Hard Skills vs Soft Skills That Define Today’s Workforce

The importance of hard skills and soft skills is not a new conversation. However, now we’re finally seeing hard and soft skills as two sides of the same coin. Let's dive deeper into this discussion.

Are you looking for a new job? If so, have you ever wondered what the difference between hard skills and soft skills are? Soft skills are often seen as being less important in most industries like Tech, Engineering etc. However, this might not be the case with your desired profession. It's no secret that we're living in a world where jobs are scarce and competition is heavy. It's not enough just to be an expert at your craft; you also need to be able to communicate effectively, inspire others, and sell yourselves. So, if you want to increase your chances of getting hired then it is important to know the difference between hard and soft skills.

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What are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are usually learnt from education, experience or on-the-job training. Hard skills are either theoretical, abstract or technical in nature. Hard skills are the skills of specific knowledge and ability that enable a person to do a particular job. In other words, hard skills are something you can do, with a tool or your hands. They are the concrete foundation on which someone can build an idea into a company.  The term 'hard skills' is most often used to refer to technical and vocational job-related skills and as a general term to describe abilities that can be acquired though hard work and training. 

Hard skills are transferable, measurable and can be recognized with certificates and can be measured on a CV or in your portfolio. They are techinical skills like having an understanding of JavaScript and HTML, knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator, the ability to build mobile applications using code, the ability to use Microsoft Excel.

Examples of Hard Skills:

  • Microsoft Office Suite and Google Drive Suite
  • Machine learning
  • Natural language processing
  • Blockchain
  • HTML, Javascript, CSS
  • Swift, Python, Perl, XML
  • SAS, MySQL, Apache
  • Digital communication
  • Copywriting
  • Data mining
  • Resource management
  • Data engineering
  • Database management
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  • Marketing Campaign Management
  • Plumbing
  • Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • Content Management Systems (CMS), such as WordPress
  • A/B testing
  • Ahrefs, SEMrush, PageOptimizer Pro
  • PPC
  • Link building
  • Devops
  • Construction
  • Prototyping
  • Lead Generation
  • Agile methodologies, such as Scrum
  • Project management software, such as Trello and Zoho
  • PMP certification
  • Risk management
  • Bookkeeping
  • Strategic planning
  • Carpentry
  • Logistics
  • Project lifecycle management
  • Budgeting
  • User Interface (UI) Design
  • User Experience (UX) Design
  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.)
  • Design Software like Figma and Sketch
  • QA
  • Surgeon
  • Digital Product Design Software, such as InVision and Zeppelin
  • Video Production Software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
  • Illustration
  • Cloud Architecture
  • Storage and Data Management
  • Networking Communication
  • Cloud Middleware Technologies
  • Cloud Applications, such as JSON, Rest, and RPC
  • Copywriting
  • Storyboarding
  • Report writing
  • Software Revision Control Systems
  • Android Development
  • iOS App Development
  • Web Architecture and Development Framework
  • Angular and Node Apps
  • Swift, C#, Java, Objective-C
  • Encryption Algorithms
  • Cryptography
  • Virtual and Host-based Firewalls
  • Virus protection software like Ping Identity, Portswigger BurP Suite, and Symantec

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What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are important for every job and career. Soft skills are the personal attributes and capabilities, which complement and enhance your technical skills and education. They are also some of the most essential skills to have if you want to advance your career. 

Soft skills are skills that require the person carrying out the task to have interpersonal or communication abilities. This can range from the ability to interact with others effectively and the ability to communicate well. These are the intangibles that employers will determine if you have what it takes to succeed in a job. These skills can be developed through life experiences and formal training. For example, an individual may learn the fundamentals of customer service from one job and then use this knowledge to build a career in another field, other soft skills that are transferable across jobs include: problem-solving, teamwork, leadership and judgment.

