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Developing Soft Skills for Job Hunting

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​When looking for work, job hunters must apply all their skills to their search. The assistance that soft skills provide is often overlooked so, in this article, we break down what soft skills are and offer a range of related advice to enhance work finding effectiveness. Just saying that you have a particular skill is not very meaningful for a potential employer. Instead, it is betters to demonstrate that you possess this quality by sharing examples of times when you have used it, thereby enabling a hiring manager to visualise your skill awareness.


When considering networking, I first reflected on how I secured previous roles with employers, and I was a little surprised to find that all but one of my jobs was sourced through networking. Over the last twenty-five years, all my positions have come through former colleagues or referrals to head-hunting with my first job sourced through my family network, and only one job formally applied.

So, develop your contact lists – speak to your friends, family, people you know in work such as neighbours, contact professional associations and lean on anyone, such as former colleagues, that can generate leads for you to follow up.

The power of perseverance and resilience

Adapting positively to challenging circumstances (resilience) and persistence when times are tough (perseverance) are closely related skills essential for successful job hunting.

Remember, failure is a large part of trying and rationalising this thought will aid resilience. It is difficult not to get down when you are rejected or perhaps worse receive no feedback. Rather than let dejection set up, flip it around and use the rejection as a learning opportunity. You can assess your interview performance and identify improvement areas, you can recognise mistakes that need to be minimised or removed, and you can note things that went well to do next time. Taking a more positive approach to the hard knocks that come with job hunting will protect your general wellbeing and improve your hiring chances.

Developing resilience for life

A big part of developing resilience is rationalising what is going on and understanding your influence on a situation or the likely outcomes. So, do expect your CV to be rejected frequently, do not expect regular feedback and remember only a small percentage of any application group are interviewed. Remember, you might have as little as 10 seconds to impress somebody reviewing your CV. While this is difficult to accept, I’ve been there reviewing hundreds of CVs, and it is true.

Recruiters and hiring managers develop keyword search skills and can be incredibly efficient (ruthless) at shortlisting candidates. Some of this is automated now with AI, and there is also self-selection where you inadvertently deselect yourself through a series of online questions. For these reasons, you must always keep in mind, the critical requirements of a role you are applying for and cover them in your application.

Consider generational differences

It is worth giving some thought to your target audience, hiring managers. It is possible that they are from a different generation to you, typically an older one. The following are generalisations to make an essential point that there can be generational differences and understanding them will help improve communication and relationships. Given the potential generational differences, consider focusing on skills that cross generational divides such as hard skills, communication, flexibility, team-working, etc.

Do you stand out from the crowd?

Consider how you stand out and do not just say what you did, say what skills you developed, how you grew them, and what you learned from applying them. Most of all, remember that, in terms of your job search, perseverance means not giving up on finding a job position when things are tough, and resilience suggests that, you can bounce back quicker and stronger from the challenges you experience job-hunting.

Download the complete Soft Skills for Job Hunting Guide here

About the Author

Ross MacRae has worked in Human Resources for thirty years. He is Group HR Director & Deputy MD, a member of the Orion Group board of directors and is in his tenth year at Orion.

Key responsibilities include leading the Orion ISP recruitment out-sourcing capability and account management of a key and fast-growing client. Ross also directs Marketing, Commercial, Business Management Systems and HR functional services within the business and has a number of divisional teams report to him.

Key skills are driving a performance-based culture, leadership team trusted advisor, talent analysis, benefits provision, keynote speaker, leading people strategies and directing diverse teams across multiple sectors, functions and regions.

Ross is a Chartered Fellow of CIPD and a Fellow of the Institute of Recruitment Professionals retaining a PGDip in HR, PGCert in Management and BA Degree from the Open University. He is also a member of several advisory bodies providing sectorial, regional and career guidance.