Deciding which professional skills to include or exclude from your resume can be overwhelming. Are hard skills or soft skills more important? Why do they call them hard and soft skills? Your professional abilities are the foundation of what makes you qualified for a position, and it’s important to consider which ones to prioritize. In this guide, we’ll explain the difference between hard and soft skills, tell you why each category is important, and help you determine which skills to highlight on your resume.
Hard skills are objective, measurable abilities you’ve obtained through an educational institution, an online course, an internship, or on the job. Here are just a few examples to give you a better understanding:
Soft skills are the interpersonal abilities you have that demonstrate your character traits and how you execute your work. These skills can be learned through education and experience, but they’re not specific to any one job. Take a look at a few soft skill examples:
Communication is arguably one of the most important soft skills. It’s the foundation of all working environments and what makes any of it possible. Even if you don’t directly interact with clients or customers, you’ll most likely be in communication with a manager and coworkers. How you communicate with others can make or break your career, so providing examples on your resume of how you’ve proven yourself to be a great communicator is vital.
The majority of work environments are made up of teams of people, so collaboration is another foundational skill you should highlight on your resume. Even the most technically advanced applicants could lose out on a job if they’re unable to demonstrate that they’re excellent collaborators. Work is hardly ever accomplished on an island. Prove that you’re a team player and impress recruiters with solid examples of how you prioritize collaboration in the workplace.
Managing your time well is crucial in any field of work, and hiring managers want to know that you will execute your responsibilities even when they’re not around to manage your time for you. To showcase your time management skills on your resume, talk about how you prioritize your workload and consistently meet deadlines. Present examples of how you’ve accomplished professional goals because you managed your time well.
Professionals with attention to detail not only get their work done on time but ensure it’s free of errors. They’re organized, diligent, and respectful of others. Attention to detail is yet another key soft skill that recruiters are looking for on applicant resumes. The first place they can get a glimpse of your attention to detail is through the resume you send in. They want to see if you can produce an organized and error-free document. Take it a step further and give examples of how this soft skill improved a project or system in past jobs.
Make yourself an asset to any team by showcasing your problem solving skills. Professionals that can handle difficult situations or generate solutions to company headaches are always in high demand. Managers want to know you can get creative under pressure or be proactive when issues arise. Consider tailoring your problem solving skills to the job description you’re applying for. What problems have you solved in the past that would translate into a relevant example for the job in question?
The best hard skills to put on a resume will depend on the industry you work in and the position you’re applying for. If you want a job within the IT field, it doesn’t make much sense to fill up precious resume space with the line cook skills you gained back in high school. First and foremost, keep relevancy in mind when deciding which skills to include. What is relevant to the job you’re applying for? How can you tailor your resume to match the company’s needs? This cannot be emphasized enough — be sure to include any critical skills you possess that are mentioned in the target job description. To help get you started, we’ve created lists of the most sought after hard skills in popular US industries.
The hands-on nature of healthcare requires specific and often specialized technical hard skills, especially if you’re a patient care provider. There are also plenty of office and administrative occupations within the industry requiring administrative and software know-how. Here’s a small sampling of hard skills you could include on a healthcare resume:
Professionals within the education industry use many tools to help them achieve their work. They’ve also put years into their own education and gained countless hard skills in order to teach, plan, and evaluate their curriculum. Here are just a few of the many skills educators can feature on their resume.
Another highly specialized industry is information technology. There’s a reason IT jobs tend to pay so well. IT professionals are well-trained in a variety of computer skills that can often be very complex. The list below will give you a good idea of the types of hard skills you could put on your IT resume:
The world of finance is a broad umbrella industry covering banking, insuring, and investing. Handling money and other peoples’ assets is a big responsibility and requires its fair share of hard skills. Outside of having a solid general understanding of mathematics, there are plenty of specific skills necessary to be successful in finance. Here’s a small collection of examples for finance resumes:
Office administrators ensure that the day-to-day operations of the office stay organized and efficient. Although a decent amount of soft skills are needed with constant interaction between clients or fellow employees, there’s a lot to know when it comes to functioning within an office setting. Below is a list of some common office administration hard skills:
Marketers use all kinds of tools to capture the attention of their audience. They must learn many marketing techniques to become proficient in their field. If you’d like to capture the attention of the recruiter reading your resume, consider these marketing hard skills:
Retail is much more than “excellent customer service.” There are plenty of hard skills you can present on your resume to help you land your next retail job. Whether digital retail or in-store, this list of hard skills is a great place to start:
Although being hospitable is a soft skill, running a successful hospitality business requires hard skills too. From managing a team of people and their schedules to planning the venue’s next wedding, hospitality professionals are highly experienced multitaskers who use hard skills like these to accomplish their objectives:
When it comes to presenting skills on your resume, your hard skills and your soft skills each require a different approach.
Add a “Key Skills” section to your resume with a simple bulleted list of all your specialized hard skills. This provides the reader with a snapshot of the abilities you have that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Alternatively, take an indirect approach with your soft skills. Be sure to work them throughout your resume and within your job descriptions. Use your soft skills to show how you executed your responsibilities. These interpersonal skills are just as important as any hard skill that you have.