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Don't forget about intangible skills when you are job searching

Don't forget about intangible skills when you are job searching

Artwork by: Katya Simacheva

  • What are intangible skills?
  • What’s the difference between intangible vs. tangible skills?
  • Tangible vs intangible skills: show you are a well-rounded candidate
  • Why is it important to include intangible skills on your resume?
  • Including intangible skills on your resume
  • Customize your resume to match the job
  • Put them in your resume summary
  • Have a skills section
  • Create a functional resume
  • Your professional experience 
  • 15 Of the best intangible skills to include on your resume
  • 1. Communication
  • 2. Conflict resolution
  • 3. Creativity
  • 4. Critical thinking
  • 5. Dependability
  • 6. Emotional intelligence
  • 7. Flexibility
  • 8. Interpersonal skills
  • 9. Leadership
  • 10. Management
  • 11. Positivity
  • 12. Problem-solving
  • 13. Stress management
  • 14. Teamwork
  • 15. Work ethic
  • Key takeaways

Whether you call them intangible skills, soft skills, or personal skills; employers look for these things on your resume and when you interview. You need them to get that great job you are wanting. They may be difficult to quantify, but every hiring manager wants you to have them. Being able to put these on your resume is crucial. We’ll tell you the best way to include them and what are some of the best intangible skills to have.

Applying for a new job is always a challenging and stressful event. Often, the words on your resume are the first things a potential employer will find out about you. That is why it is so important that your resume contains all the most pertinent information about your experiences and skills. 

Your work experience and educational background are obviously things you need to include. But, don't forget about intangible skills, they can be just as important. Intangible skills are how you work individually and your abilities to work with and lead others. These types of skills are critical for any job. Having all of your technical and nontechnical skills on your resume can make or break you. Knowing how to best emphasize your skills on a resume can get you to the next phase of the hiring process.

This article will give you some good information on intangible skills, show why it is crucial to include them on your resume, tips on the most effective ways to highlight them, and 15 examples of the top intangible skills to have on your resume.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

  • Intangible skills, what are they?

  • Tangible vs. intangible skills

  • Why do you need to include intangible skills on your resume?

  • How to add intangible skills to your resume

  • 15 Examples of great intangible skills to have

What are intangible skills?

Your intangible skills (also referred to as soft or personal skills) are the abilities you have that aid you in performing tasks and working with others. These capabilities are things that can help you throughout your life in many different areas (family, school, friends, hobbies, avocations), not just your career.

Intangible (or soft) skills are nontechnical skills and are usually not specific to any particular job or industry. You can be trained on most soft skills, but many of them are considered personal traits that you exhibit. Many soft skills are applicable across a wide variety of jobs and professional roles, and they work across industries from marketing to finance to engineering to construction and on and on.

Having strong intangible or personal skills can make you stand out from other candidates that may have all the same technical (hard) skills and comparable experience to yourself. Some intangible skills are more appropriate for certain businesses or careers, but almost all of them are valuable to have regardless of the role you are seeking.

For example, here are some intangible skills that a Human Resources Associate might have:

  • Interpersonal

  • Empathy

  • Conflict resolution

  • Problem-solving

  • Active listening

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • Flexibility

  • Dependability

What’s the difference between intangible vs. tangible skills?

So, you’ve got skills. But which ones are intangible and which are tangible? And what the heck is the difference? Both are important for your resume, but you need to know the difference and how to best include them to make your resume as impactful as possible.

Since intangible or soft skills are abilities that you have naturally and are unique from individual to individual, they are not usually specific to certain jobs. Another way to look at intangible skills is to say that they are about your behavior and approach to a working environment. 

Tangible or hard skills are technical skills that are often job-specific and can be learned through education, training, or on the job. They also are generally more easily defined and measured.

Some examples of hard skills are

  • Computer programming

  • Engineering

  • Trade skills (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, truck driving, etc.)

  • Writing

  • Foreign languages

  • Equipment certifications

Tangible vs intangible skills: show you are a well-rounded candidate

You should include both intangible and tangible skills on your resume because both are important to employers for just about any job. Showing that you have both types of skills also demonstrates that you are a well-rounded candidate. Having hard (tangible) skills indicates that you are suitable for a specific job and will need little or no training to get started. Your intangible (soft) skills show that you have the potential to move up and benefit the company's culture.

For example, some intangible and tangible skills that a VLOG Editor might include on their resume:

Soft skills:

  • Ability to work under pressure

  • Attention to detail

  • Communication

  • Creativity

  • Organization

  • Time management

Hard Skills:

  • Adobe Creative Cloud

  • Apple Final Cut Pro

  • Corel VideoStudio Ultimate

Why is it important to include intangible skills on your resume?

