By Corissa Peterson, Resume Genius
Should you Include Soft Skills in a Resume?
When applying for jobs as a software engineer or data scientist, it’s natural to focus your resume and cover letter on your technical skill set. You want to show off your programming skills, and you absolutely should.
While hiring managers want to see that you have the hard skills needed for the role, they’re also looking for soft skills that will make you enjoyable to work with.
Soft skills are the character traits that affect how we approach our work and how we interact with others, like our work ethic or ability to communicate effectively. Soft skills have a large impact on our success in professional roles, which is why it’s so important to demonstrate them on your resume.
Highlighting your transferable soft skills can show employers that you have what it takes to be a productive team member – especially important if you’ve just completed a coding program and don’t yet have professional engineering experience.
This article discusses the most critical soft skills for software engineers, and provides examples for how to include soft skills in a resume and cover letter.
Table of Contents
- Top soft skills for software engineers
- How to include engineering soft skills in a resume
- How to include engineering soft skills in a cover letter
Top Soft Skills for Software Engineers
Below are five of the most important engineering soft skills that will make you a great team member, and job applicant.
A lot of creativity goes into software engineering, from designing applications and writing code, to conceptualizing software improvements. Inspiration, imagination, innovation, experimentation, and design are all part of the creative process behind application development. Creativity also helps you effectively problem-solve when complex technical issues arise.
Employers know that creative employees add value and have a lot to offer. So showing off your creative abilities will help get a hiring manager’s attention.
Below are different ways to demonstrate creative soft skills in a resume depending on your level of experience.
This example demonstrates how the candidate’s ability to propose new ideas led to a tangible benefit, proving the added value of their creativity to hiring managers.
- Brainstormed upgrades to improve existing software, leading to 2 new projects working alongside clients and developers that ultimately improved user satisfaction by an average of 10%
If you previously worked in roles outside of tech, you can demonstrate your transferable soft skills through your other work experience. Here’s an example that shows creativity in action:
- Designed a new drinks menu with the addition of 5 specialty cocktails, boosting beverage sales by 12% in one month
If you don’t have professional engineering experience yet, you can also consider including relevant academic experience. Add a point like this to your education section, or, if you have multiple examples you’d like to use, you can create a dedicated coursework section.
- Brainstormed 2 new app ideas and created targeted video ads in an Advanced Marketing course, receiving a grade of 98/100
2. Attention to detail
To develop functioning software, every line of code needs to work together. The smallest mistake can cause cascading problems that can take significant time and effort to fix. Employers know that by hiring candidates who are detail-oriented, they’ll minimize the potential for future errors. For these reasons, attention to detail is one of the most important soft skills for software engineers.
Here are some examples of how you might demonstrate your attention to detail in a resume:
- Engineering Experience: Conducted code reviews for 100+ pull requests, identifying bugs, offering feedback, and communicating with engineers to resolve issues before approving changes
- Transferable Experience: Planned and coordinated events including weddings, company functions, conferences, and product launches, ensuring close attention to detail and smooth execution
- Academic Experience: Gained experience as a writing assistant at the student learning center, helping students edit and refine the details of their theses
3. Problem solving
Software engineers create solutions to real-world problems through software, and in the process must consistently solve problems. No matter which engineering career path you take, one of your most important and used skill sets will be problem solving.
With problem solving being central to the job, employers seek candidates that demonstrate this critical soft skill for engineers. In an interview, it’s wise to be prepared to talk about a scenario that didn’t go as planned, and how you fixed it.
Here are some ways to include problem solving soft skills in a resume:
- Engineering Experience: Recognized for ability to efficiently identify and fix bugs, contributing to a 30% reduction in customer complaints across 5 applications
- Transferable Experience: Noticed an exceptionally high bounce rate on a client website and implemented 3 strategies to reduce page load time and improve user experience, resulting in a bounce rate decrease of 30%
- Academic Experience: Presented an action plan for 3 potential solutions to minimize environmental impact and maximize conservation for an Environmental Studies course
In all of these examples, the candidate states a problem, their action, and the outcome. By relating the outcome of your work, you show employers the tangible problem solving benefits you can bring to their company.
There are always new skills and tools to learn in engineering. Working in a field that is constantly evolving means you must be able to adapt. Software engineers must stay on top of all the latest industry changes to keep existing software up-to-date, and to keep their skills relevant in the workforce.
Additionally, as project requirements inevitably morph over time, engineers must also be able to adapt. Showing employers that you’re flexible to change and proactive in keeping up with trends will reassure them that you’ll be an effective team member today, and for years down the line.
Below are three ways to demonstrate adaptability soft skills in a resume:
- Engineering Experience: Learned Python 3.10 and used new features to update the code base for 2 existing applications, boosting performance by 8%
- Transferable Experience: Adapted content from an established YouTube channel to generate content for other platforms including TikTok and Instagram, gaining an additional 5K+ followers
- Academic Experience: Quickly learned to use remote learning technologies, and assisted students and staff with utilizing them to maximize a seamless onsite vs. remote learning experience.
