Hard Skills & Soft Skills: What They Are & How to Include Them on Your Resume
Updated: Feb 3
Both hard and soft skills are essential to one’s resume and general job readiness. Employers look for each of these types of skills when making their hiring decision, and they’re especially looking for a good blend of both. Therefore, you’ll want to explore your skills so you can give the employers what they want.
So what are they and the difference between them? Hard skills are technical knowledge or training that you have received through your career, education, or life experience. Examples are being bilingual or multilingual, knowing a programing language, working with social media, or providing patient care. Soft skills are more like personality traits and personal habits that you bring with you to work. Adaptability, being a team player, organization, and a willingness to learn are just a few examples.
The biggest difference between the two types of skills are that hard skills can be learned. Soft skills are often more difficult to develop (but not impossible!) which is why employers are particularly keen on finding people with the soft skills they are looking for.
Soft skills are much harder to quantify. Unlike a hard skill, like typing, which is easy to test, soft skills are not easily measured. They are often shown through consistent action over time.
Since soft skills can be so desirable by employers, it can be tempting to fill your resume with them to impress a hiring manager. Think twice. A hiring manager will likely ask for an example of a time you exemplified the behavior. Not only that, but should you get the job, you will be evaluated on showing a skill that may not come naturally to you. Why set yourself up for failure?
All the emphasis on soft skills doesn’t mean hard skills don’t have their place. You won’t get a job as a computer programmer if you don’t know any of the languages. Okay, maybe that’s an extreme example, but you get my point. Both types of skills are important; soft skills just may have a slight edge.
Hard Skills Soft Skills
Forklift Operation Communication
Marketing Skills Collaboration
Shelf Stocking Problem Solving
IT Skills Time Management
Financial Modeling Multitasking
Cash Handling Attention to Detail
So we’ve talked about hard and soft skills and what they are, but how do you know what skills are needed for the job and how to get the right mix? It’s way easier than you might think and you don’t even need a crystal ball. Simply read the job ad. The employer tells you exactly what they want. Consider this example:
Accountant wanted. Good written and verbal communication,
bookkeeping, and data entry skills. Must be dependable
and have a strong work ethic. Will perform accounting functions…
The soft skills are in red and the hard skills are in blue. The ad tells you the skills the company wants. Therefore, you want those skills you are capable of to show up on your resume. Of course, don’t limit your skills to just what is in the ad. There are other skills that could be equally as desirable, such as a knowledge of QuickBooks and being detail-oriented in this scenario.
Of course, you must present your skills correctly on your resume. The average person will just write dependable, hard-working, etc. Hiring managers see that all the time, and it means little. Instead of just writing dependable say instead “perfect attendance for the last five years at my previous job”. Tell them what makes you a good problem solver, good communicator, or a good leader. That’s what will get you a hiring manager’s attention.
Your hard skills can easily be quantified in your years of experience at doing the task or through projects that you did where you needed a particular skills. For example, if the hard skills has to do with databases, you can tell about building and maintaining a particular database and what it is used for.
Developing your skills is always helpful, too. Hard skills typically can be learned through some sort of classroom setting. I mentioned that soft skills can be difficult to develop, but if you’re determined, it can be done. Let’s take the soft skill leadership. There are plenty of ways to learn about leadership and how to be a better leader. You can read books, attend workshops and seminars, find a leadership mentor, and so on. Whether learning a hard skill or soft skill you should always take what you’ve learned and find ways to put it into practice. The adage of “practice makes perfect” has merit. Look for every opportunity you can, whether it’s offering your new skill to a project at work or at a charity event or side gig project. It also can never hurt to tell your boss that you’re developing a particular skill; he or she may be able to help you.
Being aware of your skills is important. Some people have told me they have no skills which isn’t true. Everyone has skills. Make a list for yourself before you do that resume. Look to job ads for inspiration for skill sets. Another resource is O*Net where you can look up occupations and see what tasks, skills, knowledge, and other key factors are related to the job.
If you’ve held jobs before, write down in detail what you did each day, and you’ll find more skills than you realized you had.