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Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: How Both are Relevant to Your Work

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 20, 2020 • 3 min read

There are two types of skills that a hiring manager will look for on a job application: hard skills and soft skills. In broad terms, hard skills are learnable technical skills, whereas soft skills are more innate interpersonal skills. Learning how to highlight your own skill sets in both categories will help set you apart as a potential hire and make the job market that much easier to navigate.



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Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

Hard skills are teachable abilities and transferable skills that are usually learned in training programs or school settings. Hard skills include things like computer programming, data analysis, and bookkeeping. These are job-specific technical skills that require dedicated training.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are usually personality traits and interpersonal skills that develop over time and through personal growth and maturity. Employers value soft skills because they are not as easily taught as hard skills and are much more based on someone’s personality and morals. Examples of soft skills include critical thinking, active listening, dependability, and emotional intelligence. Having a strong set of soft skills usually makes someone a well-rounded team player who has good people skills and a strong work ethic.

Both hard skills and soft skills are prioritized by job recruiters and listed in job postings. The ideal hire will possess skills in both categories.

Why Are Soft Skills and Hard Skills Important?

It’s important that you show a potential employer that you possess both soft and hard skills because these skill sets often work in tandem. If you have technical knowledge of HTML or Java, employers know that you’ll be capable of understanding relevant projects assigned to you. And if you also demonstrate common sense, creative thinking, and listening skills, employers will trust that you’ll deliver these technical projects on time while collaborating with coworkers and contributing to a harmonious work environment. Employers look at both types of skills as two sides of the same coin, and it’s important that you showcase both your hard skills list and a complementary list of soft skills during any hiring process.

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How to Highlight Both Your Hard and Soft Skills

There are many different ways to demonstrate to employers that you have both technical professional skills and interpersonal communication skills. Convincing employers that you have full sets of hard and soft skills greatly affects your potential employability. Here are some of the ways you can demonstrate your hard and soft skills:

  • On your resume: A resume is a great place to insert an experience section to list previous work and relevant skills from outside training programs. By skimming your resume, a prospective employer should get a sense of your hard skills. Additionally, you can tack on a soft skills list with specific skills like good time management and strong organizational skills.
  • In a job interview: The interview process is a time to talk up some of your intangible soft skills like effective communication and conflict resolution. Soft skills are harder to demonstrate than hard skills, so explaining how you possess these qualities in job interviews is a must. Your potential employer might also pose interview questions about how you would handle certain situations to gauge your leadership skills and problem-solving abilities. Also remember that your body language and nonverbal communication can demonstrate a positive attitude and eagerness to whoever is conducting your interview.
  • On a cover letter: A cover letter is a great place to point out key soft skills you might possess, like sound decision-making or a strong work ethic. Job applicants can also use a cover letter to highlight examples of hard skills like data mining or marketing skills that might be applicable to the specific job in question.
  • Via professional references: Having strong professional references who can attest to your personal attributes and important technical skills is a must for job seekers. Before you enter a job search, make sure you have a list of former employers or coworkers who can vouch for your strong soft skills, like a positive attitude and problem-solving abilities. Employers often turn to references to gauge soft skills rather than just taking a potential employee at their word. Getting academic references or trainers from programs you may have attended can also highlight specific hard skills to a recruiter.


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