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What’s The Difference Between Hard Skills And Soft Skills

Updated: Jul 20, 2021

Often, professional skills fall into one of two broad categories.

Hard skills are associated with technical knowledge, while soft skills are character traits such as leadership, cooperation, communication, and time management. It's important to know the difference between skills when building your resume.

Key Concepts Covered

  1. Overview of Hard Skills and Soft Skills

  2. What are Hard Skills?

  3. What are Soft Skills?

  4. What’s the Main Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills?

  5. How to Highlight Your Skills in Your Resume

  6. Final Thoughts on Skills

1. Overview Of Hard Skills And Soft Skills

Using both hard and soft skills are a prerequisite for an effective resume, and in most cases, employers will pre-screen for specific skills across all applications.

Simply, hard skills are associated with technical knowledge, while soft skills are character traits such as leadership, cooperation, communication, and time management.

Because these skills are in-demand, you need to showcase both skills if you want your application to stand out. However, it also helps to acknowledge the difference between these two skills on your ATS resume.

2. What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are technical knowledge acquired through training. You’ll often learn hard skills through books, in the classroom, or a work setting.

When applying for any job, incorporate these hard skills in your cover letter and resume so that recruiters can quickly identify them.

Hard skills can be acquired through life experiences, for example:

  • If you’ve worked in a software company, you may know how to manage complex computer systems

  • If you’ve taken a procurement class, you may know how to set policies for purchasing goods and services

Every company will require specific technical skills for efficiency. For example, if you want to work as a procurement officer, knowledge in evaluating suppliers is essential.

Many employers conduct a series of tests to know your abilities and knowledge. Some companies will offer to orient or train you for the company’s success.

That said, let’s take a look at some of the hard skill examples:

Hard Skills for Resume Examples:

  • Computer programming

  • Mastery in a foreign language

  • Bilingual or multilingual

  • A degree or certificate (eg. PMP)

  • Mobile development

  • Programming languages

  • Machine operation

  • Network security

  • Database management

  • User interface design

  • Statistical analysis

  • Adobe software suite

  • Data mining

  • SEO/SEM marketing skills

  • Storage systems management

  • Marketing campaign management

3. What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are character traits that determine how you work individually and with others. Efficient communication, for example, is one of the primary skills employers look for. Other notable soft skills include teamwork, dependability, organization, time management, and stress management.

Soft skills are essential in your day-to-day activities and your job hunt. While hard skills are requisite to run technical tasks, soft skills are necessary to enhance a positive mindset. As such, employees often resort to applicants with both soft and hard skills.

However, this will depend on the employer because some prefer to shortlist candidates with powerful soft skills over hard skills. Soft skills are about your character and can be challenging to develop.

For example, Mary is a job seeker looking for employment in an HR department, but she lacks knowledge of data analysis software, making her chances low. However, if Mary can prove her soft skills, such as effective communication, she stands a chance of getting shortlisted over the other applicants.

Meanwhile, below are some of the soft skill examples:

Soft Skills for Resume Examples:

  • Teamwork

  • Integrity

  • Dependability

  • Organization

  • Leadership

  • Empathy

  • Adaptability

  • Motivation

  • Efficient communication

  • Active listening

  • Open-mindedness

  • Creativity

  • Problem-solving

  • Critical thinking

  • Flexibility

  • Patience

  • Persuasion

  • Willingness to learn

  • Time management

  • Work ethic

4. What’s The Main Difference Between Hard And Soft Skills?

The primary difference between hard and soft skills are how they are acquired and enforced in a work setting. Hard skills are developed through training or education. They include practical skills like how to operate a specific machine or software.

In contrast, soft skills are character traits acquired naturally. These skills are called upon when you communicate with others, provide a solution to a complex situation, and manage your time effectively.

In other words, hard skills are technical knowledge, while soft skills are your daily habits in the workplace.

5. How To Highlight Skills In Your Resume

Smart job applicants will always include their skills in their cover letter or resume. Sure, being fortunate enough to get shortlisted for an interview will allow you to showcase your skills.

However, you need to get recruiters’ attention right from your resume by including your skills. Below are ways to highlight both your hard and soft skills.

How to Highlight Your Soft Skills:

  • Showing up on time for the interview

  • Being honest about your experiences

  • Maintaining eye contact throughout the interview session

  • Speaking clearly and with confidence

  • Asking follow-up questions related to the job

How to Highlight Hard Skills:

  • Defining your experience and abilities with metrics

  • Provide a portfolio

  • Provide the right answers to technical questions related to the work

  • Asking follow-up questions related to the job

  • Effectively working through skills tests if prompted

Sharing relevant stories from your past experiences is an excellent way to display your hard skills and soft skills. In such a scenario, start by presenting the problem, describe the matter at hand, explain the approach you took, and conclude with the result you accomplished.

This is often defined as STAR, and it’s a recommended mechanism for providing examples along with structures that interviewers can easily interpret.

6. Final Thoughts On Skills

Depending on the job description, the skills to list on your cover letter and resumes may vary.

If you’re looking for a retail job, customer service skills, communication skills, cooperation, and experience are helpful to incorporate.

If the position is administrative-related, it helps showcase supervision experience and leadership skills like problem-solving and cooperation. Character traits such as empathy, persuasion, and patience are a plus.

Meanwhile, make sure that you’ve understood the job description before applying for the job. Do not include irrelevant skills because doing so will diminish your chances of getting shortlisted.

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