the organization they work for and the specific role they’re in. Some commonly valued soft skills include:
Communication. The ability to express ideas clearly, listen actively, and adapt one’s communication style to different audiences.
Time management. The ability to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines and organize work effectively.
Collaboration. The ability to work effectively with others, collaborate well in a team, be open to others’ perspectives, and effectively manage conflict.
Creativity. The ability to think innovatively, generate ideas, and find unique solutions.
Adaptability. The ability to accept change, be flexible, and quickly learn new skills or processes, or adapt to new expectations.
Problem-solving. The ability to analyze situations, identify potential solutions, and make informed decisions.
Critical thinking. The ability to evaluate information, question assumptions, and make logical judgments or conclusions.
Emotional intelligence. The ability to understand and manage emotions, to show empathy, and to build strong relationships.
Leadership. The ability to inspire others, delegate tasks, and take initiative.
According to SHRM, of 600 of the HR professionals and hiring managers that responded to a survey by Wiley, 42% identified problem-solving as the most important soft skill for employees to possess, followed by time management (36%) and adapting to change (35%).
How do employers assess soft skills?
Employers, HR professionals, and managers assess soft skills in various ways, including through interviews, behavioral assessments, reference checks, group exercises, and role-playing scenarios. They may also observe candidates’ body language, interpersonal skills, and communication during the hiring process.
Online platforms and tools providing simulations, virtual reality experiences, and gamified assessments are also often used to help organizations evaluate and train soft skills.