What Are Hard Skills? Definition, Examples, and What Skills Employers Want in the Workplace

Chelsy Meyer  | 

Finding the right applicant for a job involves a lot of transparency on the part of the poster. Without outlining exactly the kind of individual they are looking for, they aren’t setting themselves up for success in finding the right person to fill the job. One of the aspects in outlining what they need is deciding on the skill set the job requires. The nuts and bolts of that skill set will include the hard skills an applicant will need in order to fulfill their duties.

Hard skills are important because they take a lot of training that may not be practical on the job. They may also be required on your resume to get past initial screening systems. An applicant that can carry both the necessary hard skills as well as desirable soft skills create the perfect candidate for prospective employers.

What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are those gained through training or education. These skills are easier to quantify or verify than soft skills, and can coincide with some type of degree or certificate, though that is not always the case. These skills are easier to teach, measure, and convey than others and are the most conventionally understood. Hard skills can be highly job-specific and are often explicitly outlined by recruiters.

Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Both hard skills and soft skills are necessary in order to stand out and work well with a company. Soft skills tend to be highly transferable skills and can be molded to fit any type of job. Things like like communication, leadership, and teamwork are soft skills that are more interpersonal and subjective. Hard skills work in tandem with soft skills to make you the perfect candidate. Their training and measurement tend to be standardized, as with formal education, degrees, certificates, or years of experience in an industry. Hard skills tend to be requirements, directly implicated in the duties of a specific position or job, while soft skills help you to stand out among the rest of the qualified candidates.

Hard Skills Examples: A List of Hard Skills Employers Want Most in the Workplace

The list of hard skills a position may require will depend greatly on the industry. Since hard skills are specific skills gained in a particular field, they are not always as transferable as a soft skill set that can work with a variety of different job types. However, some hard skills are more common than others.

Certifications, Licenses, and Degrees

The most common and standardized type of hard skills are those gained through formal education. Anything that requires a certification, license, or degree is highly valuable and specialized. The proof is in the documentation that you received schooling, were trained, tested by professionals, and are experienced. For example, cosmetologists and teachers are required to have a certification, many medical professionals are required to have a licence to practice, and many careers from engineers to architects need a degree. Each form is basically a type of concrete documentation demonstrating a hard skill, making them highly valuable.

Computer Technology

Computer technology is a vast term covering many different specific skill sets. Basic computer skills are helpful on a resume, but specific knowledge in computer technology can help many different industries. Microsoft Office, HTML, Analytics, data analysis, cloud computing, design software, web development, technical skills, and cryptography all fall under the incredibly wide umbrella that is computer technology. Some specialized computer skills can be certified or even comprise degree programs, while others may be demonstrated through less formal means, such as years of experience. Because nearly every industry is being affected by technology, computer hard skills are more in demand.

Communication

Communication can be a hard skill and a soft skill. The soft skill set involves how you speak to others in terms of listening, paying attention to tone, and collaboration. Communication as a hard skill can mean things like knowing a foreign language, being proficient in social media, or being able to write well. Technical communication can also be a hard skill: being fluent in medical terminology, for instance, or understanding how to create or interpret blueprints or other data. Communication is such a powerful skill that many recruiters agree that good communicators have the competitive edge in hiring.

Management

Management skills incorporate many different hard skills and soft skills. It’s a skill set that can be useful regardless of the industry. However, it isn’t just about the soft skills needed to manage people, it’s also about the hard skills needed to manage projects, meet expectations, and deliver a product to their customers. Management training can come in the form of certifications, degrees, or years of work experience.

Equipment Operation

There are plenty of industries requiring their employees to be able to operate very specific equipment. Just like any other hard skill, equipment operation is vast and varies depending on the industry. A construction outfit may need heavy equipment operators, or computer repair company may need someone who can run a soldering iron. This type of equipment operation is specialized and may require a certification which is why it’s so highly valued.

Hard Skills on Your Resume

Getting the attention of employers and hiring managers is not just a matter of having hard skills to include on your resume. It’s also about incorporating those skills in a way that will appeal to recruiters as well as registering with automated applicant screening algorithms. Today, most hiring and applicant tracking is handled largely by computers, and your resume may not even pass before a human until an algorithm determines you meet minimum requirements for a position. Very often, this algorithm uses keywords — including hard skills — to identify qualified resumes and applicants.

Applicant Tracking Systems and Hard Skills

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software programs that can be used in order to sort applicants with the skills required to qualify for a position. For this reason, it’s important to customize your resume or application for each job you’re applying for. Pay close attention to the keywords and required skills listed on a job listing and mimic their verbiage. Typically, if a company is using an ATS, you need to get through their algorithm before your resume makes it to a real person.

In order to showcase your hard skills to an ATS, you’ll need to be deliberate in how you word your resume and how you organize it. Not only should you be using keywords directly from the job description you see posted, but you should also be consistent in your formatting. Keep your hard skills as easy to read as possible, avoiding synonyms and focusing on being as clear as possible.

Your soft skills may be highly transferable and valuable to any company you ever work with, but your hard skills are your bread and butter. Hard skills aren’t easy to come by and tend to be expensive to teach for a prospective employer. For that reason, hiring someone with those hard skills is oftentimes non-negotiable. If you have any of the hard skills that are highly valuable to a business, such as a skill in computer technology or a specialized certification, be sure to highlight that on your resume. Your soft skills will be beneficial in your interview, but your hard skills will get you through the application process.


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Chelsy is a writer from Montana who now lives in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She enjoys talk radio, cold coffee, and playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow Chelsy on Twitter @Chelsy5

This post was updated October 17, 2018. It was originally published September 18, 2018.