Whatever your career level, field or industry, if you apply for a job, you’ll need a certain set of attributes that demonstrate you’ll be successful in the role. These attributes are frequently referred to as soft skills and hard skills.
While every role requires a combination of both hard and soft skills, these two types of professional skills differ in some key ways. While soft skills include a list of character traits and interpersonal skills, hard skills are more specific and quantifiable.
In this article, we’ll cover the definition of hard skills and why they’re important, and share some examples of top hard skills for different job functions.
Hard skills are typically learned through education, training or on-the-job experience, and refer to the knowledge and capabilities required to perform a job. They often include technical skills, such as knowledge of a software or tool. However, they can also include proficiency in a foreign language, or knowledge of vocational processes and techniques.
Unlike soft skills, which are more objective, it’s easier for candidates to prove and measure their proficiency of particular hard skills. For this reason, many employers require applicants to present evidence of their hard skills in the form of certificates or degrees. Many hiring managers will also test candidates’ proficiency of required hard skills during the hiring process as well.
Although hard skills can sometimes be transferable, they’re often specific to particular professions. For example, while a copywriter may not require knowledge of financial reporting, this would be an invaluable skill for an accountant.
Hard skills are essential to be able to perform the basic functions of a job. They’re also oftentimes one of the first areas of a candidate’s profile that recruiters assess when screening for a role. In fact, 62% of employers hire for both hard and soft skills. This is because certain jobs simply cannot be performed without specific hard skills.
Let’s take the job of a computer programmer as an example. If the candidate did not have certain hard skills, such as knowledge of programming languages and operating systems, they could not perform the basic duties of the role.
Because hard skills are so important, you’ll need to make sure that you’re effectively promoting them on your résumé and any professional social media profiles, such as LinkedIn. Be sure to include both the skill and your level of proficiency.
If you have completed any certifications or trainings to develop your hard skills, you should add these to your résumé and professional social media profiles as well. This way, any prospective employers can instantly see demonstrable evidence that you have the hard skill qualifications required for the job.
There are various types of hard skills, with each profession requiring a different set of knowledge and capabilities. Below we’ll look at some examples of hard skills that may be required in different career areas.
Accounting skills involve working with numbers, mathematics and accounting software.
These skills are not only required for careers in accounting and finance, but may also be required for any roles that involve working with finances or budgets. For example, a marketing manager may require accounting skills in order to create the annual marketing budget, or an administrative assistant may need to perform basic bookkeeping for the office.
- Accounting software
- Accounts payable and receivable
- Budget forecasting
- Data analysis
- Financial modeling
- Financial planning
- Financial reporting
- Processing payroll
- Risk management
- Tax documentation
Analytical skills involve drawing conclusions based on a certain set of information, most commonly in the form of data. While advanced analytical skills are commonly required for roles in data science, business analytics and strategy, being able to use analytics tools and processes to reach conclusions is useful in an array of roles.
For example, an instructional designer may use machine learning software when designing eLearning courses. A further example is an account executive that uses analytical skills when managing a database of clients.
Examples of analytical skills include:
- Data mapping
- Data mining
- Data processing
- Database management
- Machine learning
- Microsoft Visio
- Unstructured data analysis
Most professional jobs require the use of computer skills. However, depending on the specific job, the skill level and type of computer skills will vary. While an IT support technician will require advanced computer skills, a receptionist may only require some basic knowledge.
However, since computer skills are so ubiquitous (and transferable), they are hugely important for most careers. Whether you work in sales, marketing, engineering or customer service, you will most likely perform some parts of your job with a computer.
Below are some typical computer skills:
- Calendar management
- Data entry
- Enterprise systems
- Google Workspace
- Microsoft Office
- Outlook calendar management
- Typing speed
- Video conferencing
- Word processing
Design is a broad umbrella term that commonly refers to the ideation, planning and development of graphics, videos, software, products and experiences. For roles in graphic design, video production, instructional design, animation, web design or photography, design skills are a must.
Additional fields that may also require some design skills include marketing, advertising or event management. Design skills can be valuable in organizations with budget constraints, in which employees are required to wear many hats.
Some design skills to consider developing include:
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Data visualization
- Graphic design software
- Interactive media design
- Photo editing
- User experience (UX) design
- User interface (UI) design
- Video editing
To effectively manage, you don’t only need soft skills, but hard skills as well. Regardless the industry or field, having the knowledge and skills to lead projects, operations and people are vital skills for a manager.
However, even if you’re an individual contributor who is only responsible for managing yourself, management skills can be highly sought-after. This is because they show that you have the skills to work in a methodical, efficient and goal-oriented manner.
- Agile methodologies
- Business development
- Contract management
- Lean Six Sigma
- Process optimization
- Scrum management
- Strategic planning
- Task delegation
A mix of hard skills that demonstrate you understand the digital landscape and marketing channels are essential for marketing professionals. However, they can be valuable skills for other roles as well.
For example, if you work as an event manager, you may need to market your events online. Marketing hard skills can also be useful for sales professionals, who may want to use marketing tactics like email automation and social media to reach potential customers.
Examples of marketing skills include:
- A/B testing
- Campaign management
- Content management systems (CMS)
- Content strategy
- Email automation
- Google Analytics
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC)
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Social media
Technical skills refer to skills that require specialized knowledge on particular tools or programs. They’re typically required for roles in IT, engineering, finance, mechanics and science, but may be required for other roles as well.
While some technical skills can be self-taught, you may be required to show proof of training for certain technical skills. If the job requires using heavy machinery, or managing network security, companies will most likely want to see evidence of competency.
Common technical skills include:
- Application Programming Interface (API)
- Cloud management
- Frontend and backend development
- Mobile development
- Web development
Most professional jobs require some form of writing on a daily basis, such as reports, emails, client pitches or Slack messages. And it’s vital that you’re able to communicate clearly and persuasively when writing.
While writing is an essential skill for copywriters, content marketers and technical writers, it’s also a sought-after skill for other professions. For example, customer service representatives need to effectively communicate via email. And administrative assistants may be asked to take meeting minutes.
Some examples of writing skills are:
- SEO content writing
- Social media writing
- Taking minutes
- Technical writing
While many hard skills can be transferred to different types of careers, some will be more specific to certain job areas. Therefore, it’s important to research the common hard skills required for the role you’re interested in.
You’re also not required to list every hard skill on your résumé. If the skill isn’t relevant to the role you’re seeking, then it’s best to omit it so that the attention is drawn to the skills that are relevant to the role.
- Automotive technology
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation(CPR)
- Foreign language skills
- Inventory control
- Quality assurance
Since hard skills are obtained through training and education, you most likely already have some hard skills that you can add to your résumé. So, it’s a good idea to reflect on the entirety of your career and education to determine what hard skills you already have. You can then research what skills are required for the job you seek and fill in the gaps through further training and education.
Through showcasing the hard skills that you already have while working towards developing additional relevant ones, you can be sure to succeed in your job search — and overall career.