A combination of relevant soft and hard skills is essential to succeed in any job role. Everyone has their own set of skills, and you may already have the skills you need to succeed in your career!  

However, job seekers need to understand how they can match their skills with the skills a company is looking for when hiring for a job position.

In this blog, we’ll break down everything you need to know about soft and hard skills, their differences, and how you can include them within your resume.

What are Hard Skills? 

Hard skills are teachable skills that apply to a specific job or technical competency. They typically involve a person’s ability to perform functional tasks successfully. Hard skills are quantifiable and can be easily measured by the hiring manager. They’re the knowledge you’ve gained through college, online courses, and experience in your industry. 

Earning a degree or an online certificate, proficiency in a foreign language, or the ability to operate a piece of machinery are all examples of hard skills. People often list their hard skills in their CVs and cover letters to let potential employers know about their qualifications for a job opening. 

Being the best we can be at work requires more than just possessing the necessary technical knowledge and functional abilities. We also require soft skills in addition to these hard skills.

What are Soft Skills? 

Soft skills, also known as people or interpersonal skills, are characteristic traits like leadership, teamwork, patience, self-motivation, and communication. Soft skills allow you to work efficiently with others like your manager or supervisor, customers and clients, coworkers, and more. These skills have more to do with your personality and are challenging to quantify. They shape how you think, work, interact with others, and build relationships.  

While you can take numerous courses online to learn about soft skills, the best way to develop them is through experience. 

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are broadly applicable across all job roles and industries. They help people build strong workplace relationships and maximise their career prospects.

Hard skills vs. Soft skills

Every specialisation has particular requirements for technical expertise and practical skills. Soft skills, on the other hand, are more universal and applicable to most job roles. Soft skills refer to your interpersonal communication skills — how well you work with others.

Traditionally, people often focused their career development on industry-specific hard skills to help them accomplish their work-related tasks efficiently. That’s not the case anymore. 

While candidates need to have both hard skills and soft skills, hiring managers put more emphasis on soft skills. Businesses are willing to hire a candidate if they have the ideal soft skills for the role, even if they don’t have all the technical skills they’re looking for.  

The primary difference between soft skills and hard skills is that people can usually learn hard skills through a series of concrete steps. It’s easier for hiring managers and trainers to teach a candidate how to use a specific software than to teach them how to communicate efficiently with project stakeholders or clients.

It’s beneficial for employees to have a good blend of both soft and hard skills. These candidates have the flexibility to add value to the company and adapt to change. 

What’s the benefit of understanding the difference between soft and hard skills?

It will be easier for you to craft your CV and cover letter, attend job interviews, and prepare answers to frequently asked interview questions if you understand the distinction between soft and hard skills. 

For example, it’s important to highlight relevant hard skills while applying for highly technical jobs like engineering. You need to have the technical abilities required to perform everyday tasks to excel in this position.

However, if you’re applying for a personal or executive assistant position, you’re in a sector that calls for interpersonal skills. Therefore, during the interview and hiring process, focus on your ability to win people over and exhibit emotional intelligence.

Determine whether the organisation and hiring manager place greater value on hard skills or soft skills by carefully reviewing the job description. While both skills are crucial, it’s a good idea to focus more on the ones the company is looking for to gain an edge over your competitors.

Hard skills list

While hard skills depend heavily on your particular field, there are two skills that are common to all job roles. 

  1. Technical skills

Specialised knowledge and expertise in a specific field are technical skills. For an engineer, this is programming knowledge. For a doctor, it’s a degree certification and a licence to practise. 

For job roles like an executive assistant or office manager, candidates need to know how to use specialised software systems and applications. They need to understand how to use scheduling platforms to manage their employer’s or team’s calendar and appointments. 

While these roles need more soft skills than sector-specific skills, having technical abilities will make you stand out to the hiring manager. You can take online courses for commonly used equipment or software applications in the industry you’re applying for and include them within your CV. 

  1. Analytical Skills

Regardless of the job role, analytical skills are essential for a wide variety of tasks. By definition, analytical skills include gathering relevant information, examining complex issues, and developing sensible solutions with the data available. These skills demonstrate an employee’s ability to think logically, break down complex problems into manageable components, and develop practical solutions. 

