What are Hard and Soft Skills?

We all know that our resumes are a condensed snapshot of all our collective skills, experience, attributes, and achievements. But the bigger question is: what hard and soft skills deserve to be in that spotlight? That’s a tough question to crack if you are writing a resume for the first time in a while. So let’s get you some answers, shall we? 

Hard Skills and Soft Skills for a Resume 

A good resume provides an overview of your core competencies and areas of expertise. For example, as a customer support rep, you’d probably state that you’re experienced with: phone customer support, Level 3 live chat technical support, Zendesk software, CRM, etc. 

A great resume highlights an array of technical skills (hard skills) and interpersonal skills (soft skills) that are relevant to the position you are applying to. 

resume example for customer service rep

Customer Service Resume Example by Freesumes

A compelling resume immediately communicates which soft and hard skills you have. Plus provides extra context around them by explaining your duties and accomplishments

To get an even better sense of what hard and soft skills are, let’s take a look at each category individually. 

What are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are specific abilities that help you do your job. These skills are learnable. Usually, you acquire most of the hard skills via formal education, on-the-job training, self-education, or hands-on work expertise. 

Hard skills usually include:

  • Technical skills — these encompass your knowledge of software, mechanical skills, or other IT expertise. Simply put, technical skills define your digital literacy rates.
  • Task-oriented skills — actions, denoting your ability to perform certain duties. For example: “live chat technical support” is a task-oriented hard skill, while knowledge of Zendesk software is a great bonus technical skill. 

Different jobs required different types of hard skills. Medical professionals will need to have an array of skills pertaining to medical manipulations, diagnosis, and so on. On top of that, some clinics will also want to hire ‘digitally-literate’ staff. For example, someone’s who’s also familiar with EHR/EMR software and telemedicine software.

According to McKinsey findings, nearly every industry is facing a greater degree of automation in the coming decade. Understandably, the greater penetration of technology will also impact the demand for different skill types:

automation impact on skill requirements

Source: McKinsey

So if you are looking to add new hard skills to your resume, focus more on the cognitive and tech skill sets, rather than physical and manual abilities. 

Some examples of hard skills you’d want to list for a particular field may include:

  • Degree or higher education equivalent in the field
  • Industry-specific certification or qualification
  • Coding and computer skills 
  • Skills denoting your ability to interact with different technology 
  • Multiple language skills

How To List Your Hard Skills On Your Resume

Your hard skills are pretty straightforward to include on your resume. In most cases these skills are the ones that a recruiting officer will be scanning for when they look over your resume. 

So your main goal would be to scan the job posting, determine relevant keywords, and optimize your resume around them

Your goal is to strategically highlight different hard skills across different sections of your resume. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place the most important qualifications atop of your resume in a professional summary or career objective statement
  • Incorporate extra hard skills in the work experience section when describing your duties and accomplishments. 
  • Use the Education section to showcase the most relevant credentials. 

Some professional resume templates also feature a separate Skills section, so you may want to take advantage of that one too! 

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are those self-developed talents and attributes that are not specific to a particular job. Many soft skills are acquired over time and are developed through life experience, work experience, and social interactions.

This description may suggest that soft skills are not as important as they ought to be. But  LinkedIn data proves the opposite.  Over 92% of recruiters name soft skills as equally or more important to hire for than hard skills. Why? Because hard skills are easily teachable, while soft skills require more time and, oftentimes, aptitude to develop. 

Given that most employers want to build coherent, well-oiled, and successful teams, they oftentimes look for people who have a “matching” personality type and would fit well into the environment. 

what bad hires usually lack

Source: LinkedIn 

For instance, a high-profile legal company might be more interested in hiring assertive, self-motivated, and result-driven, A-type performers. Because that’s the kind of people they know to thrive within their culture. 

On the other hand, an NGO would be more interested in having a ‘milder’ legal professional on board. Someone with strong empathetic skills, high emotional intelligence, and well-rounded interpersonal skills would be better suited for their organization. 

At any rate, professionals with strong soft skills should strategically showcase these abilities on their resumes. Here are some soft skills employers value:

How to Put Soft Skills On Your Resume

Getting soft skills across on your resume is more challenging, so you may need to think more.

First, make an inventory of your soft skills and write down some good soft skills examples. Then re-read the job description and think about which soft skills can make you successful in this role. Think about how your day-to-day job will look like: 

  • Will you work as a part of a big team? Mention your teamwork skills.
  • Does the new role assume customer interactions? Bring up your active listening and negotiation skills. 

Next, analyze your past projects. Think about personal attributes that helped you do your work better than others. Analyze your work experience through the pane of social interactions and try to pinpoint the areas in which you were good at. These will be your soft skills for your resume. 

Finally, re-read the job posting once again. See if you missed any ‘clues’ from the employer. You can also check the corporate value page or ‘leadership principles’ page to get some more insights about their organization and the attributes they prize among their people. Add those that apply to you to your resume. 

To Sum Up: What is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Skills?

Hard and soft skills both denote specific abilities that employers look for. However, the main difference between hard and soft skills is how they are obtained and applied in the workplace. 

Hard skills stand for quantifiable, teachable, abilities, primarily obtained through formal education or training. 

Soft skills denote personal attributes and traits. Soft skills are also called “people skills” because you mostly develop them by interacting with others. These skills are harder to measure, but they are highly visible through your overall interactions in the workplace. 

Both soft and hard skills have equal merit for employers. They deserve a balanced representation on your resume.

This article was first published in April 2017 and has been updated in February 2021.

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Originally posted at Freesumes