Hard Skills: Definition & Examples for Resumes
Employers almost always have a set of hard skills that they desire in a new hire, and they generally lay these skills out clearly in the job description. Adding desirable hard skills to your resume can help you win interviews and ultimately get hired for your dream job!
This article will discuss what hard skills are, whether or not you should include them on your resume, and how to do so - plus some examples of hard skills to include.
Hard Skills Definition
Hard skills are abilities or job-specific skills that are easily defined and measured. They are obtained through your education, certification or training courses, and work experience. Hard skills might include specific technical skills like HTML coding or more general expertise like project management. Desired hard skills are usually listed in the ‘requirements’ section of a job posting, although some soft skills may be included there as well.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
Hard skills are different from soft skills, which are more naturally inherent character traits that generally can’t be taught, such as creativity, empathy, and interpersonal skills. Soft skills are more difficult to define or measure, but they can certainly impact how you operate in a professional workplace. Including both soft and hard skills on your resume can help potential employers get a better idea of who you are as a person.
In fact, it’s a common tenet in the professional world that hard skills get you interviews but soft skills get you jobs - although of course there’s a lot of crossover since some of the broader hard skills could also be considered soft skills, like time management for instance.
Should You Include Hard Skills on Your Resume?
For almost everyone, including hard skills on your resume will be beneficial. Listing your hard skills is a way to show that you read the job description, you are qualified for the position, and you recognize your own value.
The only time that you may wish to focus solely on soft skills is if the job does not require any hard skills (e.g. you will be trained on the job) or you are changing career paths and your hard skills aren’t relevant to the new position. But, again, in almost all cases you can present your hard skills in such a way that they work in your favor.
Examples of Hard Skills to Put on Your Resume
Here are some examples of hard skills to add to your resume, grouped by category:
Specialized skills in industries like IT, science, and engineering are often considered to be technical skills. These hard skills usually involve the ability to use some kind of job-specific software or equipment.
- Lean manufacturing
- CAD skills
- Linear regression
- Workflow development
- STEM skills
- Swift, Python, Perl, XML
- SAS, MySQL, Apache
- Payment processing
- Automated billing systems
- CRM platforms
- Research skills
- Troubleshooting abilities
- Risk assessment
- Machine learning
- Artificial intelligence
General Computer Skills
Basic computer skills are almost ubiquitous at this point, but it can still be worth pointing out your hard computer skills, especially if the job posting mentions them.
- Microsoft Office Suite
- Google Drive Suite
- Adobe Suite
- Database management
Data Analysis Skills
Data analysis skills are desirable in a wide variety of industries and including them on your resume can indicate that you are skilled at eliminating wasteful practices and saving companies money and time.
- Data mining
- Data engineering
- Database management
- Data visualization
- Web analytics
- Research skills
- Resource management
Marketing is an enormous industry, since almost all companies in the world engage in some form of marketing. Marketing skills are generally always appreciated, even if the job you are applying for doesn’t directly relate to marketing - successful marketing means more revenue for the company. Especially with the rise of ecommerce, digital marketing skills have been in especially high demand.
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Keyword research skills
- Pay per click (PPC) marking
- Email marketing
- A/B testing
- Sales funnel creation
- Marketing campaign management
Industries like healthcare, construction, and IT often rely heavily on management, so possessing and listing any of these skills can give you a leg up.
- Risk management skills
- Strategic planning
- Staff management
- Office management skills
Communication skills are useful for almost any position, whether you’ll be producing written content or orally communicating.
- Email writing
- Speaking multiple languages
- Editing and proofreading
- Word processing
- Digital forms of communication
- Grant writing
- Proposal writing
- Investigative journalism
- Content management
Design and Presentation Skills
Professional design work requires many hard skills, including both creating the designs and presenting them effectively to clients.
- User experience (UX) design
- User interface (UI) design
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Final Cut Pro
- Photo editing
- Print design
- Slide deck creation
- Photo composition
- Color correction
How To Improve Your Hard Skills
If you want to brush up on your hard skills or gain new ones, there are a few different routes you can take:
- Practice your hard skills regularly to keep your expertise fresh and up-to-date
- Ask for feedback and ways to improve your hard skills from experts in that skill area
- Take a class/course or complete online tutorials
- Pursue an advanced degree
How To Add Hard Skills to Your Resume
Now that you’ve had a chance to review the definition of hard skills as well as some examples, here are some tips for how to incorporate your hard skills into your resume:
Identify Hard Skills that the Employer is Looking For
Naturally, the hard skills that a potential employer will be most excited to see on your resume are the ones that they are specifically looking for in a new employee. Identify which hard skills the employer desires by reviewing the job posting carefully, paying special attention to anything listed under the ‘Requirements’ section. Many employers will explicitly say exactly which hard skills they are looking for.
Of course, you should only add these hard skills to your resume if you actually have them, and be mindful not to copy their requirements exactly. While using the employer’s requirements as keywords is a good strategy, you want them to know that you put thought into listing each of your skills.
Finally, be prepared to physically demonstrate certain skills to an employer in an interview - for example, if you list that you are skilled at editing, you may be asked to edit a sample piece on the spot.
Whenever possible, explain your skills in terms of the impact you have created for a company and give quantifiable results. Include numbers, percentages, and hard data to impress potential employers and show them that you truly possess each skill.
Highlight Your Hard Skills in Your Work Experience Resume Section
If you opt for the standard reverse chronological resume format, you’ll want to highlight your hard skills in your work experience section, placing each skill under the job title where you developed or honed it.
Highlighting hard skills under each of your past positions allows you to demonstrate the development and improvement of your skills over time - something that’s always desirable to potential employers!
Consider Placing Your Skills at the Top of Your Resume
If your skills and qualifications are more of a focal point than your work history, consider using the functional resume format. With this style of resume, your skills are placed above your work experience. A functional resume ensures that hiring managers can quickly scan your hard skills and see that you are a good candidate for the job.
This is an ideal strategy if the job you are applying for absolutely requires certain technical skills, and anyone lacking that skill will not be invited for an interview. By placing your skills prominently at the top, you can help ensure that your resume won’t be accidentally skipped over.
You can also highlight your hard skills at the top of a reverse chronological resume by including them in your resume headline or resume summary statement.
Back Up Your Skills With Certifications
The best way to validate your hard skills is to include any relevant certifications that you may have in a separate resume section. Include the name of the certification, the organization or institution that certified you, and the year that you earned it. Including certifications reinforces your hard skills and gives your employer a frame of reference regarding just how proficient you are with those skills.
Adding hard skills on your resume is a key way to show potential employers that you are qualified for the job. Match your resume skill set to those listed in the job posting, using keywords from the ‘Requirements’ section as your guide. Mention your skills throughout your resume for the most impact - in your resume headline, resume summary, skills section, work experience section, and certifications section if applicable. Finally, be sure to frame each skill in terms of how you used it to benefit your previous employers and give quantified results whenever you can.
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