Soft Skills Employers Are Looking for in 2021

Soft Skills Employers are Looking for in 2021

You’re in the midst of your job search, and you are feeling pretty confident that you are the candidate for the job. Why? That’s easy, because you have all of the skills the job requires, from technical skills to the training to the industry knowledge. However, so does your competition. The playing field has changed now, too, thanks to 2020. It was a challenging year that forced businesses to do things differently, and consequently, it changed what recruiters and hiring managers really care about. What helps candidates to stand out from the rest are soft skills. The new normal involves a lot more remote working, and that means that soft skills are more crucial than ever before, with some rising to the top of recruiters’ and hiring managers’ wish lists in 2021. 

What are Soft Skills? 

Think of soft skills as your personal skills. They are the things you do that make you an excellent employee outside of the technical skills that are required for the job. They may come to you naturally, or perhaps you have added some classes to your list to augment these abilities. If you have not, consider taking certification courses and online classes to develop your soft skills in the workplace. Soft skills, which may seem basic to some people, can be challenging for employers to find. Therefore, they are impressed by the applicants who can demonstrate a strong set. 

Here are the top soft skills that employers are on the hunt for in 2021: 

  1. Creative Problem Solving and Innovation 

2020 presented a plethora of new challenges in the working world. The last thing an employer wants is an employee who sees a new task or challenging situation and says, “wow, I don’t know what to do here.” Rather, they want to know that you can think creatively and logically to develop solutions to the obstacles or problems that come up in your position. They also hope that you will help to come up with new ideas in addition to addressing existing problems.  

Additionally, the more creative, the better; that type of thinking results in improvements and innovation within the company. On your CV, be sure to list situations where you came up with innovative solutions to the problems that arose and where you had to use your creativity in the face of adversity. At your interview, express your enthusiasm for defeating challenges. Every job has hurdles and employers want to hire those who are not fearful of tackling those challenges. Therefore, ensure your interviewer knows that you are one of those people. 

  1. Communication Skills 

This is a rather broad category: It can mean anything from how you converse with colleagues and clients to how well you get your point across in emails. The ability to communicate with team members and clients is vital, and it is not just when you are trying to get the point across either. Now that a majority of communication is done through chats, video, emails or phone conference calls, strong communication skills are more important than ever before. Taking a class on communication skills is well worth the money and time. It is one of the most important soft skills in any job, in any industry. If you already think that it is one of your greatest attributes, find a way to demonstrate that in your interview and on your CV.  

  1. Time Management 

Moving to a complete or partial work-from-home environment was a big leap of faith for most employers. Would their teams be legitimately productive away from their office? Without the natural structure that a day at the office sets out, time management became a soft skill that quickly rose to the top of most recruiters’ and hiring managers’ priority lists.  

Time management essentially means that you know how to organise your schedule, both daily and beyond, to complete your projects on time and with efficiency. The work from home environment can actually save people time by cutting out commutes on both ends of the day. However, is can also add more distractions. How well can you focus on your work and manage your time to remain productive without having a manager look over your shoulder? 

Your work diary and calendar are your best friends when it comes to time management. Set weekly and gaily goals for what you would like to accomplish and do not fear to block off time on your calendar to zero in on that work. If you are preparing for a job interview, see if you can learn what project management tools the company utilises and get familiar. These tools help manage projects and the time of everyone who is involved. If you can demonstrate familiarity with the tools they use, you will have a leg up on your competition. 

  1. A Growth Mindset 

When it comes to ensuring longevity in your profession, you must be able to adapt and grow to changes within your industry and the job market as a whole. With the mechanisation of industries and jobs, having a growth mindset is important.  

So, what is a growth mindset? Professionals with a growth mindset are generally motivated to reach higher levels of achievement by continuously learning new skills in order to move with a changing market. Put simply, it is being adaptable and willing to go above and beyond the hard and soft skills you currently have.  

Showcase your growth mindset by emphasising instances when you showed initiatives by learning a new skill in a means to better do your job or help you keep up with industry-wide changes.  

  1. Emotional Intelligence 

What does it mean to have high emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is the ability to evaluate, perceive and respond to the emotions of others and your emotions. This means that you are able to think empathetically about the people around you and the interpersonal relationships that develop in the workplace.  

This is another soft skill that has taken on new meaning for 2021. Grief, frustration and stress are abundant as we try to work through the pandemic. From pandemic issues to lost loved ones to work from home challenges, having the ability to read the emotions of your colleagues and respond with compassion is important. 

  1. Collaboration 

Collaborating with your co-workers is not as easy as it seems. For people who believe that they do not know how to do the job and do not have faith in others to do their parts, they can create tension within the office and hurt the overall efficiency.  

Now, you must be able to do it all whilst not being in the same room as your colleagues. Learning to work together, trust others, accept and give ideas is a challenging skill to master – however, if you can, you will be well ahead of your competition.  

Show off those soft skills in collaboration by displaying on your CV your ability to work with the team. You should highlight it during your interview also. Show enthusiasm for accepting team members’ ideas and maximising your team’s overall efficiency by using each person’s individual strengths.  

  1. Adaptability 

Change is an inevitable part of the modern-day workplace, even without the difficulties of 2020. The lightning-fast advancement of technology has us constantly doing things differently. Throw in the new challenges of 2020 and it is astounding how much jobs have changed, and continue to change. 

Think about all of the changes we have seen recently. Most offices went from 100% in-house work to completely or partial remote work. Video conferencing is now an everyday occurrence, while collaborating and working online is the new norm. All of these things have required workers to adapt to new technology, new ways of thinking and new methods. 

Think about ways you have had to adapt to in the past and be prepared to highlight how well you can go with the flow during your next job interview. 

  1. Active Listening 

Everyone appreciates a good listener. It should not be difficult to do, however, for many people, it is a struggle – particularly in a remote environment. Active listening is much more than simply listening intently; the active listener shows that they are engaged in the conversation by saying little things such as ‘okay’, or ‘I understand’ and through body language such as nodding. It also means making eye contact, withholding judgement and asking questions.  

As remote work takes the centre stage in 2021, it can be all too easy to be disengaged from your sixth video conference of the day or that morning check-in call before you have got to your first mug of coffee. If you are uncertain about what it really means to be an active listener, do some research and practice it at home with your friends and family (they will appreciate it also). Then, during your job interview, let your active listening skills shine as you engage with the job interviewer.  

  1. Leadership 

Although communication skills, creativity, emotional intelligence, a growth mindset and collaboration are all skills that can make you an amazing employee, leadership skills will further elevate you. No matter the job, a majority of employers are searching for people who are capable of growing beyond that role.  

Leadership skills are essentially a combination of all the other soft skills. When you combine them, you have an individual who can not only work well with a team, but also takes the reins and improves the rest of the team.  

If you have been in charge of large projects in the past, bring that out in your CV and mention it in interviews. Show the interviewer that you are not someone who is just looking to clock in and clock out, but an applicant who is ready to conquer this job and grow into a future leader within the company; that makes you an attractive investment for the company hiring. 


Your soft skills are the accessories to your training in your field. They alone cannot qualify you for a job role, however, when paired with solid credentials, they can make you a far more attractive candidate. As you review your soft skills, keep in mind how 2020 has transformed the playing field and highlight those that will help you shine in the new normal work environment. 

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