There are two sets of skills that hiring managers use to gauge an applicant’s qualifications: hard skills and soft skills.
While these two skill sets are both important, they are completely different.
What is the difference, and how should you present each type of skill in your resume and cover letter?
A hard skill is one that can be easily measured or quantified. They are often learned on the job or through education and training. Hard skills are especially important in knowledge-based fields, such as law, medicine, engineering, and tech. A hard skill for a web developer, for example, would include working knowledge of web-specific programming languages, such as PHP or Twig.
Soft skills are more subjective. They include patience, problem-solving, and communication. These skills are more difficult for an employer or professor to teach, and are harder to measure.
In a 2014 survey hosted by CareerBuilder, a poll of more than 2,100 hiring managers revealed that 77% believe soft skills and hard skills are equally important.
Which soft skills are employers looking for? How do you convey your soft skills effectively?
Sought-After Soft Skills
The survey mentioned above outlined some of the top soft skills hiring managers look for. They include:
- Strong work ethic
- Positive attitude
- Works well under pressure
- Effective communicator
These skills are difficult to list in a resume, as just about everyone considers themselves self-motivated and dependable. So how do you accurately demonstrate these soft skills?
Demonstrating Soft Skills
It’s possible to just list your soft skills, but that carries little weight because anyone can claim any soft skill. Instead, focus on demonstrating how you have used your soft skills.
The answer could be as simple as listing accomplishments you made that reflect those qualities. Saying that you “increased production capacity 40% by reorganizing team workflow” demonstrates several soft skills, including organization and team-oriented thinking.
You can convey effective communication by listing accomplishments related to various types of interaction or coordination. “Took the initiative to coordinate a team-building workshop, improving inter-department communication,” not only highlights your soft skills, but provides you with the resume keywords hiring managers are searching for.
Don’t claim soft skills unless you can back them up. Be honest about your skill set, whether easy to measure (hard skills) or subjective (soft skills).
Hard skills are typically specific to an individual job, and can usually be found listed in the job posting. With hard skills, you either know it or you don’t. And in many cases, you’ll be tested on your hard skills during the interview process.
Hard skills are often listed in a dedicated skills section on a traditional resume, or alongside soft skills in a functional or hybrid resume.
One of the best things about hard skills is that they tend to be much easier to pick up than soft skills.
Many industries offer classes and certifications that prove you meet a specific level of expertise in a given skill. Professionals in the information technology sector, for example, would seek out certifications offered by reputable authorities. A network administrator might want to become certified in network administration by Cisco. These certifications aren’t always cheap, but they are one of the best ways to prove experience with a particular subject.
You can also list skills gained during previous employment. Someone who used customer management systems while working in a call center could then list PeopleSoft, for example, on their resume.
Education is another important resource for candidates wanting to improve their skill set. This isn’t limited to higher education and further degrees—it can include internships, and online courses from providers such as CreativeLive and Lynda.
Showcasing Hard Skills in Your Resume
A hybrid resume, which combines a functional resume with a chronological work history, is a great resume type for anyone who wants to showcase both their soft and hard skills. Listing your skills at the top of your resume makes it clear which qualifications you have. Then, you can demonstrate how you have used those skills within your chronological work history.
Doing this fills your resume with keywords that applicant tracking systems (ATS) can use to filter through resumes. It also makes it easier for a hiring manager to determine whether you are qualified for a job during their brief visual scan of your resume. Finally, by focusing more on your skills more than your work history, a hybrid resume can lessen the negative impact of gaps in your employment or education.
For this post, YouTern would like to thank our friends at JobScan.