If you're in the process of job hunting, you've likely come across the term "hard skills." But what exactly are they? And how can you make sure you're highlighting them effectively on your resume? That's where this article comes in.
"Hard Skills: Definition, Resume Tips, and Examples" is your comprehensive guide to understanding and showcasing your hard skills. As you may already know, hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that are necessary for success in a particular job. Examples include proficiency using certain software or expertise in a particular type of machinery.
But you can’t just list a bunch of hard skills on your resume - you also need to know how to properly showcase these skills in order to stand out to potential employers. Of course, not all hard skills are created equal. Some are more important than others, regardless of the industry you're in. This article will also outline the hard skills that everyone should have, regardless of their career path.
Hard skills vs soft skills
When it comes to job hunting, you'll often hear about the importance of both hard skills and soft skills. While hard skills refer to specific teachable abilities, soft skills are more intangible qualities that relate to your personality and character.
Definition of hard skills
Hard skills refer to the technical abilities and knowledge that are required for a particular job or industry. These are measurable and teachable skills that you can acquire through education or training. Examples of hard skills include proficiency in programming languages, data analysis, project management, and financial accounting.
Definition of soft skills
Soft skills, on the other hand, refer to the personal attributes and social skills that allow you to interact effectively with others in the workplace. These skills are often more difficult to measure and may come more naturally to some individuals than others. Examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork, adaptability, leadership, and problem-solving.
Differences between hard and soft skills
One of the key differences between hard skills and soft skills is that hard skills can be learned and measured, whereas soft skills are more subjective and difficult to quantify. For example, you can prove your proficiency in a certain programming language with a certification or a degree, but it's more difficult to measure your ability to work collaboratively with a team.
Another key difference is that hard skills are often specific to a particular job or industry, whereas soft skills are more transferable between different roles and sectors. While you may need to learn new software for a new job, your communication and problem-solving skills will transfer easily to a new role.
Importance of balancing hard skills and soft skills
It's important to have a balance between hard skills and soft skills in order to succeed in the workplace. While hard skills are necessary for completing specific tasks and projects, soft skills allow you to work effectively with others and navigate complex social dynamics in the workplace. Employers are increasingly valuing soft skills in addition to hard skills as they recognize the importance of teamwork and communication in a successful organization.
In order to find the right balance, it's important to assess your own strengths and weaknesses in both areas. If you excel at technical tasks but struggle with communication, for example, you may want to focus on developing your soft skills through training or mentorship. By honing both your hard and soft skills, you'll be better equipped to succeed in any role or industry.
Hard skills everyone should have
While hard skills are job- and industry-specific and are usually learned through education and experience, there are some universal hard skills that everyone should have. These are skills that are not specific to a particular job or industry but rather are important in many different contexts.
Basic computer skills
In today's digital age, it's essential to have basic computer skills. This includes things like being able to use a word processing program, send and receive email, navigate the internet, and use basic spreadsheet and database software. By developing basic computer skills, you can become a more valuable employee in almost any industry. If you're not already comfortable with these tools, consider taking a course or watching online tutorials to improve your skills.
Word processing: Being able to use a word processing program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs is essential in most workplaces, as you’ll undoubtedly run across a moment when you need to create professional reports, proposals, or other business documents. This involves basic formatting skills like bolding, italicizing, and underlining text, as well as more advanced skills like creating tables and using headers and footers.
Email: Email is a ubiquitous communication tool in most workplaces, so it's important to know how to use it effectively. This includes things like composing and sending messages, attaching files, and using proper email etiquette
Web browsing: The ability to navigate the internet and find information online can help you to stay up-to-date on industry trends, research competitors, and find new business opportunities. This includes things like using search engines effectively, navigating websites, and using online tools like social media and web-based applications.
Spreadsheets: Basic spreadsheet skills are also important in many workplaces for things like analyzing data, creating budgets, and tracking expenses. This includes things like creating and formatting spreadsheets, using basic functions like SUM and AVERAGE and creating simple charts and graphs.
