Hard and soft skills are both important for job success. Here’s how to best feature them in your resume and cover letter, and in your job interview.
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Skills are one of the prime ingredients for any resume and they’re divided into two main categories: hard skills and soft skills. Recruiters and hiring managers will be taking a good look at the skills you highlight, so to help you choose the right ones, this page will provide you with:
Most employers will be looking for a mixture of hard skills and soft skills in a professional resume, but what are they and what are their differences?
Hard skills are job-specific technical skills. These are abilities you learned either on the job or through training that allow you to do the technical aspects of your job. The hard skills you highlight in your resume will heavily depend on the job you’re applying to and its industry but here are a few examples of hard skills:
For more on hard skills and how to feature them in your resume, visit our hard skills page.
Soft skills are personality traits and abilities that are universal — meaning they can apply to jobs across industries. They describe how you approach your work, what type of professional you are and can be a deciding factor on whether you get hired. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s most recent Global Talent Report, 89% of recruiters state that when a hire doesn’t work out, it’s usually because of their lack of soft skills.
Some examples of soft skills you might want to put in your resume include:
To learn more about the importance of soft skills and which ones to include in your resume, check our soft skills page.
Your skills section should have a combination of hard skills and soft skills related to the job. Follow our tips to feature the right ones:
1. Review the job description for skills the employer wants. Job descriptions should give you all the information about the position, including the skills employers want the candidates to have. You’ll likely find the desired skills in a bulleted list titled “Requirements” or listed under the job responsibilities. Here’s an example of a job posting for a graphic designer:
Key skills and requirements:
You can see that our job description example features a list of key skills that the candidate must include in their resume but the “Responsibilities” section implies that the candidate should also be creative, have public speaking skills and have the ability to brainstorm with others.
Read the job posting carefully before writing your resume and only highlight the skills that apply to that job.
2. Feature an important skill in your summary or objective. The skills section isn’t the only place to highlight your skill sets. Choose two to three skills that are important for the job and feature them in the resume summary or resume objective. For example, a summary and objective for the graphic designer looking at the job description above might look like this:
Creative graphic designer with three years of experience in agency environment. Proficient in Photoshop and Illustrator, skilled public speaker and able to adapt work to different media, including social media. Proven ability to create concepts and original illustrations.
Creative graphic designer looking to expand skills in advertising agency. Skilled in Photoshop and Illustrator with experience creating original illustrations. Able to work under pressure and independently, strong interpersonal skills and excellent team player.
3. List your top skills in your skills section. Every professional resume should have a skills list with 8-10 well-rounded skills relevant to the job. For example:
4. Show how you’ve used your skills in your work experience section. If there are specific skills the employer deems important, you can highlight them in your work history section by telling the potential employer how you used that skill and the results it provided. For example:
Graphic Designer / July 2020 – Feb. 2023
The Lakes Agency, Miami, FL
5. Check out job-specific resume examples. One of the best ways to see the different ways you can feature hard skills and soft skills on a resume is by viewing resume samples. Our resume examples page has hundreds of jobs for different industries you can use as inspiration, from project manager resume examples with important skills to customer service and electrical engineering.
For more expert advice on featuring the right set of skills, read our resume skills page.
A cover letter is a great place to expand your hard skills and soft skills further. It allows you to present yourself to the hiring manager as the perfect candidate for the job, especially if you lack years of experience.
1. Expand on a few critical skills from your resume. The key to writing a good cover letter is not to repeat the same information on your resume. Instead, choose a skill or two to talk about further. For example, the graphic designer from above could tell the prospective employer how they used their presentation skills to sell a campaign or how they contributed to the success of a social media campaign.
2. Provide more details on your soft skills. As a cover letter is a more personal document than a resume, this is your chance to give employers more of a sense of your personality and explain your traits and approach to work. You can talk about how you organize priorities, what made you want to pursue a career in that industry and why you want to work for that potential employer.
3. Describe past achievements. While the STAR Method is mostly used for a job interview, you can apply it when writing a cover letter. The STAR technique allows you to answer behavioral questions efficiently. These questions may start with phrases like, “Give me an example of a time when…” or “Describe a moment when…”
When you sit down to write your cover letter, look into possible prompts and answer that question in the body text. Describe past accomplishments by telling the employer what led to that situation, how you tackled the challenge and the results.
You can learn more about cover letter writing in our expert How to Write a Cover Letter guide and find inspiration in our library of cover letter examples.
You submitted your job application and got called for an interview — awesome! Here’s how you can show off your skills while talking to the recruiter or hiring manager.
1. Do your homework. Learn about the company before your interview and be prepared to talk about specific hard and soft skills that match what the job and employer needs. Recruiters and hiring managers can tell when a candidate didn’t look into the company, so do your due diligence and come prepared.
2. Use your interview to “show” AND “tell.” Show how you’ve mastered soft skills by how you approach the interview and conduct yourself, and tell how you’ve used your hard skills at work. You can learn more tips to ace an interview in our dedicated article on How to Prepare for a Job Interview.
3. Use the STAR Method. As mentioned above, the STAR method is a handy job interview technique that allows you to put together an answer to behavioral interview questions easily. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result, which is precisely what you have to think about to formulate your answer. What was the situation and task at hand? How did you take action? What were the results of your actions? You can highlight different skills you used to solve a problem.
For extra help nailing skills, creating a professional resume and putting your best professional foot forward, consult our pages and additional resources.
Hard skills and soft skills are equally important for jobs so it’s good to have both. Your hard skills might show employers that you know the programs or technical aspects of the job but your soft skills will help them see how you approach work and whether you’ll fit in with the other employees.
Someone working as a surgeon, for example, will need lots of hard skills but also soft skills so they can talk to their patients and their loved ones. Someone working as a customer service representative will need lots of soft skills to deal with clients properly but also hard skills to complete regular tasks.
The best way to prove your skills is by showing how you’ve used them in the past. When writing about your skills in your work history, use the STAR method to describe a Situation, Task, Action and Result, all revolving around how you used a skill to solve problems or earn recognition. For hard skills, you can also use tests and certifications to show that you’re talented in these areas. LinkedIn even has some pretest and certification options that you can use to showcase your skills in certain areas.
The most important hard and soft skills to put on your resume will depend on the job that you’re applying to. When you write your resume, look at the job description to see which hard and soft skills the hiring manager is looking for. The most important skills are always the ones in the job posting, as well as the ones that the interviewer will ask you about.
Hard skills are competencies learned through experience, education and training for a specific job. Meanwhile, soft skills are the types of skills and abilities that are universal, so they can be applied to different jobs and industries.
Some examples of hard skills include Google Analytics for social media management, QuickBooks for an accounting job or Adobe InDesign for a graphic designer. These hard skills are specific to that job and might not easily transfer to another industry. Soft skills like good communication, excellent time management or flexibility, on the other hand, work across the board and are needed for all the jobs listed above.
Examples of hard skills:
Examples of soft skills:
Soft skills play a vital role in the hiring process. Here are seven highly desirable professional skills to include in your resume:
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