The Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Part 1 – What Are Soft Skills?

Hi Everyone!

Melissa Varischetti here, owner and founder at 

It’s April, and that means at least in PA, we are leaving winter in the rearview mirror and looking forward to a warm and sunny spring. 

As I was sitting down to write this month’s blog post, part of a series I’ll be writing about soft skills in the workplace, I realized thinking about soft skills and hard skills can be like talking about the weather. What do I mean by that? So glad you asked! 

When we’re talking about the weather (or anything, really), there are two main ways we can present our thoughts. We can say something general like “today is a nice spring day”, or we can be more specific, like when we say “it’s 80 degrees and sunny today.” We might mean the same thing in both sentences, but only the second sentence has a precise meaning that we can compare with something else (like if it’s 50 and rainy in your part of the country on that particular day). To continue with the weather analogy, maybe you think 50 and rainy is a nice spring day, but I personally would find that rather sad. That’s because of the more general nature of that first sentence. It is open to interpretation and can mean different things to different people. 

This is how I like to differentiate between “soft” skills and “hard” skills. Hard skills are like that second sentence – for example, do you know how to code in Python, or operate a forklift, or perform open-heart surgery? These are objective, measurable skills and abilities that can be taught and improved over time, as well as tied to a job posting. Perhaps a company is looking for a CTO who needs at least 10 years of coding experience, or a philosophy department needs an associate professor who must have at least a Master’s Degree in philosophy. Candidates who don’t have those particular sets of skills can be eliminated early on in the hiring process, while the remaining candidates can showcase their expertise in future interview rounds and additional screening opportunities. 

On the other hand, soft skills are much more general and hard to measure. For example, how good are you “reading between the lines” when someone is talking to you, how quick are you to realize if a mistake has been made, or how well do you perform in a stressful situation? What you may consider an adequate response to stress could be the exact opposite of how I would respond, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, it does make aligning candidates and job-specific requirements a little more difficult on the part of the recruiter. 

This is why, as I like to say, hard skills get you the job, and soft skills get you the promotion. If you don’t have the hard skills, there is very little chance of getting the job. But once you’re working and you’ve established yourself in your position, those soft skills are oftentimes what set you apart from your peers and help speed you along your desired career path. 

Now I’m sure you’re all wondering – if soft skills are helpful in getting promoted and advancing up the corporate ladder, how can we learn as many as possible to increase those promotion chances? Unfortunately it’s not that simple. There’s no hard list of soft skills. Which skills are valuable in YOUR JOB is something only you can know for certain. However, with that being said, I do have a short list of soft skills I’ve noticed tend to go a long way at almost any employer, during my time as a recruiter. I’ve listed them below: 

  • Consistency (if you say you’ll arrive at 8:30am each day, you actually show up at 8:30 and not sometime between 7:30 and 10)
  • Complimenting Others (you’re quick to praise colleagues and peers for a job well done)
  • Can-Do Attitude (if you’re presented with a problem, you give it your best shot at finding a solution)
  • Credibility (when you say something, it’s rooted in facts and data, not just an unsubstantiated opinion)
  • Compatibility (you are comfortable adapting to change and “going with the flow”)
  • Cheerfulness (you try to make the best of every situation – you see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty)
  • Certainty (when you make a decision, you are confident it is the best decision you could have made)

As a sidenote, this is why networking within your organization is just as important as networking outside your organization. Many times company veterans can shed valuable insights into what particular soft skills are valued and which are not. It generally does not take a long time working for a company to pick up at least the basics of what must be focused on to get ahead. 

Over the next few months’ blog posts, we’ll continue exploring soft skills in the workplace and how to develop them and use them as a competitive advantage in your career. But I wanted to kick things off by ensuring we all were working with the same definitions before launching into more advice. 

That’s all I’ve got for this month. If there are soft skills YOU have found helpful, let me know by dropping a comment below, or sending me an email at [email protected]

Until next time,