Some other examples of hard skills are:

  • Academic qualifications like a college degree 
  • Course certification
  • Programming skills
  • SEO marketing
  • Foreign language skills
  • Computer skills
  • Website development
  • User Interface (UI) Design

Depending on your area of specialisation and industry, the hard skills you’ll need to be successful will vary. On the other hand, soft skills are broadly applicable across all roles and industries. 

Soft skills list

  1. Leadership skills

The ability to guide a group of people from one point to another is at the core of leadership abilities. To be a leader, you don’t necessarily need to be in a leadership position. In fact, your leadership skills will propel you to a position of responsibility.

A good employee has to have the ability to communicate their goals and vision in a clear manner. Businesses are looking for employees with strong leadership skills who can troubleshoot issues within their teams and develop solutions to make things more efficient. 

  1. Communication skills

Developing effective communication skills is critical to success, regardless of what industry you’re in. Employees with strong communication skills can better manage workplace diversity, foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, and provide a space where innovative ideas can be shared, and issues can be resolved.

How to demonstrate your communication skills during a job interview?

Communication isn’t just about clearly articulating your thoughts. Communication is a two-way street; therefore, you must listen intently and respond effectively to the interviewer’s questions. The main issue hiring managers and corporate executives have with newly hired employees is their lack of listening skills. 

The best way to demonstrate your ability to actively listen is to encourage and reassure the interviewer with your body language when they are speaking. Clarify or paraphrase points the interviewer has mentioned to ensure that you’re both on the same page and to showcase that you’re paying attention. Lastly, never interrupt the other person.

  1. Teamwork

Teamwork and collaboration bring people together and encourage them to rely on their coworkers to complete tasks efficiently. Teamwork facilitates progress and enables people to work through barriers that may have hindered an individual.

Businesses are actively looking for people who can effectively collaborate with others, share creative ideas, and work towards the team’s goals. Job seekers must showcase that they’re good team players during the interview and hiring process. 

Include instances in your CV where you’ve collaborated with others on successful projects and the contributions you’ve made to the team’s larger goals. Maybe you developed a system to make collaboration easier within the department? Perhaps you collaborated with people outside your department? 

How to include soft skills and hard skills in your resume?

Your CV has three main areas where you can list your soft and hard skills.

  1. Skills section
  2. Experience section 
  3. Objective section

Your skills section is a bulleted list of your best skills. In this section, list all of the relevant hard and soft skills. You can include up to five to six bullet points. 

Make sure to thoroughly analyse the job description to get a sense of what your company expects of the role. Based on your research, prioritise the skills you want to list in your CV. You can also list significant accomplishments and certifications that demonstrate these abilities.

Give examples of your hard skills and describe how proficient you are in each one. In the brackets next to the bullet point, you can indicate your level of proficiency — beginner, intermediate, or advanced.

For example: Calendar Management (Intermediate) 

For languages, you can use the same scale, or if you’ve taken a language proficiency test, you can include that. 

For example: German (B2)

The next section is the experience section, where you include specific instances that demonstrate how you’ve used your skills in previous roles. 

The first thing in your CV that the hiring manager reads is your objective or introductory paragraph – so ensure that you highlight your most relevant skills in this section.

Example: Detail-oriented executive assistant seeking a similar role at XYZ Company with 5 years of experience managing C-suite executives, great people management skills, and the ability to build strong client relationships.

Final Thoughts

Soft skills are personality traits that affect how you work and interact with others. Some soft skills are innate, like empathy. Others, like time management, can be learned. 

On the other hand, hard skills are tangible abilities you gain through education, training, or experience.

It’s often said that hard skills will get you an interview, but you need soft skills to get and keep the job. Understanding the difference between soft and hard skills can help job seekers effectively navigate their careers. 

At Joss Search we connect job seekers with the best roles in top private equity and alternative investment firms. You can take a look at our live vacancies or chat with our friendly consultants about your upcoming career steps. We’re waiting to help on 020 3096 7050 and hello@josssearch.com.