The Most Important Soft Skills Employer Look For
When employers look to hire students or graduates, they define a set list of attributes required for the role. These include both technical and soft skills.
Technical skills are the abilities and knowledge needed to perform specific tasks, such as computer, design, scientific and engineering skills. These are usually set out in a separate section of your CV to highlight you meet these requirements. An example of a technical skill would be SEO or SEM.
Soft skills are attributes that you have developed that relate to how you work. Soft skills are highly important to your success within an organisation. In this article we’ve outlined the most important soft skills, how to develop them (related activities) and how employers assess them (assessment) when you apply to graduate schemes, internships or placement jobs.
What Are The Most Important Soft Skills?
Definition: The combined action of a group.
Description: Teamwork is about how you work with other people and as part of a group. Employers look for excellent teamwork skills in their candidates. Teamwork is important in work-based employment as regardless of your position you will at some point work as part of a group – whether it be small or large scale. Employers want their candidates to be able to work harmoniously as part of a group to bring success to their company.
Related Activities: Teamwork skills are one of the easiest skills to build as there are so many opportunities to do so! Most university courses include group work projects – be sure to mention these under your university section with the grade you achieve on the project. You can also find teamwork opportunities by joining a university society. University societies are run by their peers and you can volunteer to be part of a team that help manage the society. Also, lots of university societies run competition that involve group work. For example, Consulting or Business societies, such as @ ucl.consulting host entrepreneurially challenges where you can compete as part of a group to win prizes. At ProjectSet we run similar competitions, bringing students together across the UK to network with top employers and present entrepreneurial innovations. Head to our website to see how you can get involved (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will normally look for occasions on your CV or Cover Letter that mention when you have worked as part of a team. Make sure to mention the word teamwork specifically and demonstrate the success you achieved as part of your team … whether that be the outcome, grade or network you cultivated. Employers will also assess you on your teamwork skills during their assessment days. There will usually be a teamwork challenge that involves you working with a group of people you have not met before. Make sure to be polite as possible and remember everyone’s names!
Definition: The imparting or exchanging of information, whether it be verbal or non-verbal.
Description: Communication is about being able to convey a message to another person or a group of people. This can cover everything from writing emails, calling via the phone to giving a presentation. Bad communication skills can be very damaging to a company’s efficiency. If you are working on a project and miscommunicate information to another employee, they will act on this wrongful information. This could have severe consequences if the job is client-facing and will slow down the processes of the project. Therefore, employers hold good communications skills as an essential requirement for new employees.
Related Activities: At University you will use your communication skills in your degree. A good example of this is your dissertation or thesis, where you will be conveying information on a particular topic. Be sure to mention this under the University section of your CV with the grade you achieved on the project. In your Cover Letter you can mention a time where you had to use your communication skills either at University or in work to ensure a task was completed correctly. If you are looking for internship opportunities and ways to build your communication skills head to our website to see the internship and free skill-building opportunities on offer (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will look at your CV and Cover Letter as a first point of call to assess your communication skills. Make sure both are formatted correctly and don’t have any grammar or spelling mistakes.
Such mistakes will highlight poor communication skills and a lack of care. When writing your Cover Letter think about adding a paragraph where you discuss a time in which you used your communication skills to successfully achieve a goal. Employers will assess your communication skills during video interviews and assessment centres. During the video interviews they will look for candidates that can convey their thoughts succinctly. During the assessment centre they will often have an individual case study that involves researching a designated topic and then presenting your findings to the assessors.
Definition: The action of leading a group of people or an organisation.
Description: Leadership is all about how you act when put in a position of power over other people. It combines a number of other soft skills, such as interpersonal, communication and teamwork. To be a good Leader you must be able to hold authority without being authoritarian, be empathetic with your team and manage the team’s tasks efficiently. Employers look for leaders in their graduate recruits, which is why so many graduate programs are called ‘future leaders’ or names similar to this.
Related Activities: There are lots of opportunities at university to become a leader. During your course you might find yourself in a group work project in which you need to nominate someone as the leader. In your society you might need someone to be president of take up a leadership role to help run the club. Any of these opportunities are the perfect place to step up and take the responsibility you need to develop leadership skills. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there for as many opportunities as possible!
