Your skills deserve to be seen.
Although hard skills alone don’t translate into success, when combined with your other abilities they can impress the recruiter and secure an interview. They are after all a real representation of what you’re capable of doing and a defining part of anyone’s job application. Important for virtually any industry, all jobs require people to have a specific set of technical competencies.
Listing key skills in a resume is easy, listing the right ones properly is not.
That’s where this page can help. If you’re unsure how to identify your hard skills or which ones best suit the job you are applying for, then you’ve come to the right place. Our in-depth guide will show you how to demonstrate to employers that you have the expertise necessary to carry out the day-to-day tasks of their role.
Read on and you’ll learn exactly what hard skills are, why they matter, and how to showcase them in your resume.
What are hard skills?
You either have them or you don’t.
It’s that simple, there is no ambiguity. These technical skills, as they are also known, are your practical ability to perform a specific job or task. They are typically industry specific skills or experience related to a particular role. To master them, usually requires on the job training, apprenticeships, hands-on experience, or continued education funded by an employer.
A good example of them is having the technological know how to use specific tools, platforms or equipment in fields like IT, engineering, or science. Once learnt, they are easily retained as constant use of them eventually leads to them being embedded in your muscle memory.
Being clear cut black-and-white competencies, means they are not only tangible and quantifiable, but that they can be tested and measured. This in turn means you cannot lie about them, as you’ll be quickly found out.
Employers are always on the lookout for people who have these valuable task orientated skills.
Hard Skills vs Soft Skills
Soft behavioural skills come naturally to people, whilst hard hands-on skills have to be taught.
Human skills (as soft ones are also known) tend to be social competencies and personality traits that are used in interpersonal activities. They do not come with certificates as there are no courses that teach things like empathy, patience, and emotional intelligence etc.
This is the opposite of technical skills (as hard ones are also known), which are teachable through formal education and testable through practical assessments. For instance, it’s easy to test if you can speak a foreign language. Another example is Project Management, people are not born with this expertise, but they can learn it in a classroom or out in the field.
Hard skills enable you to carry out a function whilst soft skills are the icing on the cake that help you to excel at them.
It’s also worth remembering that both these sets often complement each other and overlap. Employers are inclined to look for well-rounded candidates with a good mix of hard and soft skills.
How to identify your hard skills
Don’t just go for the ones you think you’re good at. Aim for those that the recruiter wants. This is a key point that many job seekers get wrong.
Remember your aim is to impress the recruiter, not yourself.
Do this by making a comprehensive list of all the ‘required’ and ‘preferred’ competencies listed in the job advert. Then compile an inventory of what you have and match them to what they want. Try to go beyond just simply researching data to identify relevant information. Instead, really dig deep by going through your career.
Look for patterns in your:
- Work duties
Ask friends and work colleagues what they think you’re good at. Sometimes, they can recognize the strengths that you don’t see.
Why are hard skills important?
In essence because they can open doors.
Hard skills give the recruiter a reason to hire you by proving that you’re not only fully qualified for the role but can also take on the challenges of the position. You can use them to not only gain the reader’s attention, but also get past the dreaded ATS systems.
They are one the main things hiring managers look for when scanning an applicants’ resume. Employers pay a great deal of attention to them. They are a key factor in getting you job search off the ground. See them as an opportunity to further market yourself effectively to potential employers.
Remember that the world of work is constantly changing due to rapid advancements in technology. It’s therefore vital that you keep your core competencies up to date.
Are hard skills more valued that soft skills?
In a word, yes.
Because they show prospective employers where your real-world expertise lies. You can hit the ground running and immediately get to work, without the need for on-the-job training or mentoring etc. They also prove to recruiters that you take your career seriously and have put time and resources into learning them.
However, don’t write off soft skills completely. For instance, with the rise of remote working from home, there is now more emphasis on soft skills like self-discipline.
Which hard skills to put in your resume
This really comes down to what the recruiter wants.
It’s all in the job description. Delve into it to truly understand the hiring managers mindset and give yourself a competitive edge in today’s crowded employment market. Bear in mind that there is a good chance the list will be dominated by or have a large number of tech skills.
How many hard skills to list
The key is to not over do it and list yourself as an expert in everything. If you include dozens, this will be seen as an exaggeration to employers and not realistic. Instead index between 4 – 6 per discipline, and strictly focus on those that match the recruiters requirements. On a practical side, the number you add will also ultimately depend on your level of expertise, the job you’re applying for and the amount of space in your resume.