Cloud-based tools: Familiarity with cloud-based tools like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive is a must for remote and cross-functional collaboration. These tools allow you to store, share, and collaborate on documents and files online, which can help you to work more efficiently with coworkers and clients.
While communication is often considered a soft skill, it’s also an essential hard skill. Being able to clearly and effectively communicate with coworkers, clients, and customers is crucial in almost any job. This includes both verbal and written communication, as well as the ability to actively listen and understand others. Here are some examples of how communication skills can be considered hard skills:
Technical writing: Technical writing involves the ability to write clear, concise, and accurate documentation for a variety of technical subjects, such as software manuals or engineering reports. This requires a high degree of technical knowledge and the ability to communicate complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand. Technical writing is a highly valuable hard skill in industries like technology, engineering, and healthcare.
Public speaking: Public speaking is another hard skill that involves the ability to communicate complex ideas effectively and requires a high degree of confidence, preparation, and skill. This can include things like delivering presentations to clients or stakeholders, leading training sessions for coworkers, or giving speeches at conferences.
Foreign language proficiency: Being bilingual or multilingual is becoming increasingly important in today's globalized business world. Being able to speak multiple languages can be a valuable hard skill in industries like international trade, tourism, and healthcare. This requires not only a high degree of language proficiency but also cultural sensitivity and the ability to communicate effectively with people from different backgrounds.
Conflict resolution: Conflict resolution involves the ability to communicate effectively in difficult or tense situations. This can include things like mediating disputes between co-workers, negotiating with clients, or dealing with difficult customers. Being able to resolve conflicts effectively requires strong communication skills, as well as a high degree of empathy and emotional intelligence.
Numeracy skills, or the ability to work with numbers and perform basic mathematical calculations, are also important in many different jobs. This includes things like calculating percentages, working with budgets and financial statements, and analyzing data.
If you're looking to improve your numeracy skills, consider taking courses in mathematics, data analysis, or statistics, or seeking opportunities to apply your skills in practical situations. You may also want to consider using tools and software that can help you to work with numbers more effectively, such as spreadsheets or data analysis software.
Financial management: In many industries, financial management is an essential hard skill. It involves the ability to manage budgets, analyze financial data, and make financial decisions based on mathematical calculations and projections. Finance Managers need strong numeracy skills to develop budgets, track expenses, and identify opportunities for cost savings.
Data analysis: Data analysis is another area where numeracy skills are essential. Data Analysts need to be able to work with large amounts of data and use mathematical and statistical concepts to analyze trends and patterns. This requires strong numeracy skills, as well as the ability to use data analysis tools and software.
Engineering: Numeracy skills are essential for designing and building structures, systems, and products. Engineers need to be able to use mathematical concepts and calculations to design and test products, analyze data from experiments, and solve complex problems.
Quality control: Quality control is another area where numeracy skills are highly valued. Quality control professionals need to be able to measure and analyze data related to product quality, identify trends and patterns, and use statistical concepts to ensure that products meet quality standards.
Project management skills
Project management skills are becoming increasingly important in many industries. This involves being able to plan and organize projects, set goals and timelines, allocate resources, and manage teams. Project management skills are particularly important in industries like construction, software development, and marketing.
Here are some examples of how project management skills can be considered hard skills:
Planning: Project Managers need to be able to plan effectively to ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. This requires strong organizational skills, as well as the ability to break down complex projects into manageable tasks and allocate resources effectively.
Budgeting: Project Managers also need to be able to manage budgets and allocate resources cost-effectively. This involves developing project budgets, tracking expenses, and identifying opportunities for cost savings.
Risk management: Project Managers need to be able to identify and manage risks that may impact the success of a project. This requires strong problem-solving skills, as well as the ability to anticipate potential issues and develop contingency plans to mitigate risk.
Industry-specific examples of hard skills
Industry-specific hard skills are more specialized and tailored to specific professions or industries. While the hard skills that everyone should have, such as communication and basic computer skills, are essential in any profession, industry-specific hard skills are specific to the job or industry in question. For example, while data analysis may be an important hard skill for professionals in the technology or finance industry, it may not be as critical for someone in the marketing or sales field.