These examples highlight the candidate’s skills to adapt to change by being flexible and proactive. By showing employers that you’re able to learn and evolve professionally, you will demonstrate strong engineering soft skills that can give you a competitive edge over others.
On a day-to-day basis, software engineers might find themselves working with project managers, designers, system analysts, clients, other software engineers, and more. When hiring new engineers, employers want to determine if you are a good team player, and at the end of the day, if they will enjoy working with you. They also want to understand how you’d work under stressful conditions, or how you’d take feedback when it’s not praise.
Here are examples of how to highlight collaboration soft skills in your resume work experience section:
- Academic Experience: Collaborated with 4 other students to create a complete business plan and collectively presented the project at a business fair, winning second place
- Transferable Experience: Collaborated with other faculty to design and implement new curriculum materials, resulting in higher student engagement and an 8% performance increase
- Engineering Experience: Collaborated with a team of 6 engineers to fix fundamental architecture issues in a health and fitness company website
Giving employers particular instances of your collaborative projects demonstrates your ability to work well with others. This makes you an attractive candidate to employers looking to hire employees that’ll work as part of a team, with other departments, or in a supervisory role.
Tips for Including Engineering Soft Skills in a Resume & Cover Letter
Usually the best way to show off your soft skills is in person, but in the job application process there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the chance. That’s why you want to highlight your strongest soft skills in your resume and cover letter.
Resume Tips for Engineering Soft Skills
There are many important components that go into writing a great resume. Soft skills are best expressed in the context of your professional and academic achievements, rather than as phrases in your Skills section. If you list “teamwork” as a skill without any demonstrable evidence, hiring managers are left to take your word for it. The Skills section is better reserved for hard skills for software engineers such as programming languages, unit testing, or debugging, as employers can verify those skills by looking at your portfolio.
To demonstrate your engineering soft skills, include examples as bullets in your Projects, Work Experience and Education sections. This way, employers can get an idea of how you leverage your soft skills to achieve professional goals, as well as what impact they can have.
For example, rather than listing “Strong Communication” in your Skills section, you could highlight your communication skills with specific examples throughout your resume:
- Projects: Collaborated with front-end developers, product owners and management to develop a dynamic and secure full-stack budgeting application
- Work Experience: Communicated with clients to establish clear understanding of expectations before presenting product goals to development team
- Education: Worked with a team of 5 students to develop and evaluate a new business idea using analytical techniques and focus groups
After reading these examples, hiring managers can see that the candidate is experienced in communicating with team members, which is a strong asset for an engineer. By using specific examples of engineering soft skills in your resume Projects, Work Experience, and Education sections, you can demonstrate how you add value to a company beyond your technical capabilities.
Cover Letter Tips for Engineering Soft Skills
Another great way to communicate your soft skills to employers is to include them in your cover letter. Using a professional cover letter template that matches your resume will ensure that your application is clean and professional.
Cover letters offer the opportunity to introduce yourself in a more personal way and explain why you’re a good fit for the position. What makes you a good fit isn’t just your technical abilities, but also your personality and interpersonal skills. Your particular set of soft skills helps determine what kind of work environment and company culture you will enjoy.
Do you love to collaborate? Do you enjoy exploring the creative aspects of engineering? Are you a good team leader who likes to inspire others? Do you enjoy solving complex technical problems? These are just a few considerations that illuminate how your soft skills influence your work style.
The body paragraphs of your cover letter should express how you can help a company achieve its goals by relating your relevant qualifications, experience, and skills. This is a perfect place to elaborate on the soft skills that make you well-suited for a particular role.
Here’s an example of a cover letter body paragraph that demonstrates how the candidate’s soft skills can add value to the company:
In my 5+ years at Boeing, I led a collaborative team using agile principles to guide our engineering process and ensure customer satisfaction. Together we implemented DevOps practices to streamline our workflow and provide a system for completing code reviews. With my experience, I can offer collaborative solutions to help your company implement new development processes that boost both team and product performance.
In this example, the candidate’s soft skills – leadership and collaboration – shine through as qualifications that can provide tangible results for the company, which is a strong selling point. By highlighting your soft skills in the context of career achievements, you can impress hiring managers and increase your chances of getting called for an interview.
This article discusses the benefits of including engineering soft skills within your resume and cover letter. Five important soft skills for software engineers include:
- Attention to detail
- Problem solving
Naturally, the specific soft skills you’ll want to emphasize depend on your personal strong suits and the type of company you want to work for. By recognizing which soft skills you excel in, you can target companies with cultures that align with your work style, and seek out specific job roles where your soft skills will help you thrive.
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Corissa Peterson is a Career Advisor and Staff Writer at Resume Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Edited by Kim Desmond, CodingNomads