Assessment: Employers will assess your leadership skills through looking at your CV and Cover Letter. On your CV mention any of the related activities you have been involved with where you have used your leadership skills. Make sure to use the keyword leadership in the description of the activity i.e. Through excellent leadership skills I was able to …
4. Problem-Solving Skills
Definition: Problem-solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution to the problem.
Description: Problem-solving is all about being able to overcome obstacles. Employers will look for recruits that have good problem-solving skills as this is a key task in any job. Companies will often face challenges that need innovate solutions, for which university students can be a great resource. The fresh insights Gen Z can provide will help employers overcome the challenges their company face. Problem-solving is all about having a lateral mindset, which will help you think out of the box to come up with a solution that satisfies the problem. Problem solving can be broken down into sections to describe the process. First think about laying out the problem at hand, next illustrate how you identified the route cause of the problem. Once you have done this you can show how you proactively went about resolving the problem and the result of your actions.
Related Activities: We overcome obstacles in our life all the time … whether it’s fixing something on your laptop or handling assignment deadlines. However, not all of these examples are appropriate to mention to an employer. You can develop problem-solving through the course you study at university. If you are working on a project you may well come across problems. For example, maybe the library book you need is not available or the lecturer who teaches your course is out of office for a week. These are prime examples you can use to show how you overcame a problem. If you are into sports, you can also discuss a challenge your team overcame in a match or training. ProjectSet offers entrepreneurial competitions or Hackathons that involve tackling key problem statements. Our more recent Hackathon – UniHack 2020 – involved addressing pressing global issues through problem-solving skills. Head to our website to see how you can get involved in Hackathons and entrepreneurial challenges (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will assess your problem-solving skills through your CV or Cover Letter. They will look for times you have demonstrated good problem-solving skills, so make sure to specifically mention this keyword. Employers may also set geometric or aptitude test to evaluate your skills. This can range from work-based tasks to puzzles and often are considered the most difficult part of the application. Luckily if you develop good problem-solving skills you will be well equipped to excel in these tests. There is also a wealth of resources online with practice tests for you to complete prior to the assessment. Employers will also test your problem-solving skills during assessment days. These usually come in the form of a group work task or an individual case study. These tasks will involve tackling a challenge and presenting solutions.
Definition: Being able to adjust to new conditions.
Description: Being adaptable means being able to ‘go with the flow’. When something changes you are able to recognise the difference and change yourself accordingly. For example, at work you may be focusing on one project, however if something more urgent comes up you have to reassess your priorities and focus on the new task. In the current world we can see how important being flexible and adaptable is. Employers look for candidates who have good adaptability skills as there are often changes inside and outside organisations that effect their employees.
Related Activities: Most of us experienced some sort of change because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, whether that be cancelled exams, moving learning online or exposure to a much tougher job market. These are all perfect examples of times you have to adapt and are appropriate for mentioning in an interview or on your Cover Letter. Outside of University you can also discuss times you have had to adapt as part of your job. For example, if you had to change a presentation last minute due to new information or you took on more work to help a colleague who was struggling. If you are looking to get an internship to improve your employability head to our website to see the opportunities available (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will assess your adaptability through looking on your CV or Cover Letter for times where you have had to be flexible. They may well ask this directly as a question within the application. Later on, in the application process they may ask you about a time you have adapted in an interview or assessment centre. During the assessment centre they may also assess your adaptability by feeding you extra information during a task to see how you adapt.
6. Interpersonal Skills
Definition: The ability to interact or communicate well with other people.
Description: Interpersonal skills are all about how you cooperate with other people. Most of us take these skills for granted as we mingle with other people in our day to day lives. However, these are extremely important in work-based environments. Ultimately, the enjoyment you get from your job is twofold; both relating to enjoying the work you do and the people you work with. Furthermore, the large majority of jobs involve working with other, regardless of whether they are directly client facing. For example, even the most technical of jobs such as programmers and engineers work in teams to fulfil their tasks. These reasons are why employers value candidates with excellent interpersonal skills. They will look for individuals that will fit in with their company culture and work within teams to contribute to the success of the company.
