Hard skills vs. soft skills in the workplace
When searching for and applying to jobs, you'll need to provide details on two types of skills that you possess: soft skills and hard skills. Both skill types are important and represent different aspects of your abilities, experience, and expertise. But, before you can successfully display your soft and hard skills to potential employers, it's important to understand the difference between the two. Here we explore what both soft and hard skills are, examples of these two types of skills, the differences between hard and soft skills, and how to highlight both skill types in a job interview.
What are hard skills?
Hard skills are skills that learn and develop through education, training, on-the-job experience, and other hands-on learning scenarios. These skills are typically specific to a particular job; for example, if you’re an accountant, you’ll need to have hard skills in accounting such as mathematics and financial modeling. Many job applications will list the hard skills required for that position in the description of the job, and if you don’t possess those skills, you likely won’t be considered for the position.
Popular hard skills employers seek in applicants include:
- Computer programming
- Database management
- Language programming
- Data mining
- Network security
- IT skills
- Computer technology
- Project management
- Cloud computing
- Data analysis
- Licenses and/or certifications
- Mobile development
- UX design
- Search engine optimization (SEO) marketing
- Marketing campaign management
- Machine learning
- Social media
- Risk analysis
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are much harder to quantify than hard skills and refer to an individual’s ability to work both on their own and with others. For example, good communication in both the written and oral sense is considered a soft skill. While many soft skills are inherent, they can also be learned. For instance, you could practice writing emails to improve your written communication skills in the workplace.
Whereas hard skills are needed to excel in a particular position, soft skills help you thrive within the workplace by allowing you to positively interact with others. Common examples of soft skills that employers look for in candidates include:
- Active listening
- Time management
- Decision-making skills
Learn more: The Best Ways to Show Skills on Your Resume
What's the difference between hard skills and soft skills?
The primary difference between soft skills vs. hard skills is that hard skills are acquired through training, education, or other learning-based means while soft skills are often considered character traits that are inherent to an individual. Hard skills are competencies a person possesses and can be learned and built upon over time through training, while soft skills are related to how someone communicates, relates to others, manages their time, and handles their emotions and actions within the workplace. In short, hard skills are technical know-how, while soft skills are personal habits and traits that affect how you function at work.
Successful job seekers possess a well-rounded combination of both hard and soft skills. Whereas hard skills are often required to be able to perform the duties of the position they are applying for, soft skills show the employer that the applicant can effectively and positively thrive in the workplace. For example, if an applicant possesses strong analytical skills but is unable to properly communicate with others, the employer may choose to hire another individual who has both hard analytical skills and soft communication skills for a well-balanced employee.
How to highlight soft and hard skills on your resume
Your resume offers a great opportunity to highlight both your hard and soft skills for hiring managers and recruiters. The best way to highlight both types of skills is by creating a skills section and listing specific skills in this area with an example for each. Take time to look through the job description and make note of the required hard and soft skills mentioned. Then, include the relevant skills that you possess as they relate to the job in your skills section.
You can also emphasize your hard and soft skills on your resume in your work history descriptions. For each skill you mention, include a quantifiable example of how that skill allowed you to excel in the workplace.
How to emphasize your hard and soft skills in a job interview
There are several ways you can emphasize your hard and soft skills during a job interview. To highlight your hard skills, try the following tips:
- Become familiar with the specific hard skills the job description asks for and jot them down before the interview.
- Choose three or four of the top hard skills you possess that directly relate to the job position and go to the interview prepared with examples of how you’ve used each in the past.
- During the interview, provide the hiring manager with these examples when asked. Use quantitative examples rather than vague examples to effectively show your abilities in these areas.
- Consider using the STAR Method, which stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result, when describing your hard skills.
To highlight your soft skills in an interview, keep the following tips in mind:
- Arrive at the interview early or on time to portray punctuality and dependability.
- Many soft skills can be displayed during the interview process without even having to be directly talked about. For example, you can portray good communication skills by maintaining eye contact, practicing active listening, and asking relevant and meaningful questions throughout the duration of the interview.
- If there are specific soft skills mentioned on the job listing, arrive at the interview prepared to discuss these with relevant examples.
- Use the STAR method to describe times in which you used soft skills in the workplace successfully.
Learn more: How to Use Your Skills to Find the Perfect Job