Skip to main content

The soft side of your CV

“being smart will mean something completely different”

Harvard Business Review

Don’t get me wrong, it will be a long time (if ever) that a double first from Oxbridge fails to be a “stand-out” on the CV but the new world won’t just judge you on your educational grades but also on your ability to prove that you can adapt your current skills to any situation.

The Soft Approach

“Soft skills get little respect but will make or break your career”

Peggy Klaus

Transferable or portable skills are the most usual words to describe these abilities that you can sell to employers regardless of the job or industry you are applying to but before you dig them out and dust them off, you need to establish what they are and how they apply to you.

There are no definitive categories (only communication being omnipresent), and they are endlessly mutated, (even the National Careers Service is re-building its web page on the subject) the most useful site that we have found is  a well-thought-out jargon-free approach, full of useful advice.

A Transferable Skill Checklist

  • Concentration
  • Discrimination
  • Organisation
  • Innovation
  • Communication


The action or power of focusing all one’s attention –  includes listening skills, understanding and carrying out instructions, performing clerical and administrative tasks and learning new procedures


The ability to recognise and understand the difference between one thing and another - includes assessing your own and others’ performances and providing constructive criticism of people, jobs and situations


The quality of being systematic and efficient – includes coordinating your own actions and those of others, motivating yourself and others, leading, delegating and collaborating


The introduction of a new method, idea or product – includes researching, setting goals, generating and developing ideas or policies


The successful conveying and sharing of ideas and information – includes internal and external negotiating, persuading and influencing, problem solving, languages, developing relationships and being a team player

Understanding your relationship with these skills is vital and the more tools in the box, the more useful you are and the wider you can cast your net. In some areas, you will already be up to speed, but there are others which you will be able to work on even if they seem daunting, to begin with. Most of this is a combination of common sense and confidence, and one skill often leads naturally to another.

The Soft Sell

Even the most intelligent websites fall into the trap of advising you to describe yourself as “a pro-active, dynamic, self-motivated team player”, which can mean precisely nothing and just put you into the same box as every other would be employee. Instead, identify your strengths and describe them in your own words making sure that you emphasise the ones that each employer is likely to consider important for your new role.

The hard or technical skills needed for a particular job will always be essential, but increasingly employers are looking for the added value that you can bring from the skills learnt in education, employment and life experiences.

The secret as Peggy Klaus expressed in her prescient 2004 book “Brag! The art of tooting your own horn without blowing it” is to demonstrate that you can deal with a wide range of work situations without resorting to buzz words to make your point.


No comments received for The soft side of your CV

Please login to post a comment.

Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • Uni in the USA... and beyond

    The British guide to great universities from Harvard to Hong Kong. We tell you how to choose, how to apply, how to pay.

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Corona Virus As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, The Good Schools Guide International offers the following guidance:  Determine the global situation and that of individual countries on government mandated school closures by accessing the UNESCO information on this link:   For updates on the medical situation, go to  the World Health Organisation website at  If you wish to contact one of our GSGI listed schools to discover their current status or any plans for alternate learning strategies, please go to our database to find email and phone numbers for each school If your company makes you brexit, The GSGI should be your first…

  • Schools for children with performing arts talents

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

  • Finding a state grammar school

      There are currently around 163 state funded grammar schools located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. There are a further 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland, but none in Wales or Scotland. Almost half of these are in what are considered 'selective authorities' (eg Kent and Buckinghamshire), where around one in five local children are selected for grammar school entry based on ability. The others are areas such as Barnet or Kingston, with only a few grammar schools. How to find a state grammar school Word of warning: not all selective grammar schools have…

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents