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Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

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When applying for a job, you should use a combination of hard and soft skills to convince the recruiter that you are the right fit. Hard skills are measurable; they are specific to the job role. Meanwhile, soft skills are more vague and apply to all professions. 

Having one or the other is not going to cut it in the current competitive job market. Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for well-rounded employees who can bring both tangible and intangible skills to the table. 

Related Article: Top 5 Skills to Include on a Resume in 2022

So, when you’re applying for jobs, it is important to have all the information on the types of skills you possess. Here’s what you need to know: 

What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills usually involve technical expertise in a particular field. In some cases, they may require certifications or courses to show your proficiency. 

Every job has a specific set of hard skills that are needed to succeed. For example, working as a software developer may require you to have knowledge on specific coding languages such as Python or Java. 

These skills can be measured in a clear cut manner. When reading a job description, these are the skills that are easy to know if you possess or not. Some examples of these hard skills include: 

  • HTML/Javascript/CSS
  • Copywriting
  • Data mining
  • Pivot Tables
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Risk management
  • User interface (UI) design 
  • Proficiency in a second language

How to Develop Hard Skills

Developing hard skills to impress employers can seem difficult if you’re not in school or work currently. Where should you begin if you need hard skills to land a job?

Luckily, you can start to build your hard skills, even without a job. Volunteer, part time, and bootcamp opportunities are a great starting point to develop hard skills. These are perfect to start while working a full-time job or while you are still in school.

If you’re struggling to know which skills to work on, look into job descriptions of opportunities that interest you and see what skills are required for those positions.  

There are also courses and opportunities online which allow you to become proficient in a skill without even leaving your home. For instance, Forage allows you to complete virtual experience programs where you can build both hard and soft skills directly from companies, completely free. Check out the programs and build marketable skills. 

Learn more about hard skills

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are more vague and harder to define compared to hard skills. Soft skills are how you work with other people and operate in the workplace. For instance, great communication skills are soft skills that are desirable for every job.

Because soft skills are more general in nature, they are applicable to nearly every job on the market, but you should take the time to explain them on your resume or in an interview. You should be prepared to share examples of how you’ve demonstrated some of these soft skills in your previous work experiences. Some of these soft skills include: 

  • Problem solving 
  • Leadership 
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability 
  • Time management
  • Organization
  • Work ethic 
  • Flexibility 

How to Develop Soft Skills

As soft skills are not as cut and dry as hard skills, it can be difficult to know how to develop them. The key is to know which soft skills you are intent on further developing; then, seek out activities that require them.

For instance, if you want to develop your leadership skills, take on volunteer roles or personal projects where you have to manage people. Perhaps run for president of a club or build an app with the help of other designers and engineers.. With soft skills, there’s a less-defined path of acquiring skills; it is all about practice. 

Courses — either online or in person — are another great opportunity to practice soft skills. Committing yourself to taking any course helps you practice organization, time management, and adaptability. 

Learn more about soft skills

Are Hard Skills or Soft Skills More Important? 

Although it may seem like employers would favor hard skills because they are essential to completing the tasks they need you for, a blend of both soft and hard skills is crucial to be an ideal job candidate. Remember that hard skills can be taught through training while soft skills may take longer to develop because it often comes with experience. 

Careerbuilder conducted a study which found 77 percent of employers think hard skills are as important as soft skills. In fact, 16 percent of the employers actually favored soft skills in relation to hard skills. Therefore, you should not focus too much on one or the other. Make sure you have a good foundation of both types of skills. 

How to Showcase Your Hard and Soft Skills 

Showcasing your hard and soft skills should go beyond simply listing them in your resume. You want to prove to recruiters that you genuinely have the skills to succeed and will put them into practice. This can be especially difficult for soft skills, as there aren’t certificates to prove your proficiency.

Your cover letter can be a great opportunity to elaborate on skills listed in your resume. Provide examples and show the hiring manager your soft skills through experiences, rather than simply stating the skill. 

You also have an opportunity to showcase your soft skills during job interviews as well. You’ll want to elaborate on some of your past experiences and how they demonstrate your soft skills. If you are trying to show you are an effective communicator, ensure that you’re speaking slowly and precisely during the interview. 

For hard skills, having experiences to backup your stated skills is just as important. Emphasize projects that show you have both hard and soft skills to show your potential employer that you have not only the technical know-how, but the management and prioritization skills to get the job done efficiently. 

Build real-word skills with one of Forage’s free virtual experience programs