Resumes & Cover Letters

Hard Skills: Definition and Examples

May 12, 2021

Employers often look for specific hard skills when reviewing CVs and interviewing applicants. Unlike soft skills, which display your personality and interpersonal skills, hard skills display your technical knowledge. Knowing how to successfully use these hard skills on your CV and in the interview helps you get your dream job.

In this article, we discuss what hard skills are, the difference between hard skills and soft skills, examples of hard skills and how to use them on your CV and during the interview, along with some tips.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are skills you obtain through your education, experience and training. These are learned abilities that you acquire and enhance through practice. In a workplace, hard skills are of utmost importance because they increase your productivity, efficiency and job satisfaction. For example:

  • If you work as a writer, you may know how to use a content management system (CMS).
  • If you are taking a French language course, you may know how to read and write French.
  • If you work as a data analyst, you may have an advanced Microsoft Excel skill set.

Every job requires a specific skill set to succeed and that is why hard skills are essential. As these are job-specific skills, hard skills vary from occupation to occupation. A designer's hard skills would be knowledge of graphic design software, but it would be knowledge of drafting software for an architect.

How are hard skills different from soft skills?

Both soft skills and hard skills are necessary to excel in the workplace. The main difference between these two skills lies in how you gain these skills and use them in your job.

While hard skills are gained through education, training and experience, soft skills are the personality traits that you develop over time.

Some hard skills are:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Adobe Suite
  • Bilingual or multilingual ability
  • Mobile and web development
  • Coding proficiency (such as PHP, Python, Ruby, C++)
  • Social media marketing
  • Storage systems
  • Copywriting

Some soft skills are:

  • Creativity
  • Flexibility
  • Dependability
  • Leadership
  • Integrity
  • Work ethics
  • Adaptability
  • Problem-solving

Hard skills always remain the same irrespective of the industry, but soft skills change depending upon the company's culture. For example, Java programming rules remain the same, whether you work in the retail or gaming sector. But your creativity will depend upon the industry and the company's culture. In short, hard skills showcase your technical knowledge, whereas soft skills depict your overall habits in the workplace.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Examples of hard skills

The following are the examples of hard skills which are in demand and help your CV stand out among other applicants:

Computer skills

Computer skills are skills required to learn and operate different computer technology. Nearly every job requires a basic understanding of computer skills as it increases efficiency and productivity.

Some essential computer skills are:

  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook)
  • Fluency in coding languages like Java, PHP, C++ or C#
  • CMS
  • Adobe suite
  • System administration
  • Automated billing systems

Management skills

Management skills help you perform your duties and achieve desired business goals.

Some of the essential management skills are:

  • Budgeting
  • Project management
  • Finance
  • Planning
  • Logistics
  • Scrum management
  • Agile software

Related: Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Marketing skills

Like any other job, marketing professionals require specific hard and soft skills to excel at the workplace. Some of the essential hard skills for a marketing professional are:

  • Google analytics
  • Email marketing
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Social media marketing
  • Analytics
  • Knowledge of various marketing tools
  • Web scraping
  • A/B testing

Communication skills

Though communication skills primarily fall into the soft skills category, some communication skills are hard skills required to perform a job successfully.

Some hard communication skills are:

  • Ability to speak more than one language
  • Researching and reporting
  • Copywriting
  • Grant writing
  • Technical writing
  • Proposal writing
  • Transcription
  • Translation

Data and analytical skills

Jobs in data science, data analytics, research and financial analysis, among others, require in-depth analysis of data. You gain these hard skills through certifications, training and experience.

Some data and analytical hard skills are:

  • Data mining
  • Data reporting
  • Data visualisation
  • Data engineering
  • SWOT analysis
  • Forecasting
  • Market analysis
  • Web analytics

Related: SWOT Analysis Guide (With Examples)

Accounting skills

People working in the financial sector use tools, software and applications to efficiently perform their jobs. Mastery of these tools is one of the most significant deciding factors when comparing two candidates with similar qualifications.

Some of the accounting skills are:

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) knowledge
  • Accounting software
  • Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Big data analysis

Related: Accounting Questions and Answers for an Interview

Task-oriented skills

Task-oriented skills allow you to fulfil your job responsibilities and help you carry out your daily work.

Some task-oriented hard skills are:

  • Calendaring
  • Hiring
  • Recruitment
  • Scheduling
  • Tax filing and preparation
  • Typing
  • Welding
  • User experience (UX) research
  • Driving vehicles
  • Classroom management

How to highlight your hard skills

As hard skills portray your technical knowledge, including them on your CV and mentioning them in your interview makes you a competitive candidate. Here are a few ways of highlighting your hard skills:

1. On your CV

Mention the hard skills in the skills section of your CV. Depending upon your CV format, you may choose to put these skills at the bottom of your CV or just after your educational qualifications. For example, when you are changing careers, mentioning these skills after your educational qualification shows the employer why they should hire you. You can relate your hard skill with your past job roles.

For example:

  • Implemented A/B testing on the landing page, which increased the page conversion by 100% in 6 months
  • Implemented a team-wide stand-up meeting tool to streamline the scrum and stand-up meeting
  • Wrote Excel macros to reduce the repetitive process of creating reports for the sales team
  • Offered customer support for a leading SaaS company in English, Spanish and French
  • Wrote a successful grant application for a non-profit business and generated ₹1,00,000 in funding
  • Revamped and redesigned budgeting methods to increase profit by 25%
  • Assisted the manager in creating a pitch deck using PowerPoint

Choose two or three hard skills to mention in your CV based on the position you are applying for. Certain jobs may require knowledge of data visualisation, whereas others may require certification in Java.

2. In your interview

A job interview is a great place to showcase your hard skills. Start by showing your ability to perform a hard skill to the interviewer. For example, when you are giving an interview for a French-speaking customer service representative, showcase your hard skill by speaking and writing fluently in the language. If you mentioned in your CV that you wrote a grant application that received a lot of funding, the interviewer may give you a real-life situation and ask you to write a grant application.

Additionally, you may have the opportunity to discuss how your hard skills help you excel at work and why these hard skills make you a better fit than others. Prepare examples from your experience to mention in your interview. To further enhance your chances of getting an offer letter, bring training certificates that support a hard skill. Coming prepared will make you a competitive applicant and increase your eligibility for the job.

Tips for listing hard skills on your CV

Here are a few tips for listing your hard skills on your CV:

  • Read the job description: Always ensure that the hard skills are in line with the job description. There is no point mentioning Excel knowledge when your job requires no spreadsheet mastery, but instead fluency in at least two foreign languages.
  • Mention only relevant hard skills: Include two or three relevant hard skills on your CV. It comes in handy when employers use the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to search for specific hard skills on your CV.
  • Attach a certificate of training: If you have completed certification for mastering a hard skill, consider attaching the certificate along with your CV. It serves as proof that you have the required hard skills and increases your selection chances.
  • Mention your most relevant skill at the top: If you apply for a software development job, mention the programming languages you know at the top, followed by the technical report writing skills.
  • Never mention obsolete skills: You may possess the mastery of an outdated and obsolete content management system or design software. But do not mention obsolete skills on your CV as it portrays that you are hesitant to learn new skills and software.
  • Separate your hard skills and soft skills: Consider whether your hard skills and soft skills are displayed best separately or on the same list. Ultimately, you want to provide clear picture of your skills to the employer as they relate to the specific role.

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