What are soft skills and why are they important?

Research led by Harvard University shows that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills, while only 15% of success is based on technical skills. But what exactly are soft skills?

Soft skills can be defined as personal qualities or traits that allow the individual to interact harmoniously and effectively with other people.

It makes perfect sense that employers would seek these attributes in their employees. Yet, it can be hard to pin down exactly what these are. How do you measure emotional intelligence or just that ability to ‘get on’ with others? It’s all about how you approach life and work, and how you build relationships with others.

There are increasing suggestions that today’s young people are leaving school without these intangible personal skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

An article in The Telegraph proposes, “The absence of these skills is the reason why, despite huge youth unemployment (737,000 people, nearly 17 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds, are currently jobless), 54 per cent of employers, while agreeing recruits are more highly qualified than ever, still complain that they can’t fill vacancies.” Of course, this is applicable to people of any age.

So now you know they’re important, read on to find out some of the soft skills important to employers.


It sounds straightforward, but the ability to communicate effectively is about more than just being able to speak and write. Effective communication in an organisation is the ability to express yourself and your ideas in meetings, presentations and emails in a calm, concise, respectful and engaging manner. Communication skills help you build useful relationships and rapport with your colleagues, and need to be adapted depending on the situation.

Problem solving

The ability to solve problems demonstrates creativity, as well as common sense and the capacity to think for yourself. If you can solve a problem, you can thrive in a business environment, where things don’t always happen according to plan. It is important to be flexible and adaptable. Consequently, employers often ask candidates to give an example of their problem-solving skills in an interview.

Time management

Showing time management skills exhibits good discipline and reassures a prospective employer that you are organised and will get the job done. Time management skills not only help you get more done in less time, but they also improve the quality of your work. It’s also an easy skill to master. Be on time for work, be organised enough to juggle lots of tasks and be well-prepared to meet your deadlines, and you’ll soon appreciate how much it impacts your working environment.

Being a team player

If you’ve got an ambition to work your way into a leadership position, being a team player is key. To be a successful manager, you need to understand what you’re managing and have the ability to work efficiently and respectfully with other people who have totally different responsibilities, backgrounds, objectives and areas of expertise to you. One basic rule is to treat others how you would like to be treated.

Accepting responsibility

Being able to accept responsibility shows a prospective employer not only that you’re honest, but that you’re self-aware. Being self-aware means that you’re far more likely to be able to identify your weaknesses and work to improve on them which, in turn, makes you a valuable employee. Everyone makes mistakes – the skill lies in how you handle them.

Ability to work under pressure

Most jobs will have an element of pressure, so being able to work and thrive in this environment is key. When the deadlines are looming and the tasks are piled high, do you panic and lose your head? Or do you calmly deal with the situation? To thrive in any organisation, you need to handle stress and focus on the job in hand.