A soft inquiry is made on your credit report whenever you check your credit report, a business checks your credit report for promotional purposes, or a business you already have an account with checks your credit report. Soft inquiries don't affect your credit score.
Hard inquiries, on the other hand, are placed on your credit report whenever you make an application for a credit card, loan, or other credit-based service. Hard inquiries count for 10% of your credit score. While they remain on your credit report for two years, they only impact your credit score for one year.
When potential lenders check your credit report, they will not see the soft inquiries. Instead, they will see hard inquiries only.
A soft inquiry is sometimes called a soft pull.