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What Are Job Skills? Examples and How to Build Them

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What job skills do you need to do a role well? It depends on what career path you choose. Maybe you’ll need coding skills to be a software engineer or attention to detail to be an editor. Every career path requires skills you need to succeed on the job — those skills are known as job skills.

So, what job skills are there, and which skills are employers looking for? 

Job Skills: Definition and Types 

Job skills are simply the skills you need to do a job. So whatever skills you use on the job, whether they’re about your technical ability or ability to communicate with others, are job skills. 

For example, as a writer I (shockingly!) use writing skills in my everyday work. However, I also need to use communication skills to work with my team on what content we’re focusing on, and organizational skills to ensure I’m on top of my deadlines. All of these are job skills! Some of these skills are hard skills, like my ability to write. The skills I use to collaborate with others and get my work done are soft skills. Finally, many of the skills I use in my day to day work, like organization, are transferable skills. This means I’d be able to apply them to other roles, even if I change career paths! 

Hard Skills

Hard skills are skills you can learn and prove your expertise in. You gain these skills through school, certifications, bootcamps, work, volunteering, or training experiences. As a writer, hard skills are the core content skills I’ve built in school and during my work experience, like how to research for my articles, how to interview people, and how to write an article.

When people think about hard skills, they usually think of common technical skills, like programming or data analytics. Yet hard skills also include computer skills, marketing, and even some types of communication skills. As long as the skill is an objective, quantifiable skill, it’s a hard skill.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • Budgeting
  • Writing skills
  • Email marketing
  • Foreign languages
  • Graphic design
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Social media
  • Forecasting
  • Excel
  • Auditing
  • Social media
  • Accounting

“Hard skills are strictly related to the industry, the job, the role, and the company, so they’re always changing and evolving,” Daniela Herrera, director of recruitment operations and ED&I at R/GA, says. “With that said, in this pandemic landscape, some companies expect candidates to be as tech-savvy as possible. For example, companies will expect you to already know how to conduct and manage a video interview and they might even expect you to know how to use different collaboration tools that might be used during the interview process.”

Build your hard skills for free with Forage job simulations that help you practice quantifiable skills in a real-world context. 

Hard skillsForage job simulation
Investment banking skills, like modeling, DCF, and M&A screeningJPMorgan Chase Investment Banking
Software engineering skills, like programming, code analysis, and object-oriented designElectronic Arts Software Engineering
Marketing skills, like market research, user research, and data analysisLululemon Omnichannel Marketing
Sales skills, like data presentation, overcoming objections, and account managementRed Bull On-Premise Sales
Data skills, like data modeling, visualization, and presentationAccenture Data Analytics and Visualization
Client service skills, like root cause analysis, customer retention, and customer serviceBloomberg Client Service
Law skills, like legal research, due diligence, and email draftingWhite & Case U.S. Cross-Border Transactions
Excel skillsGoldman Sachs Excel Skills for Business

Soft Skills

Soft skills are personal habits that impact how people work with others and how people approach situations,” Buck Martinez, co-founder and president of the board at Student ACES, says. 

Also known as people or interpersonal skills, these skills describe your working style, work ethic, and how you function on a team.

Soft skills usually apply to every industry, but what they look like in practice depends on your career path. For example, a CEO of an international company with thousands of employees and a small business store owner both use leadership skills. However, how they use these skills will be different because they work in vastly different environments. 

Examples of soft skills include:

How can you practice soft skills on your own when these skills rely on interacting with others? Forage job simulations imitate what it’s like to apply these skills in a workplace context so you can build them before you start your job.

Soft SkillsForage Job Simulation
Critical thinking, creativity, and brainstormingBCG Introduction to Strategy Consulting
Communication, strategic analysis, and synthesizingAccenture Project Management
Empathy, presentation, and communicationBp Digital Design & UX
Prioritization, time management, and communicationHPE Digital Sales
Storytelling, self-reflection, and self-developmentBCLP Interview Preparation: Own Your Story

Transferable Skills

Transferable skills follow their namesake in that they can be “transferred” from one job to another. Also known as portable skills, these are skills that you’ve learned or applied in one experience that you can later use in another role. Transferable skills may be hard or soft skills.

