Hard Skills Versus Soft Skills and Why You Need Them Both

Hard Skills Versus Soft Skills and Why You Need Them Both

Holly-Noelle Haworth

Feature Image: Paige Cody

As a recent college graduate or simply someone on the search for their first ‘big girl’ job, you know well the importance of listing the correct skills on your resume. You probably also know the importance of having internship experience on your resume and that you should tailor your resume to each job you apply to. However, it can be tricky to decipher which skills employers are specifically looking for, and it’s even trickier knowing how to beat an applicant tracking system (ATS). But in order to stand out as an applicant, you need to first know and understand the difference between soft and hard resume skills.

Hard skills are typically what you put on your resume and cover letter. For example, proficiency in Microsoft Excel or skills regarding mathematics are good examples of hard skills in that they are easy to point out on a resume. In short, hard skills are crucial if you’re applying for a job in a competitive market. This becomes especially true if you’re applying for a job at a company that uses an applicant tracking system. An ATS is just a fancy term for a computer system that narrows down potential applicants by inputting certain skills each applicant must have into a database. If you have a hard skill that your dream job requires, the ATS will highlight that skill on your resume. Contrarily, if you don't have that skill the employer is looking for, you’ll be eliminated from the applicant round-up altogether. This may sound intense, but hard skills are attainable if you do your research and practice.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are more subjective. Some examples of soft skills include being a fast learner, being creative, or having strong time management skills. Soft skills are less concrete, in some way, than hard skills; however, they are equally as important to have. Just as hard skills are important to corporate companies, soft skills are important if you’re applying to jobs at smaller companies (If you’re applying for a job at a start-up, you need lots of soft skills.) At these types of interviews, a person will be looking over your application, resume, and cover letter. So, you’ll want to have a good balance of soft skills that a real human being can point out, as well as hard skills to impress employers.

Source:  Cayley Nossiter

Now that you understand the difference between hard and soft skills, let's identify which ones you need for nearly any job on the market today.

1. Flexibility (soft skill)

No one wants an employee who is already set in his or her ways. If you’re just starting out, you should try your best to remain flexible. If you can say "yes" to tasks that are asked of you, even if they are outside of your department, you’re sure to impress your employers. Flexibility is important, because it shows not only that you’re a team player, but also that you’re willing to help out in whatever department, and this betters the company.

2. Google Suite or Dropbox (hard skill)

What is Google Suite, anyway? Google Suite has everything a company needs (Email, Sheets, Docs, Calendar, Drive, etc.). If you know how to use all of these different platforms, there’s really no stopping you from succeeding in your job. However, depending on the company you work for, you might also need to be familiar with Dropbox, as this is another major platform companies use to store files.

3. Good Communication (soft skill)

Part of being a team player is learning how to properly communicate with others. In some ways, listing good communication skills on a resume is just silly, because who doesn’t have good communication skills? And quite frankly, a lot of people have poor communication skills. Communicating is a way to learn from others, as well as a way to teach or inform others of your needs. To start, learn how to send the perfect email or ace a phone interview.

Source:  Brooke Cagle

Source: Brooke Cagle

4. Fast Typing Speed (hard skill)

Whether you’re sending a quick email for your boss or taking notes in a meeting, you need to be a fast typist. This ensures you get all the necessary details, and it will maximize your efficiency. And being efficient makes you valuable as an employee.

5. Being a Team Player (soft skill)

It’s crucial that you’re a team player. Again, you’re starting from the bottom and your primary purpose is really to learn and be helpful. Helping out and being a team player will always help you stand out.

6. Photoshop (hard skill)

Let's be real, social media is everything nowadays, and companies no longer just use Photoshop to make images prettier. Now, Photoshop is a great tool for graphic design, social media and marketing campaigns, and for saving companies money. Knowing at least the basics of Photoshop is a must.

7. Ability to Problem Solve (soft skill)

To be successful as an employee, you must be resourceful when given an assignment. Being resourceful means being able to solve problems on your own, either through logic or answering your own questions. Of course it’s okay to ask your coworkers or supervisors questions. However, make sure you have done your research before and to only ask questions if you absolutely could not figure out the answer on your own.  

Source:  Amy Ferris

Source: Amy Ferris

8. Concise Writing (hard skill)

We start learning how to write in Kindergarten and continue to put those skills to use throughout our academic careers. In fact, many of us continue our studies and learn how to write in a variety of styles in college. And once you get a job, you’ll need to be able to write concisely and well. First, establish what kind of writing style is required of you. Are you writing a research paper? Probably not. But you may be writing a press release, blog post, professional email, or a blurb for a social media campaign. Know what your job is going to need from you and start using online resources to guide you before you go in for your first interview.

9. Positivity (soft skill)

You might be tired of hearing and seeing #goodvibesonly, but unfortunately that trendy hashtag becomes relevant when you enter the workplace. Your direct supervisor is probably supervising a team of people, including you, so don’t be surprised if they seem stressed at any given point. Offer to help them out, even if you have to do something that is out of your comfort zone. Additionally, spread positivity. Your positivity could make all the difference and truly brighten the days of those around you. 

10. Planning Skills (hard skill)

Planning skills, depending on who you ask, can be a hard or soft skill. Regardless, to be a good planner, you need to be organized, good at making decisions, and have good foresight. Having planning skills will make you an attractive applicant for your dream internship position because it shows that you will help lighten the load and take charge. It also shows that you can work in more than one area. Maybe you’re planning the meeting calendar. Or maybe you're planning the next office social event. The bottom line is, if you’re planning such things, your direct supervisor doesn't have to. 


What other skills are crucial to have in order to land your dream job?


Holly-Noelle Haworth