There’s no denying the importance of having strong skills in order to get hired for a job.
But there are other skills that are just as important as the traditional work-related skills you’ll need. In fact, they might even be more important.
Often referred to as soft skills or intangible skills, these are the traits that set you apart from other candidates.
The Business Insider article, “Shake Shack’s Millionaire Founder Danny Meyer Says He’ll Only Hire People with These 5 Skills,” highlights the necessity of soft skills during a job hunt. Meyer admits that when he first started hiring for his restaurants, he would only hire people with strong technical skills. What he discovered was that some of those technically proficient employees lacked a love for what they were doing—and it showed.
“Some people who had the least impressive technical skills ended up being the biggest stars at the restaurant, while others—with the most impressive technical skills—ended up weighing the ship down,” Meyer said.
So now the famed restaurateur looks for a mélange of strong technical and soft skills, or what he refers to as “innate hospitality skills.” The good news is that these skills can be applied to almost any job in any field. We’ve expanded on Meyer’s five skills and added our own below.
Here are 10 intangible skills that will set you apart in your job search
1. Exhibiting Optimism
If you think about it, practically every employer would want an optimistic employee. After all, who wants to hire a Debbie Downer? Optimistic people can help motivate a team when times get tough, and they are quicker to tackle harder assignments that others might be reluctant to take on.
Showcasing a positive, can-do attitude during your job interview can help a potential boss see how enthusiastic you are about the job. So be sure to highlight an example of when you were positive while others weren’t, and explain how your optimism made a difference.
Brie Reynolds, FlexJobs’ senior career specialist and career coach suggests this: “For many jobs, it’s also important to exhibit optimism throughout the job search. And that can be tough when you’re applying to jobs, not hearing back, and getting frustrated, nervous, or just tired. Try really hard to show your optimism throughout the process, from your cover letter to the final interview. It really stands out to employers.”
2. Being Kind
Think a cutthroat character will help you get to the job search finish line faster? Think again. The ability to be kind is an intangible skill that can go a long way in winning over a hiring manager.
But being kind isn’t just reserved for potential coworkers or your future boss; it’s also for everyone you meet along the way, from the security guard who gave you the building pass to the receptionist who asked for your name not once, but three times. Because believe it or not, if you’re rude or short with people, that can spread pretty quickly—and negatively impact your chances of getting hired.
3. Being Intellectually Curious
When an employer brings on a new staffer, they want that person to be excited about the opportunity to work for the company. But they also want something else, too—a genuine interest in the job. They want to see that you’re passionate about the position on the whole, as well as other components of the company. In short, an employer wants an employee who never stops learning and plans to stay with the company in order to grow with the position.
“Intellectual curiosity can start in your cover letter. Show the employer you’ve done your research to understand the company and how the job they’re hiring for fits into the bigger picture,” says Reynolds. “And during job interviews, prep thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer that go beyond the basics. This isn’t just a job search tactic—by asking more in-depth, curious questions, you’re getting inside info that can help you decide whether or not this is the right job for you.”
4. Developing a Strong Work Ethic
Yes, many employees start off strong when they are first hired. They show up on time, sometimes stay late, and tend to work just a little harder in order to show their devotion to their job and their company. But after a few months (or years), that can start to wane, as an employee wanders into the office late, leaves early, and begins to put out subpar work. So during your job interview, to set you apart from other candidates, show your strong work ethic by citing examples of when you’ve gone above and beyond in previous positions.
That said, there’s a fine middle ground of making sure that your drive meshes well with team members and the company culture. Nobody wants to work with the showoff who brags about how many hours they work, or how you think you work harder than everybody. That’s in instant turn off.
5. Possessing Empathy and Self-Awareness
Whether you’re working in an office full of noisy coworkers or from the quiet of your home office, being empathetic to the other members of your team (and to your boss’ needs, too) can go a long way. You need to be aware of your actions and how they affect others, from having strong communication with your colleagues to being able to pass off a project to the next team member on time.
Working in a self-absorbed bubble (either in the office or at home) won’t win you any prizes—or get you hired. To set you apart from other candidates, be sure to show that you are in tune to your potential employer’s needs when you sit down for your interview and you’ll win major bonus points. You’ll also be able to have a better discussion about how you can help.
6. Having Integrity
Integrity is not taking all the credit for a project when your partner did more than half of the work. Integrity is a critical component of an employee’s success; it shows a prospective boss that you value the team (and its success) over your own. It’s an emotional skill that can be hard to find in some job seekers, but working with integrity and honesty is not only the right thing to do, but something that employers desperately want in their workers. This intangible skill is an absolute must.
7. Being a Person of Your Word
Let’s say that you’re applying for a remote position and are given a performance test. You tell your prospective boss that you’ll have it completed by Tuesday—but then Wednesday rolls around and you’re nowhere near done. Rather than admit your error, you silently submit your test on Thursday, without an explanation or apology. What do you think your chances are of getting hired? Kind of shaky, right?
When it comes to your job search, it’s important to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you tell a potential employer that you’re going to hand in materials by a certain date, make sure that you can make that deadline. Otherwise, the first impression that you’re giving your boss might be that you’re unreliable, flaky, or untrustworthy.
It also shows that you don’t communicate proactively, which can present serious problems on the job. Standing by your word shows honesty, integrity, and dependability, all of which are intangible skills that can set you apart from other candidates.
8. Having Good Follow-Up Skills
On a daily basis, your job search might look like this: read listings, revise your resume, customize your cover letter, and send in your application. But what about following up on you applications? Some job seekers find following up tricky, believing that if a company is interested, they should reach out to you. Others are afraid of “bothering” a potential employer.
Thing is, you never know what can happen to your application after you hit send. Maybe your computer glitched and your application never went through, or it got accidentally deleted. Following up, believe it or not, can be an attractive quality to a prospective employer. It shows that you a) really want the job, and b) have the courage to pursue it professionally.
Wait about a week or two, and then follow up on any outstanding applications that you haven’t heard back about.
9. Having Self-Confidence
Job searching can leave your ego a little bruised. From not hearing back from employers to reading listings for jobs you really want (but don’t have the qualifications for), it’s easy to lose your confidence. But it’s important to be self-confident during your search. Self-confidence will give you the gumption to go after the jobs you really want—and explain to a potential employer why you really deserve the job.
If you doubt yourself and your ability to do the job, you might subconsciously send a signal to your interviewer that they should, too.
10. Being Trainable
When you’re applying to jobs, you want to put your best foot forward, presenting to a prospective employer that you’re completely able to do the job. That said, you don’t want to look like you’re possibly a know-it-all (i.e., untrainable). If you give off a been-there-done-that impression, it could be a big turn off.
That’s why you should know how to present your past experience and skills in a way that shows the employer that you’re qualified for the job, but also eager to learn the policies and practices in order to be a successful employee, too.
Says Reynolds, “Being trainable also means taking responsibility for your continuing education. Seek out training now, independently, to increase your skills, then show employers the work you’ve already done to advance your abilities and stay ahead of the curve in your field.”
Using your intangible skills to land the job you want
These 10 intangible skills will set you apart from other candidates—and really, for your life, too. If you’re looking for a new opportunity, FlexJobs can help. We partner with thousands of companies to offer flexible jobs in more than 50 career fields.
This article originally appeared on Flexjobs.