Top performing professionals in today’s business world possess a mix of soft skills and relevant hard skills in their respective roles. As employers make hiring decisions, they should be keeping an eye out for these traits in the talent they interview. 

Skills in a workplace setting can be broken down into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. A soft skill is described as a personality-driven trait, often related to emotional intelligence, which is a person’s ability to recognize their emotions and others’ emotions to guide thinking and behavior. In contrast, a hard skill is one that is more measurable and can be learned in school, or training. For example, graphic design, computer programming, data analysis, and math are hard skills. A common notion is that it is the hard skills that will get a person an interview, but the soft skills that will get a person a job. While hard skills tend to be developed and practiced in schooling, soft skills are less taught and can be what sets professionals apart in the workplace.   

Here are five soft skills that employers and hiring managers should seek in candidates to help identify leading talent. 

Effective Communication 

Being able to effectively communicate with others in different ways is essential. No matter what channel of communication; e-mail, phone calls, in-person meetings, presentations, social media and webinars, all require interpersonal skills to successfully convey messages to others. Exchanging information not only relies on the message itself, but also that the message is received the way it was intended. Therefore, another important part of communication is listening actively and attentively. The ability to interact with others in a professional and effective way is one of the first skills an employer should look at in prospective employees.   


The longer a professional is with a company, the more changes they will experience. Flexibility becomes very important for employees especially as they age and are further removed from their education of newer technologies and company systems. Some may be resistant to changes made within the organization, however, the ability to consistently learn new things, adapt to new technologies, and grow within their position is essential to thrive. Not only should professionals be flexible to new methods at work, but also flexible in job responsibilities and schedule by performing tasks outside of their comfort zones that don’t necessarily line up with their job title. Additionally, the willingness to move their schedule or manage scheduling conflicts is a great attribute for professionals in today’s fast-paced, constantly changing workplace environments.    


While some jobs are primarily based on individual work and projects, most positions will require professionals to work as a team at some point. Getting along well with others, being able to lead, while also having the capability to be a follower are all parts of a team setting. These traits should be desirable to employers because they show cooperation, openness, and relationship skills necessary for cohesion in the workplace. Working effectively as a team includes successfully making a plan, achieving goals together, hitting deadlines, all while creating and maintaining relationships.   

Problem solving/Decision making 

Whether in the workplace, or outside of it, it is necessary to be able to react appropriately and find a solution when faced with a difficult situation. Often, professionals will be faced with resolving conflict or making big decisions that affect others at work. It is important to avoid being indecisive or making quick decisions before weighing out the consequences. These skills are acquired through experience, trial and error and should be highly sought after by hiring managers. 

Time management 

Often at work, there are multiple projects, tasks, and meetings happening all at the same time. Being able to juggle all of these at once by managing time and prioritizing tasks, while hitting the necessary deadlines is an important soft skill to have. Organization of calendars and responsibilities is key to mastering time management. 

While hard skills are obviously important, certain soft skills are the underlying talents that can be the basis of career growth and help employers build a well-rounded team. As employers work to hire top employees, having a team with high emotional intelligence and strong soft skills listed above can be a key differentiator in being the most successful team possible.