How to include hard skills in your resume
Avoid just dumping an inventory of what you can do on your resume. Rather, focus on relevancy and exposure. Demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job by giving them what they want and advertising this in a prominent place on your resume.
Following the advice given below to maximise your marketability.
Where to put your skills
Always place your technical hard skills before your interpersonal skills. This is because, as previously stated employers place more importance on them, so you want them to be seen first. The best place to put them is just below your work experience section.
Keywords from the job description
The first thing to do is find out which hard skills are most important for a given role. Research the role and collect skill specific keywords from the job advert, the required ones will be described in very specific language. It’s also a good idea to look at other similar job postings to find words or phrases that indicate necessary tools and technical competencies. Once you’ve identified these, make sure you don’t leave any of them out of your resume.
Quantify your skills with qualifications
Employers will often prioritize those applicants who have official qualifications.
So, further strengthen your case by backing up your skills with evidence. Licenses, certifications and formal qualifications are a great way to demonstrate mastery of certain hard skills. You’ve worked hard to attain those skills, now further impress recruiters by providing clear proof that you possess them.
Proof of academic achievements or the completion of courses can also demonstrate your dedication to continuous learning. It can impress hiring managers as it shows that you are willing to invest time and effort in your professional development.
Hard skill proficiency levels
Give a clear in-depth representation of your expertise in a particular field. Write more than just a simple statement of your abilities, instead give more details of your grasp of a subject by describing your proficiency levels through scale ranges. For instance:
- Being Developed
Give evidence and examples of your skills
Back up what you’ve said by giving real-life examples of how your hard skills have helped during your career. For instance, where they’ve solved a problem or reduced costs etc. Try to incorporate numbers, figures, and statistics whenever you can.
Keep your hard skills updated
Virtually every industry and sector is constantly adopting new technologies, methodologies, and tools. This continuous evolution means that new ones are always emerging in response to technological advancements. It’s important that you therefore do not rest on your laurels but work hard to keep your skills relevant.
Create a special hard skills section
Have a unique hard skills section where you can feature your top job-relevant skills. As previously stated, place this at the top of your resume. This will further ensure they can be quickly seen and found by the reader. You can have further sub-sections in these that are broken down by relevancy, with the most important ones first.
Use bullet points
An excellent way to make a keyword, phrase or sentence stand out. Use standard bullet point symbols to attract eyeballs and quickly highlight your key attributes.
Strategically place your skills in your resume
Don’t limit your skill to one location. Instead sprinkle them all over your resume, be it in the personal summary, work duties, and even your academic qualifications. It’s an ideal way to maximise their exposure.
Optimise your skills for the ATS
Applicant Tracking Systems are pieces of screening software that sift through 100’s of resume a day. This is before a human being actually sees an application. They look out for specific keywords and use a scoring formula to decide if an applicant meets a certain criteria. If they do, they pass, if they don’t, they fail. Needless to say, the overwhelming majority of candidates do not get past this stage.
Getting past this electronic guard dog is easy, simply make sure your resume includes the ‘required’ keywords mentioned in the job description.
Don’t lie or exaggerate
Whatever you do, do not inflate what you can do. It’s common practice for employers to test the hard skills of job candidates at the interview stage. You can very easily be caught out. All you will have done is wasted your time and theirs.
Examples of hard skills
Below is a far from exhaustive list of common role specific skills that will give you a good idea of the sort of ones you need to incorporate into your resume template.
Here is a must-have list of skills typically asked for in many related job descriptions. They demonstrate the applicant’s ability to assess facts, find information, research, and draw conclusions. They are important for many fields and roles.
- Critical thinking
- Data analysis
- Data mining and presentation
- Logical thinking
- Problem solving
- Resource management
- Risk analysis
Impress recruiters by showing you know how to adhere to the laws, rules, and regulations of their advertised role. These are required competencies in highly regulated sectors not only for safety reasons but also to ensure the ethical integrity of a company. In many industries, its vital to be able to follow edicts to the letter, understand vague regulatory policies and address issues before they escalate.
- Compliance strategies
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Regulatory Knowledge
- Relationship Building
- Risk assessment
- Risk management
Hard Communication skills
Although often viewed as a soft skill, there are scenarios were communicating well is considered a hard skill. This can be anything from giving presentations at events, to writing professional emails and creating infographics.
