Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Discover the difference between hard skills and soft skills and how to highlight both in your resume.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

July 22nd, 2020

There are two types of skills that can be used in resumes: hard skills and soft skills. Employers often look for candidates who show a combination of skills, so a great skill section will list both the hard and soft skills that are necessary to perform a job and give employers a comprehensive idea of your abilities.

What are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are specific professional abilities that can be taught through education and training. They typically include the necessary technical expertise that employers expect their workers to have. Hard skills can mostly be quantified, measured, defined, or evaluated in some way.

Every job requires hard skills that are industry-specific and usually form the basis for the job requirements. Recruiters will look for hard skills in a resume to gauge how well a candidate will be able to perform the core components of the job.

Top Hard Skills Employers Look For:

The top hard skills that an employer will look for on your resume really depends on the industry you are going into. For example, even though computer skills may be in demand, you will not necessarily need them if you are a gardener.

A study done by LinkedIn shows the most in-demand hard skills that employers look for:

  1. Blockchain.
  2. Cloud computing.
  3. Analytical reasoning.
  4. Artificial Intelligence.
  5. EX design.
  6. Business analysis.
  7. Affiliate marketing.
  8. Sales.
  9. Scientific computing.
  10. Video production.

Other popular hard skills include:

  • Database management skills.
  • Programming language skills.
  • Web and mobile development skills.
  • SEO/SEM skills.
  • Data analysis skills.
  • Administrative skills.
  • Finance skills.
  • Mathematics skills.
  • Leadership skills.
  • Human Resource skills.
  • Business Operation skills.
  • Foreign language skills.
  • Writing skills.
  • Project management skills.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are subjective skills that relate to the way people interact with each other. Soft skills are also known as people skills, interpersonal skills, or personal skills and are personal traits that shape how a person works on their own and with others. Usually, they are not taught but are rather the natural result of emotional intelligence and life experience.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are difficult to quantify. It can be hard to prove proficiency in a soft skill, but they are necessary to create a positive and functional work environment. Soft skills are also mostly transferrable between jobs or industries.

Top Soft Skills Employers Look For:

LinkedIn's study showed that the most in-demand soft skills include:

  1. Creativity.
  2. Persuasion.
  3. Collaboration.
  4. Adaptability.
  5. Emotional intelligence.

Other popular soft skills include:

  • Verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Work ethic.
  • Interpersonal skills (i.e. empathy, patience, diplomacy, etc.).
  • Time management skills.
  • Leadership skills (i.e. listening, trust, cultural intelligence, etc.).
  • Attention to detail.
  • Critical thinking skills.
  • Dependability.
  • Open-mindedness.
  • Organization.
  • Willingness to learn.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills:

Hard Skills

Soft Skills

Technical skills.

Innate, natural abilities.

Learned through education and training.

Acquired through life experience.

Industry specific.

Transferrable across industries.

The Value of Hard Skills in a Resume:

Each job has mandatory hard skills that are required to successfully perform the core components of the work. You will also need to have a certain level of proficiency in each hard skill that is required to competently do your work and give you the advantage over other candidates.

Some professions, such as technical positions, will have a higher demand for hard skills and so will value them over soft skills.

How to Use Hard Skills in Your Resume:

When applying for a technical job where hard skills are in higher demand than soft skills, you should put your skills section near to the top of your resume. This way, the hiring manager can quickly see the most important information as it relates to the position they want to fill. An example of this can be seen in functional resumes.

Other jobs require examples of how you have used your hard skills in your previous jobs. In this case, you will want to highlight your skills in the Professional Experience section of your resume. This can be done by demonstrating how a particular skill was used to solve a problem and achieve a positive result.

The Value of Soft Skills in a Resume:

Soft skills help recruiters determine the type of person you will be to work with and if you will fit in with the company culture. Some professions, such as sales and human resources jobs, will also place more value on soft skills than on hard skills as they will require face-to-face interactions.

While hard skills will get your resume noticed, soft skills will help you to stand out and compete with other applicants. Since it's generally easier to train a new employee in a hard skill than it is to train one in a soft skill, recruiters are looking more and more for applicants with certain soft skills. Another bonus of adding soft skills to your resume is that they are transferable, meaning they can be used across industries in different types of jobs.

How to Use Soft Skills in Your Resume:

Soft skills can be showcased through measurable accomplishments and results. So, when listing them on your resume, you should always pair them with a measurable result. Applicants can also include soft skills in the professional experience section of their resume in the form of accomplishments.

How to Highlight Your Skills in Your Resume:

As already noted, the type of job you are applying for will determine how many hard skills versus soft skills you should include in your resume. However, it is still important to include both because even if you are lacking a particular hard skill that the company is looking for, you can emphasize a soft skill that will be valuable for the position.

Also, having a good balance of hard and soft skills on your resume shows employers that you have the adaptability to add value to their company and keep up with any changes they make.

Hard skills can be emphasized by adding any certifications, licenses, and specialized training that were completed to achieve the skill. Soft skills should be added to distinguish yourself from your competitors who may have the same qualifications as you. If you have attended training or a workshop for a soft skill, you should definitely add this to your resume to demonstrate your expertise.

