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5 Soft Skills You Need to Land Your Next Job

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Employers are increasingly looking for new hires who can communicate effectively and problem solve in the workplace. To land a job, it’s no longer enough to possess a specific set of hard skills, such as computer programming, machinery, or accounting. These days, companies want employees to come to the table with soft skills that include conflict resolution, effective communication, and adaptability.

Paula Cope

“Employers are looking for a balance of hard and soft skills,” says Paula Cope, a lecturer at the UVM Grossman School of Business and president and chief executive officer of Cope & Associates, Inc., a consulting and training firm in Williston. “If I’m hiring an accountant for my business, I want to know that in addition to being a good accountant, he or she can talk to customers, write a report, and present findings in a meeting.”

Cope points out that 40 years ago, a job description in the classified section of a newspaper would list four or five things that an advertised position required. “Now it’s eight to ten things, including job responsibilities, skills, and behaviors that signify success,” Cope says.

Here are five common soft skills that employers are looking for in new hires.

Communication Skills

Communicating, listening, and writing are important soft skills for anyone in the workplace. Now more than ever, employees and managers are pressed for time. That means that being an effective communicator—whether you’re writing emails, presenting in meetings, or listening to customer feedback—is critically important for success. If you’re looking to hone your speaking or writing skills, sign up for Toastmaster’s or join a writing group or workshop.


Working together as a team seems like a simple concept. However, in reality, teamwork typically involves the complex process of managing egos, communicating effectively, and putting aside differences to work toward a common goal. Respect, communication, problem solving, collaboration, and a shared mission are integral to being a solid team player in the workplace


Being nimble on the job goes a long way. Deadlines change, projects evolve, new ideas emerge—and with that comes the need to be flexible and adaptable in your work environment. According to, employers already value adaptability, but it’s likely to become even more important in the years to come. In one survey, 91 percent of HR directors predicted that by 2018, the ability of a candidate to deal with change will be a major recruitment goal.

Problem Solving

Are you able to spot potential road blocks and think creatively to find a solution? Effective problem solvers can identify potential hurdles, be open-minded to suggestions, communicate with others, and be efficient but not rushed to find the right solution for their company. Using data and gathering facts are a must in problem solving, and big-picture thinking is a plus.


While many soft skills are now taught at colleges and universities, including the UVM Grossman School of Business, etiquette is a skill that Cope believes needs more attention in the classroom and beyond. Etiquette isn’t just about saying “please” or “thank you” or holding the door for someone. Table manners at a business dinner, for example, are becoming more and more important. How to pass food properly to someone else, knowing when to put a napkin on your lap, and understanding that it’s inappropriate to reach over someone to grab the bread basket are all things that need to be taught. “The more we do in global business, the more important it will be for professionals to learn proper etiquette and be aware of expectations in other cultures,” Cope says.

Learn about UVM Continuing and Distance Education’s Career Pathway programs at