Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Definitions & Examples

To put it simply, you’ve got to have both.  

If you’ve ever been in the job market or find yourself currently looking, you’ll notice that every job description contains some combination of hard skills and soft skills. 

So, what are hard skills vs. soft skills? 

Picture this: you are searching through job boards looking for your next job. You see one that catches your eye, and you begin reading through the description. 

You often get an overview of the company, the type of role for which they’re hiring, a list of day-to-day responsibilities, and what they hope to find in the right candidate. 

Every piece of information in the job description is really meant to help you.  

The job application can be a wonderful source of information and a great resource for you when adjusting your resume, application answers and interview answers. 

What’s better than being told exactly what the company is looking for?  

You just need to figure out whether you fit the description and how you can best tailor your experience and skillset to match what they’re looking for. 

Throughout this article, we will explain the difference between soft and hard skills, examples of both and how you can put them to use in both an interview and your resume. 

You want to be sure that you don’t prioritize soft skills or hard skills, but rather see what the company is looking for in an employee and determine which hard and soft skills you have that would meet the standard for which they’re looking. 

What is the difference between soft and hard skills?

To understand the difference between soft and hard skills you need to know how they are gained and then used. 

There are different types of skills required for every job and every person contains a unique set of them. 

Hard skills are usually obtained through hands-on experience or education. On the other hand, soft skills are usually skills unique to everyone that have been naturally developing within you over the course of your life.  

For example, a hard skill would be typing. No one is born with the instinct to type. Rather, it has to be learned over time, usually through some type of schooling or education. 

Soft skills are more interpersonal than technical. For example, a soft skill would be relationship-building or the ability to communicate effectively in difficult situations. 

Soft skills are typically something that you find yourself naturally good at, without having to learn it through education or hands-on training. 

When thinking about both throughout this article, consider your hard skills to be more technical and your soft skills to be how you interact with others and in the workplace in general. 

Having a keen understanding of what soft and hard skills are will help you determine which skills and traits you bring to the table on your resume or in an interview. 

Different between hard skills and soft skills, with examples

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are skills that you can gain from education or hands-on experience. In other words, hard skills are easier to quantify than soft skills.  

Hard skills are usually what you’re going to want to put in a cover letter or resume, where a hiring manager can easily see a handful of relevant skills you’ve acquired in past experiences or education. 

Your work experience should speak to any hard skills you have gained or acquired in the past and you should be sure to use that list of acquired skills to show the hiring manager that you match what they’re looking for in a candidate. 

Every job is going to require a certain set of skills, and for some, a certain amount of time you have put that skill to use in the workplace. 

If you are applying for a job in finance, you’re likely going to have to have some education or skills in accounting, Microsoft Excel and math – all of which require some type of learning or training in order to be proficient. 

If you’re applying to a job in the creative space, you’re likely going to have to have some education or skills related to the use of the Adobe Creative Suite, video editing skills or graphic design skills.  

And like those other finance-related, technical skills, you will have had to have gained that knowledge through experience or education. 

If you don’t have the hard skills required to be successful in the job for which you’re applying, the chances are probably slim for you getting it.  

Although, you can always make a case for being a quick learner and willingness to do training, more school or otherwise to learn what you need to know. 

That willingness to learn and having a knack for learning on the fly are a great segue into soft skills. So, what are they? 

What are soft skills?

We discussed what hard skills are, so what are technical skills vs soft skills? 

Soft skills are unique to the individual and more so a personal habit or trait than a learned or acquired skill. 

Soft skills speak to how and why you are motivated to do certain things. They speak directly to your personality. 

If you’ve seen a job description posted by employers, you’ve seen that they detail both hard and soft skills necessary to be successful in the role. 

Usually under the “Requirements” section of the job description, you will find the technical or hard skills listed. An example would be “+5 years of experience in Microsoft Excel workbooks.” 

Somewhere in the job description, you will also find something along the lines of “The Ideal Candidate Is:” and it will detail different personality or habitual traits of the type of candidate for which they are looking. 

For example, it may say “good communication skills,” or “willing to learn and adapt,” or “open-mindedness.” 

While it’s important to have the technical skills required for the job, simply having hard skills on your resume are not enough. You must also meet the requirements on the list of soft skills. 