We’ve already mentioned a couple of good reasons for having a good set of intangible skills on your resume. Let’s recap those and add a couple of additional reasons for including your soft skills:

  • They set you apart from the competition.

  • They show you are ready for the job from day one. No training is needed.

  • They show you are well-rounded.

  • They show you have strong potential to advance in the company.

  • They show your skills are a good match for the job and the organization.

All the above should give you very strong motivation to include intangible skills on your resume. We all have some soft skills. You just need to think about everything you have done in your life and find the skills that apply to your experiences.

Including intangible skills on your resume

Now that you have thought about your intangible skills and can recognize what they are, where should you include them on your resume? It depends on the job you are going for and where you need to focus them. Below is a list of some of the most effective ways to include your intangible skills:

Customize your resume to match the job

The best way to impress a potential new boss is to make your resume fit their job description perfectly. This is the most important thing to do with any resume you write.

  • Study the job description closely. Make note of all the skills they mention. Ensure that you include any related keywords on your resume to aid you in getting past the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that almost all recruiters use to filter (eliminate) resumes.

  • Research the company. Look at the company's “About” section on its website, mission statement, and values. You may pick up some keywords or phrases that you can use to show you are a great addition to the company. As an example, a retail company's mission statement might mention the importance of innovation and customer service. These are a couple of great intangibles to include on your resume.

  • Customize your skills section. Make sure your skills relate to the job description. Both the tangible and intangible skills need to match up as much as possible. Don’t lie, but include everything that you can to fit the role you are going for. Tailor each of your work experiences to include the skills that are relevant to the job. Again, don’t make anything up, but you should be able to craft your job descriptions to include skills that align with the job description.

  • Pinpoint soft skills that are key to the job. Recruiters and hiring managers will expect all qualified candidates to have certain intangible or soft skills. Teamwork, time management, and communication skills are some common examples. Don’t waste your valuable resume space on these. Use that space for the critical job skills that match the role. As with any good resume, demonstrate your skills through achievements and accomplishments. You may not be able to quantify your intangible skills, but you can show how you used those skills to create quantifiable results.

Put them in your resume summary

If your resume format includes a summary statement at the top, then this is a good place to include one or two of your best intangible skills. This will make them jump out immediately at a hiring manager seeking those skills. Don’t forget to validate those skills. You can include information about your years in the industry, projects, or accomplishments that help demonstrate these skills. Avoid a lot of flowery language and adverbs. Do include keywords (specific recognized words or terms) for the skills.

Have a skills section

Many resume templates will include a separate area for listing just skills. This is a short, possibly bulleted, list of your key abilities, including both soft (intangible) and tangible (technical/hard) skills. You must keep the list short. Space is at a premium on your resume. So, just use keywords that describe your skills. One or two words per skill. Avoid repeating skills that you have already called out in your work experience unless you need to really emphasize a skill or skills.

Create a functional resume

If you really want to focus your resume on your skills (rather than professional experience), then a functional resume format may work for you. This type of format organizes your resume by skill type. You may have sections for leadership, communication, and problem-solving with examples of how you demonstrated these skills in your experiences (professional, school, or personal). Functional resumes are typically best for people that have less experience or are changing careers.

Your professional experience 

This was covered in the “Customize your resume…” section, but it is worth reiterating because your work history shows how your experience has helped you develop the intangible skills for your target job. Incorporate key soft skills you used and provide evidence of your success that was achieved due to these abilities. Your resume must inspire recruiters and hiring managers. Building short examples of your intangible skills into your professional experience will establish your credibility.

15 Of the best intangible skills to include on your resume

There are so many intangible skills out there, and most people have a lot of them (to a greater or lesser extent). You obviously can’t list every intangible skill you have on your resume. Which ones should you include?

Matching them to the specific job you are applying for is the most important objective, but the second most important thing is to include your strongest skills. This is especially true if you find yourself with a very long list of soft skills. Put them in order of relevance to the job and then by how good you are at the skill.

If you are still struggling to figure out which skills to put on your resume, then we have put together a list of some of the best and most called-for intangible skills employers are looking for. 

