Hard & Soft Skills To Include On A Resume

Before anyone can hire you for your dream job, you’ll first need to create your resume. After you’ve reviewed our comprehensive guide on how to write a great resume, you’ll want to go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd. To do that, you’ll need to highlight your skills and accomplishments. In particular, you’ll want to emphasize your most valuable hard skills and soft skills. But what are hard and soft skills? And which ones are the best to include on your resume?

⚡️ Hard skills vs. soft skills: what’s the difference?

All of the different skills, competencies, and talents you have can be broken down into hard skills and soft skills. While both are important, there are several major differences between hard skills and soft skills. Of the two, hard skills are easier to clearly define while soft skills tend to be more abstract and much harder to quantify. In general, the main differences between hard skills and soft skills lie in how they are learned, how they can be assessed, and how important they may be in specific situations.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are the easier of the two types of skills to understand. Hard skills, also referred to as technical skills, are specific skills or competencies that a person needs to succeed at the specific job they are doing. For example, knowledge of the programming language Python is a hard skill. This hard skill is specifically important for a person working with computers. And if you’re a pastry chef, the ability to make soufflés and eclairs is an important—and very specific—hard skill to have.

In general, hard skills are learned through training and education. For example, a person who has never used Microsoft Excel could take a class or training seminar to learn how to use it effectively. Additionally, many hard skills can be tested to determine exactly how proficient a person is in a particular hard skill. For example, a person can take a Spanish exam to test their level of mastery of the language.

Often, a person must acquire a certificate or license to prove to potential employers that they have a particular hard skill. For example, a person who manages swimming pools will often be required by law to acquire a certification that proves they know how to handle dangerous chemicals like chlorine.

Examples of hard skills

The following list contains just some examples of hard skills:

  • fluency in a foreign language
  • knowledge of Microsoft Office
  • experience using Adobe Creative Suite
  • knowledge of coding languages (Python, Java, etc.)
  • possession of an electrician’s license
  • completion of the bar exam
  • experience repairing airplanes
  • knowledge of writing style guides (AP, Chicago, APA, MLA)
  • having a typing speed of over 100 WPM
  • training in operating space shuttles
  • having a medical degree in dentistry
  • proficiency in calculus

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are more difficult to explain and understand. Soft skills, which some also describe as people skills or interpersonal skills, are the social skills, personality traits, and behaviors that allow an employee to work with others and contribute to a team. These soft skills can include communication skills, time management, and conflict management. Unlike hard skills, soft skills are often useful in a wide range of jobs. For example, charisma and strong leadership abilities are useful for succeeding at a wide range of positions.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are difficult or impossible to measure or quantify. While you can test how good someone is at math, you would have a tough time measuring someone’s creativity. Going further, soft skills cannot be learned the same way that computer program can be. Soft skills are developed over a person’s life and may be as difficult to change as one’s personality.

Keep in mind that soft skills are highly desirable by employers. This is in part because an employee can learn new hard skills relatively quickly while soft skills are much harder to come by. For example, a company could easily train a strong leader in how to use a particular graphic design program. However, a person with poor listening skills may find it difficult to develop the soft skills needed to take on a leadership role.

Review our guide to crafting an impressive cover letter (making sure to explain some of your hard and soft skills).

For this reason, soft skills are often difficult to demonstrate on a resume. While a potential hire can get a certified piece of paper that proves they know how to operate pyrotechnic equipment, they can’t do the same to prove they have good critical thinking skills. Typically, a person will have to rely on past job experiences, accomplishments, or professional references to demonstrate the soft skills they claim to have.

Examples of soft skills

The following list contains just some examples of soft skills. (Click for the synonyms you’ll need to write a dynamic resume.)

How to include hard and soft skills on a resume

Now you know what exactly hard and soft skills are. Next, you need to add them to your resume to stand out among the crowd. Let’s look at the best ways to go about doing this.

Use both soft and hard skills

First off, you’ll want to include both your hard and soft skills in your resume. Hard skills should be easy to add as you likely planned on mentioning all of them anyway. However, soft skills are just as, if not even more, important to include. As mentioned previously, many employers prefer candidates with highly desirable soft skills. So, if you are a creative, friendly person with lots of patience and good attention to detail, make sure you mention those valuable soft skills!

