Hard skills describe teachable or technical abilities that are learned in an educational institution, book, or in the workplace. Soft skills, on the other hand, are those that are used to interact with other people. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills or people skills.
Understanding hard skills
Hard skills describe the technical abilities an interview candidate may list on their resume. These skills demonstrate competency in a specific job, career, or industry and must be learned in a formal or informal education setting. In other words, no one is born with hard skills.
For example, a restaurant worker will need to possess formal barista and point-of-sale system training as part of their role. An international sales representative may need to be fluent in the language of the country where their most important clients reside.
Hard skills tend to be measurable, easily quantified, and can be described using numerical or yes/no criteria. Examples include:
- SEO marketing.
- User interface design.
- Statistical analysis.
- Database management.
- Forklift operation.
- Cash flow management.
With business now dominated by technology, it can be easy to assume that most roles emphasize hard skills and technical proficiency. However, there are some skills that technology cannot reproduce. We will take a look at these in the next section.
Understanding soft skills
Soft skills are harder to quantify than hard skills because they refer to how we interact with others. Many of these skills are innate to our personalities, but we can also learn soft skills to bolster our job prospects or improve the quality of our relationships with others.
In the workplace, soft skills are desirable because they can be used in any context irrespective of the industry or the organization itself. What’s more, employers look for candidates with soft skills because they are essential to creating a harmonious and positive company culture.
Some positions may also place a greater emphasis on soft skills than on hard skills. For example, it is more important for a human resources manager to be empathetic and a great communicator than it is for them to be able to analyze data or use specialized software.
Examples of soft skills include:
- Active listening.
- Critical thinking.
- A willingness to learn.
- Self-motivation or organization.
- Hard skills describe teachable or technical abilities that are learned in an educational institution, book, or in the workplace. Conversely, soft skills are those that are used to interact with other people and can be more difficult to quantify.
- Hard skills are increasingly important in many technology-based roles where technical proficiency is key. Examples include coding, blockchain, and forklift operation.
- Many individuals possess innate soft skills that allow them to relate to others positively, but the good news is that most soft skills can be learned to bolster a resume. Examples include communication, creativity, critical thinking, leadership, and active listening.
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