Find out the valuable personal skills employers look for on a resume

A technically competent and proficient employee is great. However, to be a well-rounded employee, you need to possess a good combination of personal skills, too. 

Personal skills on a resume indicate that you have the ability to work well with others and add value to an organization, in addition to the technical skills you display. When you're in the market for a new job, knowing how to showcase personal skills on a resume is a must to help you get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers. 

In this article, we cover:

  • What are personal skills?

  • Personal skills vs. hard skills

  • The importance of personal skills on a resume

  • In-demand personal skills for a resume

  • Tips to identify your own personal skills

  • Where to showcase personal skills on a resume

  • Ways to develop your personal skills

What are personal skills?

No matter what type of role or industry you're in, personal skills are required for success at work. Personal skills, also referred to as soft skills or people skills, are required to effectively work with, and interact well with, others - they allow you to succeed on the job through creating productive and harmonious relationships. 

Though technical skills can help you get a job done, personal skills, like communication and problem solving, are necessary to collaborate and meet organizational goals as successfully and productively as possible. They are also highly transferable across positions and industries. 

Personal skills vs. hard skills

Hard skills, also referred to as technical skills, are acquired through education, certifications, and training. They are easily measurable and tend to be job specific. Examples of hard skills include:

  • Computer software proficiency

  • Accounting

  • Foreign languages

  • Data entry

Personal skills, on the other hand, are more difficult to measure and acquire. They're not easily taught and tend to be gained through experience, while improving over time. 

When you possess strong personal skills, employers notice, given that they're not easily gained through training as hard skills can be. Plus, when you showcase one personal skill, it tends to emphasize additional personal skills, as well. For example, to have strong problem solving skills, you also have to have critical and analytical skills.

The importance of personal skills on a resume

Employers want to hire job candidates they feel will contribute to and improve the company culture. Where technical skills show you have the minimum requirements to get the job done, personal skills on a resume indicate you can get the job done while fostering a positive work environment. And, as mentioned previously, since personal skills are difficult to teach, employers value those who show up with solid personal skills from the start. 

In-demand personal skills on a resume

Below are seven valuable personal skills to highlight on your resume to successfully grab the attention of prospective employers. 

1. Communication

Every employee has to discuss their work efforts, challenges, goals, and more at one point or another, to ensure forward movement and productivity. This makes effective communication one of the most valuable personal skills you can have. Even an individual contributor who has little interaction with others needs to be able to communicate both verbally and in written form. 

2. Creativity

Creativity means you come up with solutions to problems in new and different ways. Creative thinking enables innovations and advancements within the work environment - and what employer doesn't value that?

3. Problem solving

Problem solving skills are required daily to determine the best way to approach a task, handle project bottlenecks, deal with conflict, and navigate challenging relationships. As such, employers love hiring employees with stellar problem solving skills. Plus, where there's effective problem solving, there's also critical thinking, analytical thinking, and creativity.

4. Teamwork

We rarely work in a vacuum, making teamwork skills necessary to accomplish departmental tasks and meet goals. Teamwork also requires collaboration, another personal skill in high demand.

5. Conflict resolution

Though we tend to shy away from conflict, it's a natural part of life and is unavoidable. As such, conflict resolution skills are necessary for a supportive work environment. 

6. Time management

Employees have a lot on their plates from day to day, so to ensure timeliness, proper prioritization, and the ability to reach goals, time management is a must. Effective time management also helps to alleviate stress on the job and supports organizational skills, among others. 

7. Leadership

Leadership is a vital skill for success. Even if you don't hold the title of “Manager” or “Supervisor,” leadership skills can show up in all sorts of ways, from effective teamwork and taking ownership to leading by example and admitting when you've made a mistake. Also, individual contributors with solid leadership skills frequently advance to leadership positions when the opportunity arises, making it a personal skill that tends to place individuals on the “high potential” list within an organization.

Additional personal skills

In addition to the above list, below are more important personal skills examples commonly found on resumes.

  • Results orientation

  • Analytical thinking

  • Organization

  • Inspirational

  • Motivational

  • Works well under stress

  • Collaboration

  • Adaptability

  • Critical thinking

  • Dependability

  • Strong work ethic

  • Flexibility

  • Attention to detail

  • Self-motivated

  • Professional

  • Service oriented

Tips to identify your personal skills for a resume

If you're struggling to come up with a list of personal skills for your own resume, no worries. Here are some tips to help:

  • Ask others: One great way to identify your personal skills is to ask others for input. To keep it focused, consider asking a question like, “What are the top three personal skills you see me display?”