Examples of Soft skills:

  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Presentation
  • Constructive feedback
  • Active listening
  • Self-management
  • Optimism
  • Calmness
  • Analysis
  • Self-motivation
  • Analysis
  • Logical reasoning
  • Observation
  • Brainstorming
  • Decision-making
  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Collaboration
  • Coordination
  • Idea exchange
  • Mediation
  • Management skills
  • Authenticity
  • Mentorship
  • Generosity
  • Cultural intelligence
  • Imagination
  • Mind-mapping
  • Innovation
  • Experimentation
  • Questioning
  • Empathy
  • Humor
  • Networking
  • Tolerance
  • Diplomacy
  • Scheduling
  • Introspection
  • Acuity
  • Questioning
  • Critical observation
  • Responsibility
  • Discipline
  • Dependability
  • Commitment
  • Professionalism
  • Work ethic
  • Stress management 
  • Teamwork
  • Positive attitude 
  • Flexibility 
  • Time management 
  • Confidence
  • Receptive attitude 
  • Empathy
  • Attention to detail 

Read more: 7 Tips to Conduct a Daily Standup Effectively


What’s the difference between Hard and Soft Skills?

Soft skills determine how well an individual will work with others, it is a summation of all individual skills that make up interpersonal traits, whereas hard skills are technical in nature, and are specific to a job in hand. Hard skills are trained and taught techniques, while soft skills are general relationship competencies.

Hard skills are defined and measurable, whereas soft skills are not. On the other hard skills are not transferable between roles and jobs. A marine engineering can’t use the same principles as an SEO job. On the contrary, soft skills are transferable between roles and jobs.

hard vs soft skills comparison


How to build Hard and Soft skills?

1. Skills on resume

Soft and hard skills are like Rum and Coke. Hard skills being the rum, the essential ingredient, while soft skills the coke, which elevates the taste. In today’s workforce, it is important to not only focus on your hard skills — such as your job duties, knowledge, and education — but also on your soft skills, which include communication, organization, and time management to name a few. 

Including these under a separate skills section, on your resume can make all the difference in getting a job. Often, as an applicant, you will have to decide between skills that fall into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. The skills must be specific to the job. It must also increase your chance of conversion based on what is mentioned in the job description. When listing what exactly make up a hard or soft skill on your resume, be sure to include examples that showcase how you demonstrate these particular skill sets.

2. Interview Q&A

woman looking at her laptop


If the job is technical, it is important to brush up all the fundamentals of that skill and be able to communicate with the specific jargon. If the job is managerial in nature, you’ll have to demonstrate leadership, storytelling, organisation and teamwork capabilities from your experience.

Terms to describe skills

Soft skills (Adjective +Skill)

E.g. Demonstrated Decisive leadership, etc.


​​Diligent, reliable, decisive, productive, passionate, active, keen, enthusiastic, energetic, persistent, imaginative, innovative, novel, amiable, articulate, genuine

Hard skills (Verb+Experience)

E.g. Developed a new statistical model, etc

Adapted, Computed, Determined, Maintained, Rectified, Restored, Applied, Conserved Developed, Operated, Re-designed, Solved, Assembled, Constructed, Engineered, Overhauled, Re-engineered, Specialized

Conclusion

It is important to know which skills you want to highlight and be noticed for when looking for jobs. Soft skills are necessary but you should also make sure to work on your hard skills, so that you stand out in the job market. To make sure you are well-rounded, it is important to not only to focus on hard skills, but also on soft skills. Strive to acquire the skills that are relevant to your industry, but also develop transferable skills that can help you in any career or industry that you are interested in. 

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FAQs

What are the examples of hard skills and soft skills?

Soft skills are often called "people skills" or "emotional intelligence." They include personal qualities that are not typically learned in the classroom, but are just as valuable for career success. Examples of soft skills include leadership, interpersonal or communication skills, judgment. Hard skills on the other hand are specific skills, for example, programming. These are craft based skills that you can acquire via a course, textbook, etc. 

Are soft skills more important than hard skills?

The short answer is: It depends on the industry! Soft skills are important in any field, but when it comes to programming, engineering, design and development, hard skills are more important than soft skills. But, in general, it's a good idea to have a balance of both.

Is leadership a hard or soft skill?

Leadership is a soft skill. Developing leadership skills is challenging, requires hours of effort, delegation, etc. Leadership can’t be learnt by reading a book, but some fields require technical leadership to succeed. 

Is multitasking a hard skill?

Multitasking can’t be put into one box with certainty. It is again field-specific and requires further scrutiny before one enters it as a soft or hard skill on their resume. 

Is Empathy a soft skill?

Empathy is certainly a soft skill. It is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice. It's also a skill that will differentiate you from others in any field you might choose to pursue.

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