Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Definitions and Lists of Examples
Unsure about the difference between hard skills and soft skills? Read on to discover definitions and lists of examples to help you emphasize your most marketable skills on your resume and in your cover letter.
Your resume and cover letter need to include both hard and soft skills — specifically, the skills employers are seeking. Proving you have both types of skills is important because employers prioritize candidates who possess a balance of technical and interpersonal abilities.
If you’re unsure how to classify a particular skill, use the following definitions of hard and soft skills to decide:
Hard skills are techniques or knowledge you learn at school or through on-the-job training. Examples of hard skills include accounting strategies, computer programming, and plumbing techniques.
Soft skills are related to your personality, people skills, and work ethic. Most of the soft skills you possess weren’t taught to you but are natural results of your emotional intelligence and life experiences such as making friends and motivating yourself to work on school assignments.
Verbal and written communication, confidence, and creativity are a few examples of soft skills.
Examples of hard skills
Hard skills (also known as technical skills) can be as simple as the ability to use a computer or as complex as the engineering skills required to design a SpaceX rocket.
Here’s a list of examples of hard skills:
- Typing proficiency
- Microsoft Office
- Google Drive
- Adobe Photoshop
- Avid Pro tools
- Heavy equipment operating licenses
- Refrigerator repair skills
- Camera operating skills
- Coding languages (C, C++, Python, and Java)
- User interface (UI) design
- Data analysis
- Machine learning
- Social media management
Examples of soft skills
Your ability to interact with others, perform under pressure, and manage your time are soft skills that are valuable to employers because they’re critical to your productivity.
Here’s a list of more soft skills to feature on your resume and in your cover letter:
- Interpersonal skills
- Decision making
- Good memory
- Critical thinking
- Mind mapping
- Conflict resolution
- Attention to detail
How to choose the right skills for your application
Reference the job description as you write your resume and cover letter. Mention every hard and soft skill from the description that you have. The closer your skills match what’s listed in the job description, the more suited for the position you appear.
Also, the skills in the job description are often keywords for the applicant tracking systems (ATS) employers use to filter irrelevant applications. Include those resume keywords in your resume and cover letter to get them through ATS software.
Remember that soft and hard skills are equally important to employers. Even if you work in a highly technical field, you must be able to communicate with your manager and clients to succeed in your role.
How to list skills on your resume and cover letter
To convince a hiring manager to schedule you for an interview, you must prove you’re a balanced candidate by putting your hard and soft skills in nearly every section of your resume. The same principle applies when you write your cover letter.
Whenever possible, use examples and hard numbers to show you’ve used your skills to produce positive results in past roles.
Here are four tips to help you list your skills on your resume and in your cover letter:
1. Add your most impressive skills to your resume summary
Showcase your best relevant skills in your resume summary. The summary is the first part of your resume that hiring managers read, so if they see the skills they’re seeking here, they’re likely to continue reading.
But listing skills in your summary isn’t enough — you must use numbers and percentages to show you know how to apply your relevant skills, like in the following example with Hard Skills and Soft Skills highlighted:
Project Manager with over 8 years of experience managing multi-million dollar construction projects, coordinating workforce team of 90+ subcontractors, and performing budget allocation and analysis. PMI Agile Certified Practitioner aiming to leverage considerable experience and efficiency expertise into your project manager role. Possess a B.A. in Construction Management and knowledge of BIM Software, AutoCAD, and Revit.
2. Prove your skills in your resume work experience section
Your resume’s work experience section is another place where hiring managers look for proof that you know how to apply your skills effectively. To provide context, quantify each of your skills with hard numbers.
Here’s an example of Hard Skills and Soft Skills being included effectively in a resume work experience section:
- Researched, wrote, and planned announcements and agendas for 3 top executives, resulting in optimal utilization of all executives’ time.
- Facilitated last-minute venue changes for important events on 4 separate occasions flawlessly, ensuring all events went off without a hitch.
3. List your skills in your resume skills section
When you write your resume skills section, list relevant skills like certifications, languages, and software expertise. The skills section is the only place on your resume where you can list skills without hard-number support.
Here’s a sample resume skills section that features Hard Skills and Soft Skills:
- Google Suite expert, with advanced proficiency in Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
- Superb organizational and scheduling abilities.
4. Emphasize your most relevant skills in your cover letter
Your cover letter gives you a few paragraphs to explain your hard and soft skills in detail. Use hard numbers and specific examples of how you applied these skills in previous roles to prove you have experience using your skills in real-world situations.
Hiring managers read many unsubstantiated claims in cover letters. Using examples and data to prove your skills in your cover letter makes you stand out as a genuinely qualified applicant.
Here’s a professional cover letter that includes Hard Skills and Soft Skills:
Dear [Mr./Mrs./Ms.] [Manager’s Name],
I am writing to apply for the IT Project Manager position at Systems+, as advertised on LinkedIn. I am confident that my 12 years of solid experience and diverse capabilities in project management make me an ideal candidate to successfully fulfill this position.
During my time working as a Project Manager at Angel Builders, I was the second-in-charge to the Project Manager in leading a medium-sized development team. I helped oversee a range of critical projects from conception to delivery.
In my time at Angel Builders, I was noted for having achieved the following:
- Executing a number of highly profitable projects with budgets over $200,000
- Working with my team to manage the accounts of prestigious international brands and clients
- Possessing a strong understanding of statistics, quality improvement techniques, FMEA, and RCA
- Contributing successfully to Q & A testing, product SOW, integration, and user documentations
Furthermore, I have a strong academic background to ground my work. After completing my Bachelor of Construction Management at the Worthington University, I went on to score in the top 2% as a PMI Agile Certified Practitioner. I plan to draw on these methodologies at Systems+ to effectively complete project scheduling, issue tracking, and resource management tasks.
I believe that the above qualities and experiences would make me a valuable addition to your company. If there is any more information you would like me to provide, please do not hesitate to contact me.
You can also use your cover letter to highlight any soft skills you do have to make up for hard skills you don’t have. For example, if your prospective employer is looking for someone with WordPress experience, which you don’t have.
Explain that you “currently possess advanced proficiency with SquareSpace and can easily adapt to new CMS platforms such as WordPress” in your cover letter.