Industry-specific hard skills are often developed through education, training, and hands-on experience. They can be technical, requiring proficiency in specific software or tools, or they can be related to industry-specific knowledge and regulations.
Employers often prioritize industry-specific hard skills when hiring for a particular job, as they are crucial for performing the tasks and responsibilities of the role. However, having a combination of both industry-specific hard skills and essential soft skills can make a candidate more well-rounded and adaptable to a variety of situations. Additionally, many employers value employees who are willing to learn and adapt to new industry-specific hard skills as technology and industries evolve over time.
It's important to note that industry-specific hard skills can vary depending on the industry, job, and company. It's crucial for job seekers to research the specific skills and qualifications required for the job they are applying for and to tailor their resume and cover letter to showcase those skills.
So, let's dive into some industry-specific hard skills that are valuable in various fields:
Information Technology (IT)
Information technology is a rapidly growing field and there are many hard skills that are valuable for IT professionals to possess.
Programming languages: Proficiency in programming languages like Java, Python, C++, and Ruby can be extremely valuable in IT roles. Knowledge of these languages can help you to build web applications, develop software, and automate processes.
Database management: Database management skills are also highly valued in the IT industry. This includes proficiency in SQL, database design and modeling, and data warehousing.
Network administration: Network administration skills involve the ability to set up and maintain computer networks, including LAN, WAN, and VPNs. This requires knowledge of network architecture, routing protocols, and network security.
Business analysis and strategy
Business Analysts and Strategists help organizations to make informed decisions about their operations and growth.
Data analysis: Data analysis skills are critical for Business Analysts and Strategists. This involves the ability to collect, analyze, and interpret data to inform business decisions.
Business intelligence tools: Proficiency in business intelligence tools like Tableau, Power BI, and QlikView can be extremely valuable in business analysis and strategy roles. These tools allow Analysts to visualize data and gain insights into business performance.
Financial modeling: Financial modeling skills involve the ability to build financial models to support business decisions. This requires proficiency in spreadsheets and financial analysis.
Data management is an increasingly important field, as organizations generate and collect more data.
Statistical analysis: Statistical analysis skills involve the ability to analyze and interpret data using statistical methods. This includes proficiency in tools like R, SAS, and SPSS.
Data Mining: Data mining skills involve the ability to discover patterns and insights in large datasets. This requires proficiency in tools like Apache Hadoop, Spark, and SQL.
Data warehousing: Data warehousing skills involve the ability to design, build, and maintain data warehouses to support business intelligence and reporting.
Financial management is a critical function in any organization.
Financial analysis: Financial analysis skills involve the ability to analyze financial statements and data to support business decisions. This includes proficiency in spreadsheets and financial modeling.
Risk management: Risk management skills involve the ability to identify, assess, and manage risks that may impact an organization's financial performance. This requires knowledge of financial markets and risk management techniques.
Accounting: Proficiency in accounting principles and practices is essential for financial management roles. This includes knowledge of financial statements, budgeting, and taxation.
Marketing and sales
Marketing and sales professionals help organizations to promote their products and services.
Digital marketing: Digital marketing skills involve the ability to use digital channels like social media and email marketing to reach target audiences. This requires knowledge of marketing automation tools, analytics, and search engine optimization (SEO).
Sales forecasting: Sales forecasting skills involve the ability to predict sales volumes and revenue based on market trends and customer behavior. This requires proficiency in data analysis and modeling.
Customer relationship management (CRM): CRM skills involve the ability to manage customer relationships and interactions to drive sales and customer satisfaction. This requires proficiency in CRM software like Salesforce and HubSpot.
Someone with engineering hard skills designs, analyzes, and develops technical solutions to a variety of problems.
CAD (Computer Aided Design) software proficiency: This skill is critical for Engineers and Architects who design products or structures using software tools. Being able to efficiently create, modify, and analyze 2D and 3D models is essential.
Systems engineering: Engineers who understand how to design, develop, and manage complex systems are in high demand. Systems engineering involves the integration of various components and subsystems to achieve a desired function.