Incorporate skills referenced in the job description

Typically, the job description will give you a good idea of what kinds of skills a company is looking for. Almost all job descriptions will directly say what kinds of hard skills the job requires: which tools it needs, what kinds of experience the employee is expected to have, what college degree is required, etc. You likely already knew that it is a good idea to mention all of these required hard skills when submitting your resume.

Review how to properly punctuate your degrees.

At the same time, make sure to keep an eye out for direct or indirect references to soft skills, too. If the job description expects you to manage others, make sure to mention your leadership skills. If it mentions that the company is looking for someone with new, exciting ideas, highlight your creativity or inventiveness. If you’ll be working in a team, state that you’re cooperative and can work well with others. Often, a job description won’t directly say which soft skills an employer may want, so you’ll need to read it closely to figure out which soft skills will be an asset for the position.

Consider the company values

You can research a company using their website, social media, or reviews from former employees. By doing so, you can find out what the company values are, and this’ll help you figure out some great skills to include on a resume. For example, if a company prides itself on being an innovator and prioritizing customer satisfaction, it would probably be a good idea to emphasize your creativity and exemplary customer service skills.

Researching the company ahead of time is a good idea in general. You may discover what the company culture is like and get an idea of what kinds of employees the company values the most. If you can learn about the skills and personalities of people who are already excelling in the company, you’ll have an advantage when it comes to focusing on the skills the company considers to be best.

Highlight skills throughout the resume, not just as a list

While it may seem tempting to just list all of your skills, you’re doing yourself a disservice and weakening your resume by doing so. You’ll want to emphasize your skills throughout your resume to really enforce the point that you are a highly skilled, well-rounded employee.

One of the best ways to do this is to show that your wide array of hard and soft skills are what led to many of your prior successes and career accomplishments. Make it clear that your leadership and charisma are what led to your team nailing that project or that your critical thinking and reasoning skills are what solved that tough challenge you faced. It is one thing to just spew out a whole bunch of skills you supposedly have and another to prove you have them by demonstrating that they were instrumental in achieving your goals.

This is especially important to remember when it comes to soft skills because it is difficult to prove that you actually have the soft skills that you say you do. So, if you say that your patience and reliability helped you improve sales and you have the sales numbers to back that up, a potential employer is much more likely to believe your soft skill claims.

Use synonyms to avoid repetition

When presenting your skills, you’ll want to use a wide variety of words to describe yourself and your experiences. After all, you can only describe yourself as “creative” so many times before you start to disprove your own claim. To that end, you’ll want to use synonyms to spice up your resume so that it isn’t a monotonous, repetitive bore to read.

Luckily, our fantastic thesaurus is only a single click away and can give you plenty of captivating synonyms for words like hard-working, smart, lead, and accomplish. If you are struggling for which words to even start with, don’t worry! Check out our guides to the best verbs and adjectives that will help you craft a resume that dazzles anyone that reads it: Take Your Résumé to the Next Level With These Action VerbsAdd Professional Pizazz To Your Resume With These Adjectives

Best skills to list on a resume

The best hard and soft skills to list on your resume will, of course, depend heavily on what job you’re applying for. Almost every job description will list specific hard skills and qualifications the employer wants for someone applying to the position. If you want to even be considered, you’ll obviously need to list these hard skills prominently in your resume. For example, if a job requires a finance degree and knowledge of a particular banking software program, you would state that you have both of these hard skills.

But let’s assume you’re just starting out and curious about which hard skills might generally be useful to learn to improve your career prospects. Or you want to know which hard skills might be good to mention even if not necessarily required. Some commonly cited examples of hard skills that many companies look for include:

  • computer skills (Microsoft Office, databases, coding languages)
  • data analysis (research, analytics)
  • marketing and design (graphic design, SEO)
  • management skills (supervisory experience, networking, public speaking)
  • fluency in more than one language

Soft skills are a little bit trickier because all of them are great to have regardless of the job you apply for. That being said, there are some soft skills that employers look for. These include:

  • communication skills
  • adaptability
  • problem-solving skills
  • leadership abilities
  • teamwork
  • good work ethic
  • creativity
  • integrity

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