Words of Wisdom (3): Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Sure, the interviewer herself probably won’t ask you outright to list your hard and soft skills. She might be a bit more subtle than that and ask about your “qualifications” or your “leadership style,” but you should be prepared with a mental (maybe physical, too) list of your hard and soft skills to market to the employer in an interview.

So what’s the difference?

Hard skills are the specific qualities that you have that help you to do your job. They’re sometimes technical. They’re specific to your industry. It’s easy to tell if you have them or not because they can be measured. After you’ve acquired a hard skill, you generally have it for life. These could include:

  • Proficiency in excel
  • Fluency in Spanish
  • CPA certifications
  • Medical licenses
  • Forklift operation

The good news with hard skills is you aren’t born with them. Therefore, if you feel like you’re lacking hard skills, first of all, you’re probably selling yourself short! But if you’re still looking to acquire some more hard skills to make yourself more employable, you can do so!

Some ways to increase your hard skills are

  1. Take on online class (in coding, Spanish, etc.).
  2. Get a certification. You will likely have to study for this. But, if you’re fluent in a language and you want a more legitimate certification to say that, you can get one online (but generally you have to pay for it).
  3. Use your resources. You know people with lots of skills. Ask a friend or family member to teach you a hard skill they have (anything from painting a house to performing statistical analysis depending on the kind of job you want).

Soft skills, on the other hand, are more central to your character and your personality. An example of a soft skill is empathy. While empathy is hard to quantify or measure, you can see it in how you act. Other soft skills include:

  • Self-motivated nature
  • Active listening
  • Adaptability
  • Team player mentality

Many people think that hard skills are more important than soft skills because they make you “more employable.” However, in almost all industries, you have to work with other people. Employers evaluate soft skills to make sure that you’re a person that they want to work with. When you’re scrolling though job postings on LinkedIn or Indeed, you’ll notice that most job postings include soft skills as well as hard skills in their requirements.

When you’re looking for jobs, think about both your hard and soft skills. While you may not list them on your resume, you should refer to them in your interview to market yourself. And if you’re having a hard time coming up with your soft skills, ask your friends and family. They’ll be able to name the highlights of your personality that you might have trouble seeing!


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