Career Resource Center

What Are The Key Differences Between Hard & Soft Skills

Every successful resume contains a blend of both hard skills and soft skills that showcase to employers why you’re the right fit for the position.

While you’re creating content for your resume, it’s very important to include the abilities listed in the job description.  Every employee specifies what they’re looking for in a job advertisement.  Think of the job description as a wish list of key items the employer wants most.  It’s the job of your resume to make the employer feel confident that they’re going to get what they’re looking for if they hire you.  Each job description will contain a combination of both hard and soft skills.  You’ll need to understand the difference between hard and soft skills so that you know how to effectively include both on your resume.

When you include both hard and soft skills on your resume, you’ll increase your likelihood of getting through the company’s Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), and you’ll also give hiring managers the confidence they need to bring you in for an interview.  So, what are the key differences between hard and soft skills?

Hard skills explained

A hard skill is an ability that you were taught and is quantifiable.  These skills can be tracked throughout your career by the things you’ve done and achieved.

Another phrase you’ll often hear in conjunction with hard skills is “technical skills”.  Technical skills are often used interchangeably with hard skills and are associated with any ability that makes you technically able to perform a specified role.

There are many positions where you may need to prove your hard skills are as good as you say they are.  For example, positions like software developers, accountants, and construction professionals – among many others – may require some sort of pre-hire competency tests.  You may have the option to prove your skills on job search tools like Indeed and LinkedIn.  According to the Washington Post, more companies are sing pre-hire competency tests to assess candidates.

Here are several examples of hard skills

Every role has various hard skills that are required. For example, programmers need to know JavaScript, nurses need to know how to push medications through an IV, and accountants need to know how to use MS Excel.  Of course, there many roles will have overlapping hard skills known as generic hard skills.  Here is a list of some of the more generic hard skills to include on your resume:

  • Computer literacy: For some, downloading an email attachment, opening a Word document, or chatting via instant messenger may seem as simple as putting on your socks in the morning.  However, computer literacy is a hard/technical skill that not everyone possesses.
  • Data analytics: If you’re able to look at information regarding your business, department, or team and organize that data into useful insights, you’re using at least some form of data analysis.  Furthermore, if you can create a profit & loss statement, review a budget, or set up MS Access, you’ve got some great hard skills that should be included on your new resume.
  • Language proficiencies: Although interpersonal communication is a soft skill, bilingual proficiency is a great hard skill that few people possess.  In today’s world with multinational companies and remote communication, the demand for professionals who speak multiple languages just keeps growing.
  • Project Management: There are specific positions as project managers that focus only on project management; however, just about every position (especially if you’re above entry level) requires some form of project management.  Project management is a hard skill that requires many soft skills, such as organization, communication, and attention to detail.

Soft skills defined

As one would think, soft skills are different than hard skills in that you might have been born with them or picked them up through your life experiences.  Think of someone you know who is naturally charismatic or always has their office perfectly arranged.  Personality traits like charisma and an eye for detail are also soft skills.

The good news for people who may not have been born with the right soft skills is that they can be developed through practice and coursework.  The first step in boosting your career should be to identify the soft skills that you’re already excellent at and write them down.  From there, think about any soft skills where you need some work and write down the three most important for your career.  Once you’ve done that, create a strategy to help you improve those skills.  If your public speaking needs work, your strategy might include going to a seminar on public speaking.  If your organization needs work, your strategy might include practicing organizing small areas of your life like your office, email, or computer files.

Having a great array of soft skills is important because they can often make up for a lack of hard skills.  For example, if you can demonstrate that you’re a quick learner who listens well and communicates clearly, an employer might be willing to train you on that software you don’t know how to use.

Examples of soft skills

The best way to think of your soft skills is in the context of your current job responsibilities.  What do you do every day and what makes you good at what you do?  If you’re regularly leading large teams, chances are that you’re using time management, interpersonal communication, and stress management in your daily responsibilities.  Showcasing these soft skills on your resume will demonstrate to employers that you’ll be able to lead teams with their company too.

Here are some of the most sought after soft skills:

  • Communication: According to CNBC, over 6 million jobs ask that applicants possess some form of proficiency with communication.
  • Critical thinking: Hiring managers are always looking for candidates who can think on their feet, resolve problems quickly, and make sensible decisions based on critical thinking.
  • Leadership: Even if you aren’t currently leading a team, there are other ways that your leadership skills may shine through.  For example, do you often get asked for advice by colleagues?  Do you step up and resolve issues, even if it wasn’t directly your responsibility?  Do you find yourself setting goals for yourself?  These are all leadership traits that you can use to highlight your potential leadership qualifications.
  • Resilience: Although rarely mentioned or talked about, resilience is a top soft skill that employers look for.  The ability to deal with adversity and challenges without losing focus is a great skill to have in any work environment.

How to measure hard and soft skills

Every resume should focus on the achievements you’ve had throughout your career.  You can use these achievements to effectively list your hard skills and soft skills.

If you’re a sales consultant, you can showcase your communication, relationship building, and negotiations skills by discussing how much revenue you’ve generated, what accounts you’ve saved, and/or how you were able to grow sales for a specific region.  You can also use these achievements to integrate some of your hard/technical skills into the resume.  For example, Utilized Salesforce to manage the sales cycle from start to finish, thereby generating $1.5M in new sales revenue.

Key takeaways

While writing your resume, you’ll want to combine both hard and soft skills into your content at every level.  Effectively showing off your skills to employers will greatly increase your chances of getting hired.

Do you need help with injecting the proper blend of hard skills and soft skills into your resume? Resume Writing Group has a team of expert resume writers ready to assist!

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