How to Highlight Your Skills in Your Cover Letter:

Your cover letter is the place where you can bring anecdotal evidence to demonstrate your skills by using examples from previous work experiences. You should also show how you can transfer your skills to the job you are applying for.

You should include at least one relevant and well-developed soft skill that gives the employer some context for why you would be a good fit for their company. Employers will particularly want to hire those whose soft skills align with the company's goals, values, and mission.

How to Highlight Your Skills in the Interview Process:

The interview process serves as your avenue to elaborate on your hard skills and display your soft skills.

You can display your soft skills by:

  • arriving on time for your interview,
  • maintaining eye contact,
  • speaking clearly,
  • answering questions honestly,
  • asking follow-up questions, and
  • dressing appropriately and in a professional style.

You can elaborate on your hard skills by:

  • describing your experience and training,
  • providing a physical or digital portfolio,
  • correctly answering technical questions related to the work,
  • asking follow-up questions related to the work, and
  • effectively working through skills tests, if provided.

Sharing specific previous work experience stories that directly relate to the requirements for the job you are applying for is the best way to highlight your hard and soft skills. When telling your story, use the STAR technique:

  • Present the situation.
  • Describe the task at hand.
  • Explain the actions that were taken.
  • Describe the result achieved.

FAQs:

What are 5 hard skills?

  • Database management skills.
  • Programming language skills.
  • Web and mobile development skills.
  • SEO/SEM skills.
  • Data analysis skills.

What are 7 soft skills?

  • Creativity.
  • Persuasion.
  • Collaboration.
  • Adaptability.
  • Emotional intelligence.
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.

Why are hard and soft skills important?

Listing both hard and soft skills in your resume is important because employers often look for candidates who show a combination of skills to gain a comprehensive idea of their abilities.

What are the hard skills?

Hard skills are the necessary technical expertise that can be taught through education and training. They can mostly be quantified, measured, defined, or evaluated in some way.

Can soft skills be taught?

Soft skills are generally innate, natural talents and cannot be taught. However, they can be learnt and developed through practice.

Is being hardworking a skill?

Being a hard worker can be considered a soft skill. However, it is not something that can be demonstrated on your resume or in an interview so it is better to add more actionable soft skills to your resume.

Why are hard skills important?

Hard skills are important as each job has mandatory hard skills that are required to successfully perform the core components of the work. Without the particular hard skills required for the job you want to apply for, you will not be qualified to do the job.

Is public speaking a hard skill?

Public speaking is considered to be a soft skill as it requires good communication skills, enthusiasm, and the charisma to engage an audience.

Is being friendly a skill?

Friendliness is more of a character trait than a skill, although it can be developed and improved upon through practice. Friendliness should not be added to your resume or cover letter but can be demonstrated in your interview with the recruiter.

What are soft skills on a resume?

Soft skills on a resume are those professional skills that help recruiters to determine the type of person you will be to work with and if you will fit in with the company culture. They can also be used to help you to stand out and compete with other applicants.

What is a hard skill on a resume?

Hard skills on a resume are mandatory qualifications that are required to successfully perform the core components of a job. A certain level of proficiency is also required in each hard skill listed on your resume to prove that you are capable of doing the job.

What are employable skills?

Employability skills are skills and behaviours additional to academic qualifications that are necessary for every job.

What are hard skills in nursing?

The hard skills for nursing will depend on the essential job duties of each specific nursing role. However, some common hard skills include:

  • Urgent care and emergency care.
  • Checking and monitoring vital signs.
  • Patient transport.
  • Patient safety.
  • Technology skills.
  • Administering injections.
  • Preparing IV lines.
  • Changing dressings.
  • Inserting catheters.

Is teaching a hard skill?

No, teaching is a profession that requires a wide array of hard and soft skills, such as childcare, coaching, curriculum knowledge, disciplinary action, and test theory, as well as patience, organization, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Is customer service a hard or soft skill?

Customer service is considered to be a soft skill as it requires personal interactions with other people.

How do you list hard skills on a resume?

Hard skills should be listed in a separate skills section and can be emphasized by adding any certifications, licenses, and specialized training that were completed to achieve the skill.

Should you list soft skills on a resume?

Yes. Soft skills should be added on your resume to distinguish yourself from your competitors who may have the same qualifications as you. If you have attended training or a workshop for a soft skill, you should definitely add that to your resume to demonstrate your expertise.

What are examples of IT skills?

  • Coding.
  • Communication.
  • Knowledge of networks.
  • Time management.
  • Configuration management.
  • Database administration.
  • Critical thinking
  • Emerging technologies.

What soft skills are employers looking for?

According to a study done by LinkedIn, the most in-demand soft skills that employers look for include:

  1. Creativity.
  2. Persuasion.
  3. Collaboration.
  4. Adaptability.
  5. Emotional intelligence.

Why are soft skills important?

Soft skills help recruiters to determine the type of person you will be to work with and will help you to stand out and compete with other applicants. Since it's generally easier to train a new employee in a hard skill than it is to train one in a soft skill, recruiters are increasingly looking for applicants with certain soft skills.