Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Differences and Examples

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When employers create job descriptions, they often demand a combination of hard and soft skills. Hard skills refer to the qualities and knowledge an applicant has for a specific job, while soft skills are general personality traits such as good communication or leadership. Hard skills are easier to teach an employee, as they specifically relate to a certain set of activities. Soft skills depend more on the applicant’s personality and upbringing, but they can also be learned.

Being successful at virtually any activity implies a combination of hard and soft skills. For that reason, your resume should contain a mix of both. This article explains how to list hard and soft skills on a resume along with some examples of the best skills and how you can improve them.

How to list hard and soft skills on your resume

A resume, highlighting the hard and soft skills an employer is likely to look for, is vital to receive an interview request. 

Here are the steps for listing hard and soft skills on your resume:

1. Firstly, identify the skills that are most useful for that specific job

Depending on the nature of the position you’re after, some skills will prove to be more valuable than others. Your outgoing personality and good communication skills may not be valued if the job requires little human interaction. On the other hand, if you are applying for a job at a travel agency and you can speak four languages, you want them to know this skill set. 

2. Next, show the certification or previous work experiences that prove your hard skills

Hard skills are acquired and can be proven. Make sure all hard skills listed on your resume are backed either by awards, certifications or relevant work experience.

3. Finally, showcase your soft skills by giving concrete examples of how you used them in the past

Soft skills are much more subjective and open to debate. Simply stating you are a hardworking, punctual and organized person is not likely to convince your potential employer. A more effective approach is to describe specific instances in the past when you successfully used those qualities.

Best soft skills to add to a resume

Hard skills greatly depend on the position you are applying for, so the best hard skills for a specific job are most relevant. Soft skills are more universal. 

Examples of the best soft skills to add to a resume are:

  • Communication skills. Unless you work a completely isolated job and don’t interact with coworkers or customers, communication skills are universally sought after by employers. 
  • Willingness to learn. Jobs often require constant learning, and hiring managers look for employees who are eager to learn and who strive to improve.
  • Dependability. Trustworthy and dependable employees are always appreciated.
  • Adaptability. The new hire needs to quickly adapt to the working environment and to any future changes in the organization.
  • Teamwork. Companies consist of teams, and everyone needs to learn how to work together to deliver results.
  • Problem-solving abilities. Employees who can envision solutions to problems can be invaluable assets to a company.
  • Leadership. The ability to motivate and inspire coworkers is a prized soft skill.
  • Good time management. Being on time and delivering projects within their deadline is important to any potential employer.
  • Self-motivation. Motivating employees is a daunting task for any employer, so one that doesn’t need an extra push is highly valued.

Tips to improve hard and soft skills

Hard skills can be improved through learning and practice. From learning a new programming language to operating heavy machinery, everything can be learned if you put in the time and effort. While soft skills are more dependent on your character, they can still be improved. 

Here are some tips to improve the most popular soft skills:

  • Communication skills. Improving your communication skills is a matter of practice and attitude. 
  • Willingness to learn. Be aware that everything around you is a learning opportunity.
  • Dependability. Practice being dependable in both your professional and your personal life.
  • Adaptability. Accepting new ways of doing things is the first step in adapting to them.
  • Teamwork. Practice working within teams and learn to trust teammates.
  • Problem-solving abilities. Most problems are less difficult than they initially seem, so attacking them with an open mind will increase your ability to overcome them.
  • Leadership. A common expression says that leaders are born, but showing a good work ethic and initiative can help you lead by example.
  • Good time management. There are many tools, both digital and practical, to help you develop time management skills.
  • Self-motivation. By always envisioning the end goal of your actions, you can keep yourself motivated.

Hard and soft skills displayed during an interview

A well-written resume will help your chances of getting an interview, but showing your hard and soft skills during the discussion will increase your chances of getting the job. You can prove your hard skills directly by describing your experience and training or by showcasing your portfolio. You can then convince your potential employer that you’ve mastered those hard skills by giving knowledgeable answers to technical questions and by asking good follow-up questions.

Proving your soft skills during an interview is more subtle and depends on the hiring manager’s attention to detail. From the beginning, showing up on time is an indicator that you are dependable and have good time management skills. Throughout the conversation, maintaining eye contact, speaking clearly when prompted and asking follow-up questions are good indicators of your communication skills.