Mechanical skills: Engineers who work with physical systems should have a strong foundation in mechanics and physics. Knowledge of principles such as kinematics, dynamics, and thermodynamics is essential for designing and analyzing mechanical systems.
How to list hard skills on your resume
Now that you understand the differences between hard skills and soft skills and the importance of balancing both on your resume, let's talk about how to showcase your hard skills. By effectively highlighting your hard skills on your resume, you'll make it easier for recruiters and hiring managers to see your qualifications and match you with the right job opportunities.
When it comes to creating a winning resume, including hard skills is a crucial aspect. However, it's important to avoid the common mistake of keyword stuffing, as this can make your resume seem spammy and unprofessional. Instead, you should thoughtfully tailor your hard skills to the specific job you're applying for and showcase them in a clear and concise way.
Tailoring your resume to the job position
You have to remember that you must always customize your resume. When listing your hard skills on your resume, it's important to tailor them to the specific job position that you're applying for. Review the job description and make sure to include relevant hard skills that match the job requirements. This will help your resume to stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.
Include a dedicated hard skills section
Consider creating a separate section on your resume specifically for hard skills. This section should be located near the top of your resume, so it's one of the first things a recruiter or hiring manager sees. Use bullet points to list your hard skills and be sure to use keywords that match the job posting.
Provide examples of your hard skills
Don't simply list your hard skills on your resume; provide examples of how you've used them in the past. For example, if you have experience with a particular software program, mention how you used it to complete a project or task. This will give the recruiter or hiring manager a better understanding of your proficiency with the skill.
Highlight your most relevant hard skills
Not all of your hard skills will be relevant for every job. Highlight the hard skills that are most relevant for the job you're applying for. Relevant experience will differ by employer, so again, refer back to the job description.
Tips for highlighting your hard skills on a resume
Here are a few tips for effectively highlighting your hard skills on your resume:
Use bullet points to clearly list your hard skills
Quantify your skills whenever possible - for example, instead of saying "Trained sales staff," you might say "Delivered training to sales staff that resulted in a 20% uplift in sales"
Use keywords from the job description to help your resume get past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Provide specific examples of how you've used your hard skills in previous roles or projects
Keep your hard skills section up-to-date and relevant to your current industry and job goals
Examples of hard skills for a resume
Here are some examples of how hard skills can be listed on your resume, broken down by job industry:
Programming languages (e.g. Python, Java, C++)
Cloud computing (e.g. AWS, Azure)
Database management (e.g. SQL, Oracle)
Business analysis and strategy:
Market analysis (e.g. SWOT analysis, market segmentation)
Financial modeling (e.g. cash flow analysis, ROI analysis)
Strategic planning (e.g. goal setting, performance metrics)
Data visualization (e.g. Tableau, Power BI)
Data mining (e.g. SQL, SAS, R)
Statistical analysis (e.g. regression analysis, hypothesis testing)
Accounting (e.g. GAAP, financial statement analysis)
Financial planning and analysis (e.g. budgeting, forecasting)
Investment analysis (e.g. risk assessment, portfolio management)
Market research (e.g. customer surveys, focus groups)
Content creation (e.g. copywriting, video production)
Digital marketing (e.g. SEO, PPC advertising)
CAD software (e.g. SolidWorks, AutoCAD)
Technical writing (e.g. user manuals, technical specifications)
Quality control (e.g. ISO 9001, Six Sigma)
Always remember that it's essential to use hard skills during your job search that are specific to the job you want to acquire. As industries continue to evolve, the demand for certain hard skills will change. Be sure to stay up to date with industry trends and continually develop new hard skills to remain competitive in the job market.
Ready to showcase your hard skills and land your dream job? Let ZipJob’s expert resume writers help you to highlight your unique set of hard skills and stand out from the competition.
Marsha Hebert, Professional Resume Writer
Marsha is a resume writer with a strong background in marketing and writing. After completing a Business Marketing degree, she discovered that she could combine her passion for writing with a natural talent for marketing. For more than 10 years, Marsha has helped companies and individuals market themselves. Read more advice from Marsha on ZipJob's blog.