  • Review the job description: Read through the job description carefully and highlight all of the personal skills indicated. From there, consider which of those skills you possess. 

  • Make a list of your past achievements: If you're unsure of where to start, simply make a list of some of your most notable work successes. Then, ask yourself which personal skills were required for those accomplishments, and write them down. 

  • Consider past performance appraisals and feedback.Think back on performance reviews and feedback you've received from peers and supervisors. Which of your skills and abilities got high marks and why?

How to highlight personal skills on a resume: show vs. tell

When it comes to personal skills on a resume, it's not enough to simply list them, as you might with technical skills. Instead, you need to be able to show and prove you have personal skills through your accomplishments and achievements. 

For example, instead of listing leadership, problem solving, and critical thinking on your resume, show that you have them in your resume summary or work experience section by highlighting an accomplishment like:

  • Spearheaded development of, and implemented, new company-wide project management processes and procedures, resulting in improved communications between stakeholders and reduced bottlenecks by 11% quarter over quarter

The above bullet point sounds a lot better and more descriptive than:

  • Strong leadership, problem solving, and critical thinking skills to support new processes and procedures

Where to showcase personal skills on your resume

Now that you have some tips to come up with a list of personal skills you can be proud of, as well as how to highlight them, let's discuss the best places to incorporate them on your resume. Some options include the following sections:

  • Resume Summary

  • Work Experience

  • Hobbies and Interests

Resume Summary

Employers often receive hundreds of resumes for any given position, which is partly why they skim resumes and make a decision about your candidacy within six seconds. As a result, your resume summary needs to clearly state your unique value proposition to quickly grab the employer's attention so your chances of landing in the “yes” pile improve. One way to do this is to highlight a few of your top personal skills in your resume summary and, as mentioned previously, provide proof that you have them through your accomplishments. For example:

Dynamic Human Resources Manager with 15 years of experience. Proven track record of increasing retention rates by 8% and improving employee morale rating by 15% through new employee relations initiatives and improved leader-employee communications. Skilled in compensation design, policy development, operational support, succession planning, and career development. 

Without specifically stating them, this summary indicates several personal skills. The accomplishments mentioned could not be achieved without professionalism, effective communication, time management, organizational skills, leadership, innovation, and critical thinking, to name a few.  

Work Experience

The achievements you list for each position within your Work Experience section provide the perfect opportunity to showcase your personal skills. For each accomplishment you include, indicate the key personal skills used. For example, as a Customer Service Representative you might highlight your conflict resolution and critical thinking skills by describing a time you managed and resolved an escalated customer complaint with a positive result.  

Hobbies and Interests

Though a Hobbies and Interests section isn't standard, it can be beneficial and add value to your resume under certain circumstances, one of which being if you're concerned that your resume lacks some personal skills based on the job description requirements. With that scenario, as long as your resume won't spill over onto a third page, consider any hobbies or interests you have that might add value and fill in the gaps.

Let's say, for example, that your work history up until now has given you little opportunity to work as part of a team or collaborate with others, though it's an important skill for the job you're applying for. In that case, you might include a team sport or charity activities you're involved in that speak to your teamwork and collaboration abilities. 

For more tips on when and how to incorporate hobbies and interests on a resume, refer to “How to List Hobbies and Interests on a Resume (With Examples).”

How to develop and improve upon personal skills

It's possible to develop and sharpen your personal skills throughout your career. Here are three tips to help. 

  • Identify areas for improvement. The first step to improving upon your current personal skills is to identify areas for improvement. Do you need to learn to communicate more effectively with your peers? Are you struggling with time management and prioritization? Once you know where your weaknesses lie, you can lay out a game plan to improve. 

  • Seek out training and certifications. After you've identified personal skills you'd like to improve or sharpen, seek out training or certifications to support you. It's possible to find many free and low-cost training and certification programs for all types of skills by doing an online search. Another positive about securing training and certifications is that it indicates your drive for professional growth and development, which employers tend to notice. 

  • Reduce stress. Often, our personal skills take a hit when our self-care goes by the wayside. Be sure to take steps to take care of yourself and reduce stress. Doing so can support you in being more productive and having easier access to personal skills at work.

Customize your personal skills for each job

Now you know why personal skills on a resume are essential and how to incorporate them. To share one more piece of guidance, be sure to customize the personal skills you list on your resume for each job application you submit. In other words, tweak your resume to align with the skills required in the job description you're applying to. And finally, be proud of your personal skills and make them shine on your resume to land those interviews!

Does your resume represent your personal skills in the best way possible? Why not submit it for a free resume review to find out?

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