1. Communication

This is the most popular and undoubtedly desirable soft skill you can possess. All employers want employees that can communicate effectively to get the job done. Some related keywords and terms to use:

  • Presentations

  • Public speaking

  • Verbal communication

  • Written communication

2. Conflict resolution

The workplace and the world are full of conflicts. People that know how to deal with, and resolve conflicts are very valuable in just about any job. Some other soft skills that are similar to conflict resolution:

  • Active listening

  • Collaboration

  • Patience

3. Creativity

A creative person isn’t just good at arts and crafts. Creative thinkers can approach obstacles from a different angle and come up with out-of-the-box ideas to solve a problem. Examples of soft skills in this area:

  • Divergent thinking

  • Out-of-the-box thinking

  • Visual design

4. Critical thinking

Being able to think critically is another intangible skill that comes in handy for just about every type of job. The ability to analyze available facts and draw valid conclusions shows that you are competent and can make good decisions. Some related keywords to use to indicate critical thinking:

  • Analytical

  • Curiosity

  • Open-mindedness

5. Dependability

One of the most important things hiring managers want in an employee is to be able to depend on them to do their job without constant supervision or follow-ups. Key soft skills related to this are:

  • Work under pressure

  • Organization

  • Time management

6. Emotional intelligence

This is the ability that allows you to quickly assess and understand what people are thinking without them having to say it. You can approach others empathetically. Similar intangible skills keywords for this are

  • Self-awareness

  • Empathy

  • Motivation

7. Flexibility

You can change direction quickly based on circumstances. This is important in many jobs that require managing multiple tasks with constantly changing priorities. Here are some flexibility skills:

  • Calm

  • Solutions-driven

  • Open-mindedness

8. Interpersonal skills

This differs from communication because it is broader and is more about how you interact with your coworkers and customers. Some intangible skills that are in this category:

  • Customer service

  • Mediation

  • Negotiation

9. Leadership

Leadership is not just for managers, supervisors, and executives. Unless your job involves only yourself, then there is probably some level of leadership taking place. Being a leader is about being able to guide and motivate others. Related to the intangible skill of leadership:

  • Results oriented

  • Delegation

  • Inspiration

  • Confidence

10. Management

Similar to interpersonal and leadership skills, management skills cover a lot of ground. Managing people requires some different abilities that are quite different from being a good leader or having great interpersonal skills. Some crucial soft skills that good managers have:

  • Decisiveness

  • Honesty

  • Planning

  • Thoughtfulness

11. Positivity

No one likes to be around a negative person or the person that is always pessimistic about everything. Having a positive attitude sounds somewhat trite, but it is an important thing that hiring managers take note of. Being positive might include

  • Determination

  • Enthusiasm

  • Optimism

12. Problem-solving

Every business encounters problems. If you are able to deal with them and professionally overcome them, then you are a very valuable asset. This also shows you are a person that does not need constant attention and direction. Other intangible skills that show problem-solving abilities:

  • Brainstorming

  • Research

  • Troubleshooting

  • Solutions driven

13. Stress management

Stress is something that exists in nearly every job. Knowing how to handle stress in yourself and others is a key skill that employers like. If you can cope well with stressful job situations, then you are probably a good employee. Skills related to managing stress:

  • Organization

  • Delegation

  • Multitasking

  • Task prioritization

14. Teamwork

Similar to leadership, it is unlikely that you work alone, so you are always going to need the ability to work with others. Working well with others and being a good team player are important skills that will make you a valued employee. Other skill keywords to show your teamwork:

  • Collaboration

  • Community building

  • Conflict management

  • Reliability

15. Work ethic

An old-school term that still has value for almost any employer. Being a hard worker shows you are committed to your job, are professional, and always give your best. Intangible skills related to having a good work ethic:

  • Cooperation

  • Dedication

  • Discipline

  • Focused

Expert Tip

Don’t be THAT candidate!

Use the skills that you claim to have. Don’t be the candidate that fails to exhibit the skills they have listed on their resume. 

For example, if you have writing or detail-oriented on your resume, then you better not have any typos, misspellings, or grammatical errors on your resume. 

Or, if you claim communication and a strong work ethic, then forgetting to include a cover letter or sending a follow-up email would look very bad.

Key takeaways

  1. Intangible skills are also called soft or personal skills. Knowing the difference between intangible and tangible skills and portraying them appropriately will make your resume much more effective.

  2. Picking the right intangible skills to put on your resume won’t necessarily land you the job, but not having them will definitely take you out of the running.

  3. Having a great set of intangible skills is half the battle. You must weave them into your resume in a way that shows you actually have those skills and are not just putting fancy words on your resume.

  4. Everyone has intangible skills. If you have trouble coming up with some, then look at the most popular intangible skills and see how they relate to your professional experiences. You will find some matches!

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