- Academic writing
- Bid writing
- Blog writing
- Content writing
- Digital communication
- Giving presentations
- Grant writing.
- Foreign languages
- Press releases
The ability to competently use a computer, piece of software or technology associated with the job is a requirement for many positions. Employers are always on the lookout for computer literate candidates who possess IT skills that range from basic to advanced. In the contemporary workplace, knowing your way around a computer is a must.
- Adobe Suite
- Antivirus programs
- Google Suite programs
- Image editing
- Microsoft Office Suite
- MS Office
- Office software
- Online research
- Social media
Being able to provide clients or callers with a good experience is a very sought after skill in the retail or sales sectors. The act of being able to support both prospective and existing customers via face to face, phone, email, chat, and social media interactions encompasses a number of other valuable skills. A big part of it involves dealing with people in a tactful manner during, and after their purchase.
- Closing sales
- Giving advice
- Positive language
- Problem solving
- Product knowledge
- Technical knowledge
- Time management
- Writing skills
Data Analysis skills
In demand skills that are highly valued across industries such as accounting and finance. They cover a broad spectrum of expertise that are useful across multiple business areas. Include ones that stress your ability to not only use technical tools to parse through complex information, but also interpret this data.
- Business analysis
- Creating dashboards
- Data cleaning
- Data management
- Data mining
- Data presentation
- Data visualizations
- Identifying trends
- Machine learning
- Microsoft Excel
- Statistical Knowledge
These typically refer to the ability to manage financial resources effectively. Candidates tend to have a good understanding of the economic landscape as well as relevant regulatory requirements. Its ever-evolving sector that requires workers in it to keep their skills relevant and stay updated with the latest developments.
- Accounting software
- Budget control
- Financial planning
- Financial reporting
- Risk assessment
- Regulatory compliance
- Spreadsheet software
Graphic Design skills
Refers to the candidates ability to create visually appealing print or online material. Used to create posters, flyers, books and magazines for paper, social media, and websites etc. Stress to employers why you would be an asset to their team by using mediums such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.
- Adobe InDesign
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Illustrator
- Design principles
- Digital technology
- Font selection
- Interactive Media
- Portfolio Management
- UX design
Boost you chances even more by including some in-demand Application-oriented, Development and Operations IT skills. Weave these into your personal profile, work experience or the special skills section you’ve created. Put them in a place where they are most likely to be seen.
- Artificial intelligence
- Cloud computing
- Cyber Security
- Data Science
- Help desk
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- IT systems
- System administration
Being multi-lingual is always a plus. In the world of job hunting having the ability to speak a different language can definitely make you stand out. Having the linguistic tact to fluently communicate with others is ideal for teaching foreigners, international customer service positions in call centres and roles in different countries abroad. When applying for jobs involving international communication, show you can use choose the appropriate oral or written vocabulary. A word of warning, they’re easy to test and therefore are difficult to lie about.
- Writing skills
A good manager is vital for any organization that wants to succeed and achieve its goals and objective. Managing is different from leadership, for instance managers may not be good leaders, but an effective leader is almost always a good manager. They possess interchangeable skills related to leading, motivating, organizing, scheduling, planning, and budgeting.
- Business planning
- Conceptual Skills
- Discipling staff
- Human resources
- People management
- Setting goals
- Time management
Know how that’s fundamental for careers in sales, media, advertising, and e-commerce etc. It’s not all about being able to communicate effectively and persuasively, it’s also about knowing your clients and having an entrepreneurial spirit.
- A/B testing
- Affiliate marketing
- Email marketing
- Marketing research
- Press release writing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media marketing
In the modern workplace, technology is the backbone of many businesses. Programmers are at the heart of this and needed to keep everything moving smoothly. With many responsibilities for this challenging and rewarding role, to get noticed you have to show as many skills as possible.
Project Management skills
Applicable to a wide variety of industries, these skills allow a person to design, plan, execute and complete projects. Combined they are about overseeing projects to ensure they’re completed on time and within budget.
- Agile methodology
- Project lifecycle management
- Project planning
- Risk management
- Strategic planning
- Risk management
- Stakeholder management
Although mostly suitable for creative careers such as journalism, these skills can be used in virtually every field you can think of. The ability write effectively and succinctly can best be demonstrated by writing an excellent resume!
- Content management
- Email writing
- Sentence structure