Related Activities: To demonstrate or build your interpersonal skills you must find examples within work-based scenarios. Avoid mentioning times in your personal life, i.e., when you have disagreements with flatmates or friends, as you will come across as unprofessional or even that you lack interpersonal skills. The employer will look for examples of interpersonal skills within a professional setting. This could include your course, society, work experience or volunteering. You can also mention times you have used your interpersonal skills in sports. For example, when you have had to connect with your teammates, so your team collaborates well together. If you are looking for opportunities to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, we run entrepreneurial challenges that brings students groups together from across the UK. You can work with friends or team up with students from other universities. This is a particularly unique opportunity as you can demonstrate your ability to work with people you haven’t met before. Head to our website to see how you can get involved (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will assess your interpersonal skills through your CV and Cover Letter. To demonstrate your skills, mention times in which you have worked with other to achieve a common goal. This will help demonstrate how you are able to cooperate with others. Further along in the application process you may have a live interview. If this is the case, be sure to come across as friendly as possible and thank your interviewer for their time. If you get to the assessment centre phase you may well have a teamwork challenge that will test how you interact with others. Make sure to never interrupt your fellow teammates and remember their names. Consider their ideas and give positive feedback, rather than directly criticizing them. Finally, another nice touch is to personally thank your team mates at the end of the challenge and wish them good luck for the rest of the day.
7. Work Ethic
Definition: Work Ethic is a set of values focalised around the importance of work and manifested by determination or desire to work hard.
Description: Work Ethic is highly valued by employers as they want individuals who will work hard to get their tasks done. This is particularly important if you plan to work in any of the ‘traditionally’ competitive industries, such as finance or law, where late nights and working weekends is common. Work ethic can be cultivated in a number of ways. We highly recommend you start adapting how you work currently! Work ethic is something you build over a long period of time, forming good habits that will come in handy later. Whilst you’re at University try and improve your work ethic. If you find yourself always handing in assignments last minute or working the night before, try to change your behaviour. This doesn’t have to be a huge commitment to change the way you do everything. Start small with one assignment you plan when it gets set by your lecturer and work hard to properly research it. See how that goes and see if you can apply this new work ethic to your other assignments too.
Related Activities: To demonstrate your work ethic skills you can use projects you have completed whilst as university. Your dissertation or thesis is a good example of this. This can be featured underneath the University section of your CV alongside the grade for the assignment. You can also mention times you picked up a new hobby, such as a new sport, instrument or skill, which required hard work to master. You can mention this in your interest section, i.e. When learning to knit, I utilised my strong work ethic and determination to make my first jumper within a month. If you are able to find a placement year or internship you can also mention your work ethic in these roles. You can describe a task you completed and describe how you stayed focused to ensure its success. If you are looking for an internship do head to our website to see the opportunities available (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will assess your work ethic through looking at your CV or Cover Letter. The grades you have achieved will be a reflection of your work ethic, which is why they are commonly used to distinguish candidates. You can also demonstrate your work ethic in specific exampled on your CV and Cover Letter to consolidate this. During an interview or assessment centre an employer might ask you for a time you have shown great work ethic. To answer such questions, you can use the related activities we have specified above.
Definition: The use of imagination or original ideas to create something.
Description: Creativity is commonly associated with being able to think outside the box. This can involve drawing ideas together to create something innovate or placing something within a new context. Employers highly value creativity because they need fresh insights to keep their company at the forefront of its industry. New ideas are what keep companies afloat and through constantly evolving their processes and products they will remain successful. Jobs also require creative thinking when faced with challenges. For example, whilst at work you may face a situation that requires creativity to overcome. This is why Employers look for candidates with good creative skills.
Related Activities: To demonstrate your creativity you can mention any creative pursuits you have been involved with on your CV or Cover Letter. This could include drawing, painting or designing, to name but a few. You can do these in your free time or through being involved in a society at university. Creativity also does not have to be so literal. You can demonstrate your creativity through times where you have used creative thinking. Often when faced with problems you must think outside of the box to come up with solutions. It may well be that the best solution is not the most obvious one. If you are able to find a placement year or internship you can mention times you used your creative thinking on the job. If you are looking for an internship do head to our website to see the opportunities available (link in bio!) … www.projectset.com
Assessment: Employers will assess your creativity through looking at your CV or Cover Letter. Look to mention examples of your creativity in your CV either in any of job roles or the interest section. You can also expand on these situations in your Cover Letter. Employers may also assess your creativity through aptitude tests. For example, they may ask a work-base question which evaluates whether you used your creativity. Similarly, they may ask such questions during an interview or assessment centre. During the assessment centre they may also give you a challenge that requires creative thinking to create solutions.