What Are Hard Skills and How Do They Differ From Soft Skills?
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 29 June 2022 | Published 20 May 2021
Updated 29 June 2022
Published 20 May 2021
Quantifiable hard skills are one of the fundamental things a recruiter will check for in your job application and CV. This is because they want to know the tangible benefit and value of hiring you. Not all such skills are equal, and they fall into different subsets. In this article, we'll discuss what hard skills are, their importance, give examples of the top 10 hard skills sought today, explain how hard skills differ from soft skills and how you can develop them.
What are hard skills?
Hard skills are a specific set of technical competencies that you need to accomplish the duties and responsibilities of a particular job. They are mainly a result of the knowledge, training and experience that you have garnered throughout your life. If, for example, you are an engineer, your hard skills can include testing, equations and performing mathematical calculations. Without hard skills, you would not know how to perform a specific job. It is common for industries and professions to highlight the hard skills needed to handle a job in the job description for the role.
Why are hard skills important?
Hard skills are important because they indicate your proficiency and, therefore, your capability to do a particular job. They set you apart and make you stand out when compared with other candidates. If, for instance, you apply for a graphic design job; you need to be a graphic designer. Human resource managers will rarely consider you for a role that you are not qualified for.
10 examples of hard skills to advance your career
Some hard skills are more sought after than others in today's job market. You should consider the following marketable hard skills when building your curriculum vitae (CV):
1. Computer technology
The modern world needs employees who are tech-savvy as the majority of the work and processes used today require the use of computers. This means that you need to have a grasp of basic computer skills. It shows your employers that you are ready-to-use technology to work more effectively. You could include HTML, analytics, Microsoft Office suite, pivot tables and social media as your hard skills that demonstrate your computer technology proficiency.
2. Hard communication skills
Effective communication is a soft skill, but certain strengths help you have an edge over other candidates. Such hard skills that make you an excellent communicator include digital communication, copywriting, editing and the ability to read, write and speak a foreign language.
Related: What Are Communication Skills?
3. Data analysis
The finance industry requires constant application of data analysis skills. However, most other industries also rely on these skills since they help to organise information into a form that can best help a company. Being analytical also shows that you have the potential to mind the company's bottom line and utilise available resources to maximise profits. The hard skills that fall into the data analysis category include data mining, data engineering, resource management, data presentation, database management and use of data to explore problems or decide.
Most modern jobs involve varying levels of writing. You could write to your coworkers or clients. Therefore, basic writing skills are essential and they make you more hirable when you include them in your CV. You can also showcase them in how you write to your employers. This involves creating a cover letter and CV that lack typos and grammatical errors. Use the right tone as well and include specific writing projects that you have finished in the past.
5. Project management
The importance of project management skills cannot be understated. It is a skill that is utilised in many industries including construction, healthcare and information technology. The skills are valuable and it includes things such as scrum and other agile methodologies. You can also quote your proficiency in project management software such as Zoho and Trello.
The ability to sell is invaluable to any employer. This is because convincing people to buy a particular company's products or services directly causes a rise in revenue. Various marketing skills have become increasingly essential nowadays, including things such as search engine optimisation (SEO), marketing campaign management, search engine marketing (SEM) and content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Google Analytics among others.
Artistic talent can be a natural ability, but there are several design tools and elements that you have to acquire through training or other formal education. The advancement in technology has also increased the demand for design aesthetics to meet increased consumer standards. The hard skills you can learn or include in your CV include user interface (UI) design, user experience (UX) design, Adobe creative suite and digital product design software such as Zeppelin, among others.
8. Management skills
In many higher level positions, you'll have to take the lead and supervise a team of people. This is why you need to be prepared to manage a team or any other group of staff. Most managerial responsibilities include scheduling meetings, writing emails, organising, planning and managing files, among others. Some job-specific skills that display your leadership potential include budgeting, office management capabilities, hiring, negotiating, planning and new business development.
You might require certain soft skills such as stress management and adaptability to be a great presenter. However, there are certain hard skills you need to possess to execute to even get considered for such a duty. This includes visual communication, slideshows, research, graphic design, persuasion, data analysis and reporting.
10. Network structure and security
With a lot of information being shared online, data has become priceless nowadays. No company wants to have their data stolen or leaked, and great network security prevents losses that could run into thousands or millions. This has led to a huge rise in the demand for IT professionals who can protect valuable company data. Risk assessment, cryptography, authentication systems, encryption algorithms, various types of firewalls, and more are all hard skills that fall in this category.
The difference between hard and soft skills
Soft skills are personal traits and habits that determine how you work on your own and collaborate with others. They include communication skills, the ability to work well in teams, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, personal drive, creativity, dependability and empathy.
Hard skills typically have rules that remain unchanged over time or from one business, culture or industry to the other. For example, the acceptable way of surveying roads remains the same regardless of the company that employs you as a civil engineer. Soft skills have fading rules that change from one company or culture to the other. For example, you might find it easy to communicate effectively to your fellow civil engineers about a project but fail to communicate with the same effectiveness when interacting with senior managers at your company.
You can learn hard skills from books, in schools, summer programmes, online courses and through apprenticeships, among other means. Conversely, you can mostly learn soft skills through employer programs, sometimes self-taught mechanisms and not through formal education. You will, most likely, develop them from informal training sessions on people management skills, communication skills and teamwork. Soft skills apply across multiple industries, and they make you stand out amongst candidates with similar hard skills.
You need both sets of skills to get a job and excel in your career. When applying for a job, hiring managers will consider your possession of the appropriate hard skills before calling you in for an interview. When you get to the interview, you can use your soft skills to impress them and get the job. The two sets of skills are codependent in the workplace, for example, a doctor needs to have great medical expertise while also possessing emotional intelligence to handle patients during their moments of pain.
How to showcase hard skills on your CV
Showcasing your hard skills on your CV can help you win over the hiring managers. You should put the skills at the top of the CV if you are applying for a job that prioritises certain technical skills, such as IT. This can help the hiring managers to scan your CV and find out if you have the required skills before they continue to read its contents.
Highlight your hard skills in the professional experience section of your CV by including more than just a list. You can also try to show their relevance to the job you are applying for. This means showing how your skills can help the company you want to join accomplish its goals. You can use metrics to prove your facts.
You should also write about your skills in your cover letter and say how they have helped you succeed. The good thing with a cover letter is that you can include a brief story that cannot be accommodated by a CV. Tell a story of how you used the hard skills the employers needed in the past and excelled. You can use the "show don't tell" strategy to make your skills more actionable in that you illustrate the achievements that your hard skills have inspired. During an interview, talk about how you will use the hard skills in various work situations.
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