Fake content
Skip to main content

Hard skills vs. soft skills: Definitions, examples, and FAQs

Hard skills vs. soft skills: Definitions, examples, and FAQs

Almost every job requires a mix of hard and soft skills. To present yourself as the ideal candidate, you should know what each skill type entails and why it's critical to success. Here, we discuss the difference between hard skills and soft skills, explain how to highlight them on your resume, provide examples, and answer frequently asked questions.

What are hard skills vs. soft skills?

Hard skills are technical, measurable, and often industry-specific proficiencies. They're the knowledge required to perform certain tasks and use specific tools. Consider a translator, for example. Their most important hard skill is likely fluency in a second language. Without it, they couldn't perform their job. 

Soft skills are abstract and personal — transferable attributes related to your mindset, attitude, and constitution. You may not need them to perform professional activities, but they improve your conduct in professional settings, allowing you to present yourself in the best possible way.

In a nutshell, hard skills are your knowledge, but soft skills are your potential to use your knowledge effectively. 

11 examples of hard skills

Below are 11 examples of in-demand hard skills. Although they're all highly marketable, many are specific to certain professions or industries:

  • Budgeting: The ability to prioritize expenses, allocate spending, and set spending limits to foster a business's financial stability
  • Project management: The capacity to oversee all aspects of a project and bring it to completion
  • Software proficiency: The ability to use a particular piece of software essential to your role (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud for graphic designers and digital artists)
  • Data mining and analysis: The ability to sift through and glean insights from large volumes of data
  • Multilingualism: Fluency in multiple languages
  • Programming languages: The ability to use mechanisms for delivering instructions to computers (e.g., Python and C++)
  • Mobile development: Expertise in the creation of apps and other content for mobile devices
  • User-interface design: The ability to develop and optimize the way a computer product looks, behaves, and feels
  • Network security: Knowledge of the protocols and practices involved in protecting digital information (divisible into other hard skills, such as cloud security, encryption, and threat modeling)
  • SEO and SEM: Expertise in search engine optimization and search engine marketing, both of which improve the visibility of a business's web presence
  • Writing: The ability to produce written content that meets language standards and satisfies intended objectives (divisible into purposes, such as academic, technical, grant, and copywriting)

11 examples of soft skills

Below, you'll find 11 of the most sought-after soft skills. These skills are essential across all professions and industries:

  • Communication: The clear and effective conveyance of ideas
  • Teamwork and collaboration: The capacity to contribute effectively to group efforts
  • Decision making: Expertise in identifying and following the courses of action most likely to succeed
  • Problem solving: The ability to identify a problem, analyze it, conceive a solution, and apply it
  • Conflict management: The ability to resolve interpersonal differences
  • Critical thinking: Knowledge of how to objectively analyze and assess something to reach a sound conclusion
  • Attention to detail: The ability to notice small details or discrepancies
  • Creativity: The ability to devise new ideas, approaches, methods, or ways of thinking
  • Organization: The ability to correctly arrange the components of your physical and mental workspaces for optimal productivity
  • Time management: The ability to prioritize and conduct responsibilities within allotted time frames
  • Leadership: The qualities for guiding others effectively, inspiring them to succeed and aligning them toward a shared goal

Many applicants generalize their duties, but a better approach is to demonstrate how you applied your skills to your duties and what you accomplished.

How to highlight hard skills vs. soft skills on a resume

The work history section is the ideal part of your resume for highlighting your key skills. Each entry in this section should have a bulleted list detailing your core responsibilities at previous jobs. Many applicants generalize their duties, but a better approach is to demonstrate how you applied your skills to your duties and what you accomplished.

When deciding whether an accomplishment showcases a hard skill or a soft one, it's essential to be aware of the distinctions. If your accomplishment is quantifiable — for example, you used your data analysis skills to identify key areas of improvement, which resulted in a percentage of growth — this indicates a hard skill. If the accomplishment is more general — you gained a promotion after resolving a conflict and improving team dynamics — this demonstrates a soft skill.

Frequently asked questions about hard skills vs. soft skills

To further your understanding of hard and soft skills, consider the following answers to these frequently asked questions:

Is public speaking a hard or soft skill?

Public speaking is a soft skill that falls under communication. It involves engagement with people rather than proficiency in a profession or industry-specific task. Although you can judge whether someone is a good or bad public speaker, the skill isn't precisely measurable.

Can soft skills be learned, or do they come naturally?

Some soft skills may come naturally. However, they're still skills, all of which can be learned through mindful observation, practice, and application.

Which hard and soft skills should I highlight on my resume?

Ideally, you should tailor your resume to the employer and the position, so the skills you list will depend on the job's responsibilities.

Hard and soft skills are complementary; while creating your resume, you must demonstrate that you possess both in abundance. When you're ready to unleash your resume, upload it to CareerBuilder to increase its visibility.

More tips for developing your skills

Some skills are in greater demand than others. To improve your chances of securing your ideal job, concentrate on building skills that stand out.

If you lack the time or means to pursue professional development in person, you can improve your skills from the comfort of your home.