Finding a Job

A Guide to Personal Skills

April 2, 2021

You can make yourself more appealing to employers by emphasizing your personal skills. Discussing your skills also helps employers decide if you're qualified for a position. It shows that you're a well-rounded candidate with a variety of aptitudes and abilities. In this article, we discuss what personal skills are, show how they compare to hard skills, provide some examples and discuss how to highlight them on your resume and during job interviews.

What are personal skills?

Personal skills are intangible qualities that influence the way a person acts and completes tasks. They're not easily measurable, but they make a big impact on your productivity and interactions with others. Personal skills are soft skills, which means most people learn them from friends, classmates and family members as they grow up. They come from a combination of your innate abilities and the skills you learn while observing others. Many employers list the personal skills they want most in their job descriptions.

Read More: A Guide to Soft Skills

Hard skills vs. personal skills

Hard skills are more measurable than personal skills and you can gain them through education or on-the-job training. Many positions require specific hard skills, including:

  • computer programming languages such as HTML, CSS, Java, Python and C++
  • foreign language skills
  • typing speed
  • the ability to use specialized software and equipment
  • math or accounting skills
  • statistical analysis
  • knowledge of industry terms and common procedures

Employers look for people with a combination of hard and personal skills. Since it's difficult to learn personal skills through training, many businesses prioritize them over hard skills. If they can't find a candidate with all the practical knowledge they're looking for, they can hire someone with the right personal skills and train them for the hard skills they need.

People with the right personal skills can have a positive impact on a company. They're reliable and can complete their tasks more quickly and efficiently than candidates who lack personal skills. They're typically passionate, positive and motivated to produce excellent work. However, for advanced or technical positions, employers prioritize hard skills. Companies may need to choose someone with existing, relevant hard skills if they don't have time to give a new employee additional training.

Examples of personal skills

People in different jobs require different personal skills to work efficiently and successfully. Many personal skills apply to almost any job. They're beneficial in other parts of your life, too. Here are some of the most common types of personal skills with examples:

Communication

Effective communication skills are essential for a successful job interview and for the rest of your career. You should know how to speak to people in a variety of situations and get along well with many personality types. For example, you need to tell a client if you think a new idea or process will be ineffective. You also need to coordinate your actions with other team members. Tactfully disagreeing with others without starting an argument is an important skill. Other personal communication skills include:

  • active listening
  • confidence
  • eloquence in writing or while speaking in public
  • persuasiveness
  • conflict resolution skills
  • ability to understand nonverbal cues, like body language
  • empathy and compassion
  • teamwork
  • leadership skills
  • cultural sensitivity

Read More: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples

Problem-solving

Employers value people who can solve problems quickly and effectively. Good problem solvers can stay calm, adapt to unexpected changes quickly and come up with innovative solutions for a variety of issues. Personal skills associated with problem-solving include:

  • patience
  • research skills
  • risk assessment
  • teamwork
  • critical thinking
  • resourcefulness
  • troubleshooting

Creativity

Creativity is the ability to think of innovative ideas, improve company processes and procedures and find better ways to perform existing tasks. It's not just an excellent skill for artists and writers. Engineers, computer programmers, managers and many other professionals can benefit from creative thinking. You can use creativity in almost any role at any level. Here are some examples of related skills:

  • curiosity
  • ability to learn quickly
  • open-mindedness
  • innovation
  • willingness to experiment and try new things

Work ethic

People with a good work ethic are more productive. They're passionate about their job, and they always do their best to fulfill their duties on time and produce high-quality work. A strong work ethic will help you develop a positive relationship with your colleagues. It's also essential when learning the hard skills you need to do a job well. Many employers would rather hire someone personable with a strong work ethic than a person with more hard skills who seems less motivated. Skills related to work ethic include:

  • consistency
  • organization
  • time management
  • flexibility
  • enthusiasm
  • attention to detail
  • persistence
  • dependability
  • motivation
  • focus on results

How to use personal skills on your resume

Here are some steps for adding your personal skills to your resume:

1. Review the job description and research the company

Many employers list the personal skills they're looking for in their job descriptions. You can also check descriptions of current employees on the company website to see which characteristics the organization values most.

2. Decide which skills to emphasize

Choose some of your best personal skills to discuss. Make sure they would benefit the employer and pick relevant skills mentioned in the job description or on the company website if possible.

3. Use keywords

Many companies use software to scan resumes and send the best ones for more detailed reviews to hiring managers. For the best chance of having your resume seen by a real person, use as many keywords from the job description as possible.

For example, if the job description uses the phrase “confident salesperson,” you could be more successful by using the same phrase in your resume objective than by choosing a similar expression like “outgoing salesperson.”

Ways to include your personal skills

Here are some ways to state your skills along with examples:

List your skills in a separate skills section

Use this format if you have extensive work experience or specialized skills. It can help you emphasize the skills that set you apart from other applicants. After your job history, list the skills that you used in those jobs in a separate section. The skills you include should support your work experience and apply for the job you want. For example:

*Relevant skills: teamwork, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, critical-thinking ability, strong work ethic, analytical thinking.*

Use a functional resume

A functional resume focuses on your skills and abilities instead of your chronological work history. Many people use this format if they're changing careers, have little professional experience, or want to make an employment gap seem less obvious. After the objective, functional resumes have a section called “Skills and Abilities” or “Professional Accomplishments.” It should list some of your best professional accomplishments that are related to specific skills. For example:

*Empathy: Listened carefully to customer complaints and empathized with them while trying to resolve a variety of issues, reducing customer turnover by 50%. Created a forum for customers to talk about the company's services and provide feedback, which informed the company of unreported issues and increase customer satisfaction.*

*Teamwork: Collaborated with a team of five people to deliver projects ahead of schedule. Encouraged team spirit by involving the entire team in group activities.*

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Functional Resumes

Combine your skills with your former achievements

You can include your skills as part of the descriptions of previous positions. Talking about your achievements can also imply a variety of other skills, even if you don't list them all. For example:

Collaborated with a team of five to deliver a project within just five days of project initiation. Reduced employee attrition by 50% using bonding activities to create an opportunity for team members to talk about obstacles and find solutions.

Highlighting your skills during interviews

Practice mentioning your best personal skills when you answer common interview questions like “What are your greatest strengths?” and “What makes you unique?” Focus on the skills required for the position and your personal strengths. Select some of your strengths to focus on and prepare detailed answers about why you're the most qualified candidate. Consider the skills needed in your industry and identify some strengths that pair with them. When possible, include stories and examples of your accomplishments to emphasize your skills. For example, if you're asked, "What are your greatest strengths?" you could say:

"My initiative, communication skills and organizational abilities are my biggest strengths. While working as an intern last fall, I saved the company several thousand dollars by suggesting ways to increase efficiency. I also helped manage the business's social media accounts and communicate with customers. I wanted to ensure that all staff members understood the business's current strategy, so I started a weekly email to keep everyone informed about changes. After I left, these updates were so helpful that management continued the practice."

Read More: Interview Question: "What Are Your Strengths and Weaknesses?"

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