I first heard about “hard skills” and “soft skills” in high school.
Hard skills seemed to be the ones that everyone wanted, and soft skills were just personality traits that were nice to have.
This worried me, as I saw myself as more of a people person than an academic.
But, as I transitioned into college and the workplace, I found that soft skills are just as important, if not more important, than hard skills. While technical knowledge can get you a first-round interview, how you interact with others in an interview and in collaborative projects can seal the deal.
Here, let's dive into the difference between soft and hard skills — plus, how you can include both on your resume to stand out to potential employers.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
According to an article by HubSpot, soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and personality traits that make it easy to get along and work harmoniously with other people.
On the other hand, hard skills are specific, technical abilities required to do a job, and are usually acquired through education and experience. It’s helpful to look at these in comparison to each other, especially when building a resume.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills on a Resume
However tempting it may be to mass-distribute your resume when applying for jobs, resumes are not one-size-fits-all. Today’s diverse workplace means that different roles require tailored sets of skills.
The “skills” section is an excellent place for customization because it highlights how well you fit into a role, as well as what makes you unique as a candidate. To figure out which skills to list, start with the job description of the position for which you're applying in the “desired skills” or “requirements” section. Hunt for keywords a company is looking for, such as “project management,” “fluent in Mandarin,” or “proficient in HTML/CSS.”
For soft skills in particular, a tip is to look at the company website to get a feel for the culture/tone of the company and find out which qualities are most valued in employees. Specifically, if the company has “Careers,” “Mission,” or “About” sections, these are great places to start.
As an aspiring HubSpot intern, one scan of the “Careers” section of the website led me to notice that the “HEART” culture code was featured prominently. I knew it would likely be mentioned in the interview, which is why I listed soft skills like “empathetic team player” on my resume.
Feeling under-qualified for your dream job? Thankfully, both hard skills and soft skills can be improved over time. In addition to traditional methods such as classes and on-the-job training, taking online courses is an accessible way to improve both hard and soft skills. There are also certification courses, such as Content Marketing or Google Analytics, that not only provide training but also tangible evidence of skills for employers.
If you need help identifying and developing your soft skills, a personality or strengths finder tests like this one can help.
Examples of Soft Skills
One of the key components of an emotionally intelligent employee/leader is empathy. If you can understand your coworkers and clients, you are better able to collaborate with them and build authentic relationships.
One way to practice empathy is to be an active listener: Hold space for whatever others are going through and try to understand their perspectives.
Going hand in hand with empathy, being able to communicate with people from diverse backgrounds is key in the workplace. In addition, with Slack, email, Zoom calls, and in-person meetings, an effective employee must know how to communicate clearly across various platforms.
In our ever-changing workplace, having flexibility and a positive attitude toward change is of utmost importance. Make sure to have concrete examples of your adaptability to bring up in a cover letter or interview.
As someone applying for a remote position at HubSpot, I made sure to highlight my previous remote work experiences. I also discussed my time in both the advertising and automotive industries to showcase my adaptability.
Examples of Hard Skills
According to Fortune, globalization in this post-pandemic era is being “radically transformed.” As a result, knowing different languages can give you a major advantage in the job market.
In addition to English, Mandarin, German, and Spanish are the top languages desired for international business. If you haven’t spoken a foreign language since senior year of high school, an app like DuoLingo is a fun and straightforward way to help you brush up.
For all companies with an online presence, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), plays a huge part in attracting and retaining customers. Resources like The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz (an SEO tools and software company) are a great way to start.
Data analytics is the process of obtaining insights from raw data in order to observe trends and draw conclusions. The best method for mastering this skill is through “learning by doing” — and the great news is, many of the top data analytics tools are free.
You can start with trusty old Excel/Google Sheets and learn commands through video tutorials. Programming languages, such as R and Python, are in high demand due to their powerful data analysis capabilities, and both are free and open source.
And there you have it! Understanding the importance of hard and soft skills is critical to both landing a job and growing in one. Hopefully this post has helped you understand the full differences between the two.