hard skills vs soft skills

There are two types of skills recruiters look for on resumes: hard skills and soft skills. When used correctly, they work together to form a powerhouse resume that provides the hiring manager a comprehensive understanding of the job seeker’s capabilities.

What are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are taught skills. They are quantifiable and are often learned in school, through certifications, or in previous work experience. Hard skills are specific to each job and are often the basis of job requirements.

Recruiters look for hard skills on your resume to gauge how well you may perform job duties. These job specific skills are especially important because of applicant tracking system (ATS) algorithms used to rank and filter job applications. 

Hard skills are also called “resume keywords,” which are words recruiters use to search applicant tracking systems for candidates. For a resume to be highly searchable, it should include the exact hard skills found in the job description.

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Hard Skills List

Here are some examples of hard skills:

Technical Skills

  • Data mining
  • Analytics
  • HTML
  • Data analysis
  • SaaS in cloud
  • Coding
  • AI
  • Machine learning

Big Data Engineering Skills

  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • Java
  • Apache Hadoop
  • Apache Spark
  • Excel
  • Computer science
  • Data visualization

Sales & Marketing Skills

  • SEO/SEM marketing
  • Marketing
  • Social media
  • Outreach
  • Inside sales
  • Outbound calling
  • Strategy
  • Forecasting
  • CRM

Accounting & Finance Skills

  • Mathematics
  • Bookkeeping
  • IT
  • Quickbooks
  • GAAP
  • Analytics
  • Auditing
  • Cash flow management
  • Microsoft Office
  • Risk Analysis

How Can You Find Hard Skills for Your Resume?

Resume hard skills must be tailored to each job. In order to find skills that will grab the attention of recruiters and help get you past ATS, job seekers should analyze the job description. Look specifically for required skills when writing your resume. These are skills that are mentioned first, or skills that are listed more than once, as those are likely high-priority to the hiring manager.

When choosing hard skills to include, bear in mind that tense matters in ATS. Be sure to use the exact form of the word used in the job description.

Where Should You Display Hard Skills on Your Resume? 

Including a skills section on your resume will allow recruiters and hiring managers to see that you have the skills required for the job at one glance. You can also include hard skills in the copy of your work experience section, though you may find that these types of skills are most impressive when listed in bullet form. 

Tip: Include important hard skills in both your work experience section and skills section. You can also like highly desirable hard skills in your cover letter. 

Optimize the Hard Skills (Keywords) on Your Resume

Analyzing each job description can be time consuming, but it is important. Jobscan can help by automating the process of locating hard skills. Just upload or copy and paste your resume beside the job description of your choice and Jobscan will do the rest.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are typically interpersonal people skills or desirable personality traits that revolve around character, teamwork, communication, time management, and work ethic. Soft skills tend to be transferable between jobs or industries but are more difficult to quantify on a resume than hard skills.

Soft Skills List

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Adaptability
  • Problem-solver
  • Listening
  • Team-oriented
  • Team player
  • Strong work ethic
  • Decision maker
  • Strategic thinker
  • Skilled Collaborator
  • Time management
  • Self-motivated
  • Multitasker
  • Conflict resolution
  • Responsible
  • Flexible
  • Organized
  • Work well under pressure
  • Competitive
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Integrity
  • Hands-on
  • Innovation
  • Consistent
  • Creative
  • Energetic
  • Enthusiastic
  • Driven
  • Attention to detail

How to Use Soft Skills in Your Resume

Just because soft skills are non-technical does not mean they can’t be worked into measurable accomplishments. In fact, they should be. Soft skills become more tangible and believable when combined with accomplishments and measurable results.

For example, if you have a summary statement in your resume, try working soft skills into it, like this:

Product manager, problem-solver and super communicator with 15 years of experience in product strategy. I have carried more than 20 successful products from start to completion.

This summary statement uses the soft skills “problem solver” and “super communicator” while also including measurable metrics as proof of experience. When working with soft skills, a job seeker should always try to pair a soft skill with a measurable result.

Another way to include soft skills is in the form of accomplishments in the experience section of a resume. For example:

Using my strong organizational skills, I created a new filing system for more than 300 patient files.

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Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

A combination of hard skills and soft skills forms a well-rounded job applicant. While hard skills are quite different than soft skills, the combination of the two creates a good balance between knowledge and interpersonal attributes. Hard skills show mastery and proficiency while soft skills show communication and relational abilities.

For example, a software engineer may have the following skills on their resume:

  • Javascript
  • Java
  • CASE
  • Linux

They may also have the following soft skills on their resume:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Superior time management
  • Work well under pressure

This applicant’s hard skills demonstrate a very different, very specific competence compared to their soft skills. Hard skills help the applicant get past ATS while showing experience level and qualification for the position. Soft skills make the applicant human, showing leadership, empathy, and character.


Note: A version of this article was published by James Hu on January 4, 2016. It was rewritten and updated by Paige Doepke on October 14, 2018 and updated again on September 30, 2020. Last updated September 30, 2020.

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