Soft Skills and Hard Skills: Understanding the Difference (Examples)

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ZipJob Team

4 min read

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As important as it is for you to include skills in your resume, it’s even more important to include the right type of resume skills. Unfortunately, many applicants fail to understand what employers need to see in their resumes. As a result, they often end up including only their hard technical skills.

For best results, however, you need to include both soft skills and hard skills. But to do that effectively, you need to understand the difference between these two skill types.

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Defining the difference between soft skills and hard skills

The easiest way to think about soft skills and hard skills is to focus on how they are acquired and used. By that metric, hard skills can be easily defined as skills that you acquire from training or education. They include all the most common technical skills that can be formally acquired, as well as on-the-job skills learned through direct hands-on experience.

We wrote a good post here on skills to include on your resume.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are not so easy to measure. These skills tend to define how you deal with others, which is why they are often called “people skills.” Of course, that also makes them more difficult to describe in a resume. Obviously, anyone can say that they have a soft skill like great communication ability.

However, saying it doesn’t make it true--unlike a hard skill like computer programming that you can usually demonstrate by citing a degree or certification. You have to demonstrate your soft skills instead.

Here's a chart you can save for easy reference:

hard vs soft skills

Examples of soft skills and hard skills

To get a better idea of the difference between soft skills and hard skills, consider these examples:

Soft skills can include a wide variety of interpersonal skills, as well as character attributes.

Examples of soft skills:

  • Great communication ability

  • Problem-solving

  • Sound work ethic

  • Time-management skills

  • Adaptability

  • Persuasion

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

Hard skills are more concrete, verifiable skills.

Examples of hard skills:

  • They include skills like:

  • Machine operation

  • Technical skills

  • Writing ability

  • Foreign language proficiency

...and any other technical skill that is backed by verifiable educational credentials or past work experience.

Expert Tip

Don't just tell employers that you have soft skills and hard skills; show them by including relevant examples of how you've successfully used your skills in the past.

Do employers want to see both soft skills and hard skills?

Now, here’s where it gets fun.

As fate would have it, most employers are interested in candidates with both soft skills and hard skills. That means that you need to include examples of both in your resume. However, you should however focus more on hard skills. 

Tip: Do not list soft skills directly in your skills section--more on this later.

Employers want to see that you have the hard skills required for the position. Here's how to use that to your advantage:

1. Closely examine the job posting and identify the needed skills and experience

2. Make sure you include them on your resume. A core competencies or skill section allows you to easily tailor your skills for each position. 

Example of a core competencies section with hard skills:

Technical Skills on resume Core Competencies

Also, remember that most companies today use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to automatically screen your resume. These systems automatically screen your resume to see if you're a good match for the position.

Make sure that you use a standard resume format so that the ATS could easily read the resume. You should also include keywords (hard skills) that are relevant to the position.

Be cautious when listing soft skills on your resume!

Hiring managers cringe when they see soft skills like "team player" or "results driven" in your skills sections--or anywhere on your resume without context.

Soft skills should be communicated indirectly through your work experience. You were a team player? Great, mention an achievement in your work experience that shows you were a "team player."

You can list one or two soft skills in the core competencies section, but focus on highlighting the hard skills required for the job.

Summary

In today’s competitive job market, it’s important to leverage every advantage you have. The good news is that your soft skills and hard skills can help to shape a resume that truly showcases your potential value to an employer. Used properly, they can energize your resume and land you more interviews and that great job you deserve.

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Written by

ZipJob Team

The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.

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