10 Top Soft Skills in the Workplace (With Tips for Hiring)

Updated February 23, 2023

Working well with others and contributing positive energy to a team are essential skills for any professional. Soft skills empower people to maximize their potential by applying their emotional intelligence and interpersonal strengths to tasks and relationships. If you're interested in adding more individuals with excellent soft skills to your organization, you might benefit from reviewing the most valuable ones. In this article, we define soft skills, explain how they improve companies, list the top 10 top soft skills in the workplace, and offer some tips for hiring candidates who have them.

Related: 10 Administrative Skills for the Workplace

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What are soft skills?

Soft skills are non-technical abilities that depend on traits such as emotional intelligence, values, and work ethic. While people can improve their soft skills through learning and practice, these talents largely depend on candidates' innate dispositions and pre-established beliefs about accountability and respect. Organizations value professionals with strong, soft skills because they integrate well into teams, collaborate successfully, and usually make work environments more positive and motivational.

Soft skills apply to nearly any job since they're the foundation for working with others, sharing information, and remaining organized. They also affect the value of a candidate's hard skills because they affect how well someone can contribute ideas and overcome challenges.

Read more:

  • A Guide to Soft Skills

  • Technical vs. Soft Skills (Differences and Similarities)

10 top soft skills in the workplace

Here is a list of abilities and traits that many employers consider the 10 top soft skills in the workplace:

1. Communication skills

Communication, whether verbal, non-verbal or written, is the basis for all interactions between colleagues. It is the means people use to share information, explore ideas and organize efforts on large scales. Communication skills include listening actively, asking meaningful questions, controlling your tone of voice and conveying openness. They are also essential for engaging with clients who want to receive clear guidance while enjoying their interactions with your team members.

2. Adaptability skills

Adaptability is the ability to adjust to new circumstances and react to changes positively. Since you might require your team members to respond to shifting business needs, you benefit from ensuring your hires are curious, positive and able to maintain calm even when challenged. Adaptability skills are vital for strong work relationships since they enable people to adapt their work habits and communication styles to make others feel supported.

Related: 7 Adaptability Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

3. Teamwork skills

Teamwork is essential for maximizing productivity for any organization with more than a few employees. Teamwork skills involve creating and maintaining cooperative relationships, but they also help manage disagreements and conflicts. Candidates with solid teamwork skills are excellent negotiators who value others' input. They accept compromises, make the occasional sacrifice for the good of the team and view successes as shared achievements.

4. Creativity skills

Creativity skills are talents that relate to thinking of new ideas, exploring unconventional possibilities, and inventing products or solutions. Companies depend on creativity to discover products that meet consumers' needs while also exciting them. Creative skills such as imagination and questioning also help organizations understand the perspective of consumers so they can develop more effective branding and create better marketing campaigns.

5. Time-management skills

Time-management skills are habits and tendencies that result in the efficient completion of tasks. Employees with strong time-management skills can work more independently and help colleagues remain focused when facing multiple assignments and deadlines. Planning, delegation, decision-making, and organization are all important components of successful time management.

6. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills are the characteristics that make a team member trustworthy, pleasant to be around, and sensitive to the needs of others. They include empathy, patience, friendliness, and humility. Companies especially value interpersonal skills because candidates who have them make their team members happier to be at work and often serve as leaders when confronting challenges. They conduct themselves with concern for others and avoid any behaviours that could diminish the contributions of team members.

7. Attention to detail skills

Attention to detail is the ability professionals use to remain aware, consistent and accurate in fulfilling their responsibilities. When filling roles that require keen observation and analysis, finding candidates with proven attention to detail skills is often a top priority. Their ability to think critically, detect patterns, and perceive irregularities enables them to complete assignments without errors.

8. Work ethic

Work ethic encompasses several traits that define how a person views their responsibility towards their organization. Candidates with a strong work ethic consistently put forth their best effort, emphasize professionalism, and help colleagues accomplish their goals. Key contributors to work ethic include discipline, integrity, dependability and commitment.

9. Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills help employees analyze obstacles and determine the best way to resolve them. Optimal productivity often depends on teams that practice these skills, including persistence, brainstorming, troubleshooting, and lateral thinking. Talented problem-solvers can apply their skills to technical issues, interpersonal conflicts, and organizational challenges.

10. Leadership skills

Leadership skills are the behaviours that qualify someone to set an example for other employees and make important decisions. Managers particularly benefit from strong leadership skills because the people they manage often replicate their methods of interacting and communicating, amplifying the effects of their personalities. Leadership skills include trustworthiness, reliability, mentorship and confidence.

Why do organizations value soft skills?

Here are several reasons organizations place great value on employees with proven soft skills:

Enhanced collaboration

Regardless of the project, collaboration requires team members to share their opinions respectfully, remain accountable for their responsibilities, and find solutions by combining insights from multiple sources. These functions all depend on soft skills and require professionals who know how to contribute their best work while empowering others to do the same. When teams collaborate more effectively, companies experience greater innovation, increased productivity, and enhanced problem-solving benefits.

Related: Collaboration Skills: Definition and Examples

Healthier workplace culture

When soft skills are commonplace in a company, the biggest challenges of establishing a healthy workplace culture become much easier to overcome. Team members can resolve conflicts productively, focusing on their shared goals and communicating respectfully. Managers are aware of their employees' needs and attempt to delegate assignments with concern for their wellbeing. Soft skills directly contribute to professional environments where team members conduct themselves kindly while also displaying admirable work ethics.

Greater leadership potential

Leadership, aside from being a soft skill itself, comprises many other interpersonal capabilities that companies value. When a leadership position becomes available, organizations benefit from promoting an internal employee who has proven they possess these skills. By hiring individuals who show a firm commitment to teamwork and adaptability, organizations provide themselves with an array of options for filling the next opening in leadership.

Read more: Why Are Soft Skills Important? (With Definition and FAQs)

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Tips for assessing candidates' soft skills

Here are a few tips to help you evaluate whether a potential hire possesses the soft skills your organization seeks:

Use situation-based interview questions

The interview is a prime opportunity to gain insight into the soft skills a candidate possesses. Ask them to discuss situations that involve the capabilities your company values most and focus on how they describe their behaviours and thought processes. For example, if emphasizing strong time-management skills, you might ask how the candidate handles being extremely busy. Successful responses to these questions often come from candidates who readily take ownership of their responsibilities and analyze how their work affects those around them.

Study their communication habits

Communication is arguably the most fundamental soft skill since it serves as the foundation for other important ones, such as interpersonal, leadership and problem-solving skills. The job application process, from the initial email to the end of your meeting with a candidate, presents many opportunities to study how they communicate. If you provide instructions, such as who to ask for upon arrival, candidates who follow them show concern for reading and listening carefully. If they engage with you easily, presenting professionally while also friendly, you have at least some confirmation that they communicate well in high-pressure situations.

Read more: 12 Communication Skills Interview Questions With Tips and Example Answers

Check their references

A candidate's references are excellent resources for learning about their soft skills. Former managers may choose to limit the details they share, but their responses to straightforward questions still offer value. For instance, if a previous supervisor states the employee always completed assignments on time, you know they have time-management skills. Former coworkers might provide even greater detail when describing their experience working with a candidate. If they express appreciation for their help, guidance, or positivity, you can have some confidence that the candidate has soft skills worth consideration.

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