Blog Career & Leadership Development

Promoting your soft skills

By Sara Ring on Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Jacob Cochran at COM networking event

When coaching students on resumes, we often talk about how to effectively share about their relevant work and other experience. When putting together skill statements, it's easiest to list the things that we are naturally good at or have the most experience in. However, research completed annually by NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) consistently shows employers are seeking to hire people with these essential career skills:

  1. Critical thinking/Problem solving - Exercise sound reasoning to analyze facts and data, make decisions, and overcome problems
  2. Teamwork/Collaboration - Build collaborative relationships with diverse colleagues and customers, work within a team structure, and manage conflict.
  3. Professionalism/Work ethic - Demonstrate personal accountability and effective work habits, demonstrate integrity and ethical behavior, act responsibly, and able to learn from his/her mistakes.
  4. Written/Oral Communications - Articulate thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively, such as public speaking skills, writing memos, letters, and complex technical reports

To make strong skill statements on a resume or in a LinkedIn or other online profile, your bullet points should include an action verb, details, and an outcome or result. You also want to demonstrate that you possess these essential career skills.

Compare these skill statements for a customer service representative:

  • Answered phones


  • Responded to an average of 100 customer calls per day in a helpful and professional manner, reducing product returns for my callers by 25%

The second one not only includes more detail and impressive results, the addition of "in a helpful and professional manner" indicates essential skills of communication and professionalism, while "reducing product returns" shows problem solving. Employers take notice of someone who demonstrates they already possess these soft skills.

While working for an employer is considered the best way to acquire and develop these skills, we encourage students to mention skills gained through athletics, clubs, class projects, and volunteer experiences. For example, a significant team research project and presentation could demonstrate problem solving, communication, teamwork, and work ethic.

In addition to these soft skills, of course, you also want to customize your resume to match technical skills and keywords in the job description you are applying for. Be prepared with a "resume buffet" of strong skill statements that you can select and adapt for various opportunities.

Need help working on your resume or updating your LinkedIn profile? Career Development will be available all summer to assist Northwestern students and alumni. Make an appointment through Handshake or by emailing

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