In some cases, you may have less than the required amount of hard skills, but your soft skills make up for what’s lacking or visa versa.  

It all depends, but that is why it’s necessary to strike a balance between both sets of skills. 

Examples of hard skills

  • Bilingual 
  • Adobe Creative Suite 
  • Programming languages (JavaScript, etc) 
  • Website development 
  • Content development 
  • Copywriting 
  • Copyediting 
  • SEO marketing 
  • Statistical analysis 
  • User interface design 
  • Proofreading 

This list only contains a few examples of hard skills, as there are a wide variety of skills that pertain to all different industries and job functions. 

But it’s a good way to recognize the difference in soft and hard skills. 

Examples of soft skills

  • Effective communications 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Adaptability 
  • Creativity 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Organization 
  • Willingness to Learn 
  • Open-minded 
  • Trustworthy 
  • Dependable 

While this list of examples doesn’t cover every soft skill that you may have or relate to, it’s a solid starting place when considering what you may put on your resume or discuss in an interview. 

And this list contains the most desirable set of soft skills from employers today. 

What are employers looking for?

Employers want to know that you have what they’re looking for. Between soft skills and hard skills, they are looking for a particular mix depending on the job, company and industry. 

Remember that you have most of the tools and information you need from the job description in order to determine what’s valuable to share about your skills in your interview and on your resume. 

Having a keen eye when reading a job description is imperative to deciding what you want to share about your skillset and background.  

How do you use soft and hard skills in an interview?

Detailing your hard skills in an interview is a bit easier than your soft skills.  

Based on how much experience you have with your hard skills or how many years of education you have behind your hard skills tends to speak for itself. 

In other words, hard skills are a lot easier to quantify than soft skills. 

Soft skills, on the other hand, require a bit more explanation and application. 

A great method for talking about your soft skills is the STAR method. Using this, you can talk about a Situation, Task, Action and Result. 

When talking about your soft skills in an interview setting, you’re going to be answering questions that show your behavioral responses. 

For example, if you were asked to “describe a time when you faced a difficult work situation,” you might start by talking about the situation, what you were tasked with and how your decisions and soft skills helped you take a certain action to gain a certain result. 

This is a great way to tackle those questions while also detailing your soft skills. 

Your answer might be: 

“I had to share constructive criticism with someone on my team who didn’t take it well. I love connecting with people, especially to understand their perspective, so I opened the floor for questions and concerns, and we talked through it together. By the end of the conversation, we both felt better off about the situation, both had a chance to share our perspective and walked away from the conversation with a plan of action for moving forward.” 

How do you use soft and hard skills on your resume?

You will want to find ways to detail both your soft and hard skills on your resume as well. 

As for your hard skills, you can create a section on your resume titled “Skills” and list them as they are relevant to what you want to do. 

For example, it could look something like: 

SKILLS 

Copywriting | Copyediting | Proofreading | Adobe Creative Cloud | Video Editing | DSLR Film 

Whatever you find to be relevant to the job you’re applying for and the skillset you want to show off, you should detail on your resume.  

But don’t feel like you have to list every single skill you have. Leave room to discuss your skillset in the interview or in your cover letter.  

As for soft skills, you will want to detail these in a sentence form within the bullet points you have under each job experience. 

For everything that you did in your past experiences, you can usually detail a soft skill that enabled you to be successful. 

For example: 

  • Used effective communication skills and leadership abilities to work with multiple stakeholders in the company to produce web and video content that aligned with each of their visions and deadlines 

In conclusion

What are soft skills and hard skills? Soft skills are those skills that come naturally and uniquely to everyone. 

Soft skills include leadership, effective communication, teamwork, time management, motivation and adaptability. 

On the other hand, hard skills are those that are gained through hands-on experience, training or education.  

Hard skills include things like accounting, Microsoft Excel, typing, copywriting or computer programming. 

When applying for jobs, it’s important to read through all the details in the job description so you can decide what’s important to include in your list of hard skills vs. soft skills. 

If you want to see how your soft and hard skills align with job openings across the country, visit our job board at https://jobs.insightglobal.com today to get in touch with a Recruiter.