Hard and soft skills...what's the difference?

Can you work independently, how about on a team? Can you make decisions and solve problems? What knowledge and experience do you bring to the table?

During the job search process, employers look for applicants with two types of skills: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify. Typically, you'll learn hard skills in the classroom, through books or other training materials, or on the job. Hard skills tend to be the main point of differentiation between job candidates. However, proficiency in technical skills does not guarantee long-term success.

Examples of hard skills include:

  • Computer programming
  • College degrees
  • Foreign language
  • Machine operation
  • Specialized certifications

Soft skills are subjective skills that are much harder to quantify. They relate to the way you relate to and interact with other people. Soft skills are important because they enable students to become better candidates for upward mobility and managerial roles when they’re in the workplace. Instead of only focusing on the first job out of school, soft skill development is aimed at achieving and maintaining long-term career success.

Examples of soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Work Ethic

While certain hard skills are necessary for any position, employers look for job applicants with particular soft skills. This is because, while it is easy for an employer to train a new employee in a particular hard skill, it is much more difficult to train an employee in a soft skill. You want to make sure potential employers are aware of your skills throughout the job search process. This means highlighting your hard and soft skills in your conversations, on your resume and cover letter, and job interviews.

A simple assignment...
Think about all the skills you possess. Write them down, then step aside. Return a bit later to review and add others. Now, present them to people you trust and ask for feedback and additions. Then, write down the skills you’d like to acquire. Click on the image to download usable sheet to list your skills.


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