Resumes & Cover Letters

Personal Skills (Definition and Examples)

June 10, 2021

As most roles require people to work with others, personal skills are vital skills for most employees and job candidates. Most employees need basic personal skills, while people working closely with customers and colleagues need advanced personal skills. Highlighting your personal skills can help you secure employment and promotions. In this article, we explain what personal skills are, their importance and ways to improve and promote your personal skills.

What are personal skills?

Personal skills are abilities that help people positively interact with one another. Sometimes called interpersonal skills or people skills, personal skills are soft skills. That means people acquire them naturally or through practise, rather than formal study. People get and develop personal skills by interacting and forming relationships with others.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Why are personal skills important?

Personal skills help employees interact with customers, colleagues, supervisors and suppliers. People with good personal skills find communicating and collaborating with others easier. Forming connections easily through strong personal skills can help you succeed and progress in your career. People with strong personal skills typically make the best first impressions on others. People with good personal skills also find maintaining relationships easier. Their personal skills bring cohesion and stability to the teams they're a part of.

Employers prefer candidates with strong personal skills as they know they'll be assets to their business. People with strong personal skills help workplaces operate smoothly and make the lives of all employees easier. Their skills can boost the success of team projects, customer loyalty and profits. As personal skills are inherent, employers may hire applicants with less experience or technical skills than other candidates if their personal skills are very strong.

7 personal skills examples

The personal skills people use depend on their role and the interactions they have with other people. Some of the most common examples of personal skills include:

1. Communication

Communication is a vital personal skill because it determines how well people can share and receive messages. Most employees need strong verbal communication skills to effectively speak with people including customers and their colleagues. Many employees also need strong written communication skills to share information through reports, emails and online chats.

Those with strong communication skills know effective communication involves exchanging information, so they practise active listening to make sure they understand what others tell them. They know how to simplify complex topics to help people outside their industry or department understand them. They also appreciate the importance of nonverbal communication and use gestures, eye contact and open postures to show they're engaged and approachable.

Related: Improve Your Nonverbal Communication Skills

2. Collaboration

Anyone working as part of a team needs strong collaboration skills to help the team work smoothly and effectively. Important collaboration skills include managing the priorities of all team members, understanding different perspectives and satisfying the team's expectations by completing all assigned tasks on time and to a high standard. People with strong collaboration skills respect others and know how to balance their own goals with those of the group.

3. Conflict resolution

Conflict resolution skills help employees find peaceful solutions to disputes. Employees may use their conflict resolution skills to resolve their disputes with colleagues, customers or apply them to mediate with other parties. They take assertive steps to resolve conflict and try to listen to both sides of the argument. They are willing to compromise to find the best solution for the people in conflict and the company.

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving is a personal skill when it helps resolve problems involving other people. For example, a retail employee may apply their problem-solving skills to help a customer who purchased an outdated product that breaks within its warranty period. They may offer to repair the product, replace it for similar current stock or reimburse the customer for the product's value. People with strong problem-solving skills can devise a range of potential solutions, which increases the chances of finding an option others agree with.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

5. Diplomacy

Diplomacy also helps employees manage their relationships with their colleagues and customers. People with diplomatic skills are compassionate and empathetic towards others. Understanding the way others feel helps diplomatic employees speak tactfully in challenging conversations. Diplomacy skills also help employees negotiate, which is essential for people working in sales, politics and law.

6. Adaptability

When you're working with others, you may need to adapt your plans to suit their vision or changing circumstances. For example, if a team member becomes ill, you may need to delegate their tasks or assume more personal responsibility. Compromising, shifting your priorities and remaining positive when plans change maintains harmony in the workplace.

7. Leadership

Leadership is a vital personal skill for managing projects and teams of employees. Good leadership helps teams work cohesively together for the most successful outcomes. Adopt a leadership style that supports your team members and offers them clear directions.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Ways to improve your personal skills

Improving your personal skills can provide an advantage over other job candidates and help you progress in your career. You can develop your personal skills by:

  • Joining clubs or community groups. Participating in a sporting team, social club or charity helps you meet new people and practise your personal skills.
  • Start conversations with strangers. Talking to strangers helps you become more comfortable interacting with new people. You could start conversations with unfamiliar people at parties, in queues and on public transport.
  • Take a training course. While people learn personal skills outside formal study, training courses can develop these skills. Courses in leadership, communication, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence can help you improve your personal skills.
  • Get a mentor. You can practise several personal skills, such as communication and collaboration, by working with a mentor. Ask them to assess your personal skills and suggest ways you could improve them.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

How to highlight personal skills

As employees use personal skills in most roles, you should highlight them whenever you apply for jobs. After getting a job, continue promoting your personal skills to increase your chances of career advancement:

List personal skills on your job applications

Adding personal skills to your cover letter and CV can make you seem well-rounded and personable. Mention at least one example of personal skills you have and how they would help you in the vacant role in your cover letter. When applying for roles in people-focused industries, such as nursing and hospitality, highlight two relevant personal skills in your cover letter.

Include personal skills in the CV summary, key skills and career history sections. Cross-reference the essential and preferred skills listed in the job posting for the most relevant personal skills for your CV.

Showcase personal skills in your job interviews

As you interact with one or more people during job interviews, this stage of the job search process lets you display your personal skills. Be polite and engaging with everyone you meet at a job interview, from the receptionist that greets you to the interviewer. Companies often ask people outside the interview room for their impressions of candidates. So, being friendly in your interactions can hold you in good stead.

Use the interview to discuss your personal skills, along with your technical skills. Share examples that showcase your personal skills in action. Often personal skills support hard skills, so mention them in anecdotes explaining your use of technical skills. For example, if you are a website developer highlighting your programming skills, you might also explain how you've discussed the client's needs in a collaborative environment and problem-solve with others to find the best solutions.

Display personal skills in the workplace

Displaying your personal skills in your workplace may help you receive promotions and advance in your career. Some ways to promote your personal skills during your career include:

  • Acknowledging others: Thank people when they help you and compliment them when they perform tasks well. These interactions show you're engaged and interested in other people.
  • Practising compassion: Pay attention to your colleagues' mood and comfort them if they seem low. Offering to help, making them a coffee or listening to them talk about their challenges can all elevate their mood.
  • Staying calm: Moderating your emotions, even during challenging experiences, makes your interactions with others more relaxed and positive.
  • Getting to know your colleagues: Make an effort to learn about your peers and their lives outside the office. Take time during breaks and social engagements to chat about their family and hobbies.
  • Accepting invitations from work colleagues: Be social and accept invitations for after-work drinks and dinners. These occasions give you a chance to showcase your personal skills in a more relaxed setting.

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