Examples of transferable skills include:

  • Collaboration skills: These are skills you learned when working with one team that you then apply to working with other clients, customers, or new colleagues.
  • Time management: Once you’ve learned how to manage your priorities and become an efficient team member in one role, you can apply this skill to other career opportunities.
  • Microsoft Office Suite: Matthew Warzel, certified professional resume writer and former Fortune 500 recruiter, calls this skill “the most fundamental software that can be weaved into your resume.” Even if you’re using PowerPoint presentations or Word documents for entirely different topics, knowing how to use the program can help you in numerous jobs. 
  • Quality assurance: You use this skill “each day you monitor your task and project fulfillment quality to make sure you’re doing it accurately,” Warzel says. Being an efficient, precise, and accurate worker is highly important, no matter where you work.
  • Adaptability: Employers across industries, teams, and functions are looking for resilient people who can keep up with the company and macro workplace changes. Working for a startup, I use adaptability skills when there are strategy or goal changes to reorient my work and quickly start prioritizing new initiatives. 

What Job Skills Are Employers Looking For?

The best way to find out what skills employers are looking for is to go directly to the source: the job description.

Within the description, you may see “key competencies,” “requirements,” or “qualifications” listed. These are the job skills hiring managers want from a candidate. However, be mindful that not every description will list the exact names of skills you might have. Therefore, you might have to do some interpreting. 

For example, a hiring manager might write that they’re “looking for a team player.” This likely means they’re looking for specific soft skills like collaboration and interpersonal skills.

The job description also may include information about the company’s overarching mission and values, which you can usually research further on the company’s website or LinkedIn. 

“Companies also expect candidates to understand and align with their vision, mission, and culture — especially if the company is deeply interested in equity, diversity, and inclusion,” Herrera says. “While this is something that companies always looked for, we are now seeing organizations cover those topics during the interview process.”

If you have relevant skills that align with the company’s mission and values, add those to your application. For example, before I worked at Forage, much of my experience focused more on marketing versus writing, but I worked for a company with a similar mission — helping people land great jobs. I focused on this relevant expertise in my application to show my passion for the company’s mission. 

Outside of the company’s information, Warzel also recommends getting familiar with skills professionals in the career path might have. 

“Look at LinkedIn endorsements on profiles of people in the industry in roles that relate to what you want to do,” he says. 

This way, you’ll have a well-rounded view of what the company is looking for in the specific role and what’s expected or standard in the industry. 

Regardless of your career path, employers will always look for motivated employees who get their work done and provide valuable additions to the team. 

“I think employers are looking for entry-level talent who are eager to learn, take the initiative, enjoy being part of a team and have great customer service skills,” Jennifer Lennox, vice president of people and culture of AutoCanada, says.

Martinez agrees that soft skills are his main focus when hiring for entry-level roles.

“We believe that [soft skills] are what shapes people personally and professionally and makes us well-rounded individuals. Now more than ever, with many team members working remote or in a hybrid-environment, soft skills like teamwork, empathy, organization and critical thinking are integral to collaboration and successful relationships.”

And in the era of new working models — where 80% of people work either fully remotely or hybrid (meaning a blend of on-site and remote work) — employers will want you to prove you’re an effective communicator. They want to know you have written and verbal communication skills to collaborate with team members both in-person and virtually. 

“The world of work — and every worker — is dependent on the ability to communicate at all levels with people in other geographies and time zones,” Skalka says. “Being responsible for yourself and responsible to others when you don’t have the luxury of seeing or hearing them directly is no longer a ‘nice-to-have.’”

How to Include Job Skills in a Job Application

Once you know what job skills companies you’re applying to are looking for, compare these skills with what matches your experience and background. Then, include those in your application. Here’s how.

>>MORE: Do you know the essential job skills to include on your resume? Take the quiz.

Hard Skills 

List any skills the employer requires and any other relevant hard skills in a skills section on your resume. In your cover letter and interview, provide examples of when you used these skills in past work experiences, volunteer opportunities, extracurriculars, independent projects, or in school. 

Soft Skills

Rather than listing soft skills, you’ll want to demonstrate how you applied them in your past experiences. Talk about them in behavioral interview questions when you give examples of working with others or your own working style. For example, elaborate on how you collaborated with others on a project or adapted to budget cuts and still got the job done.

Transferable Skills

In addition to the guidelines above, discuss how you’ll “transfer” the skills you used in one role to the role you’re applying for. “Know how those skills reasonably transfer, and what sort of value they bring to the prospective employer,” Warzel says. “It’s best to use actual methodologies, processes, skills, or technologies relating directly to the open job description and your experience.”

Resume Masterclass

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Avg. Time: 5-6 hours

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Job Skills: The Bottom Line

Job skills are the skills for a job, whether they’re more technical and computer-based, or if they reflect how you communicate with others. To know what job skills employers are looking for, go directly to the job description and identify key competencies and requirements. Then, in your application, demonstrate that you have these skills and how you’ll use them to succeed in the role and add value to the company.

Ready to start building job skills you can put on your resume and talk about in interviews? Explore Forage’s free job simulations

Image credit: Canva

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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