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Skills: Hard (Technical) vs Soft (Professional)

The skills you learn and develop over time can help make you a stronger candidate during your job hunt. Understand the difference between hard (technical) and soft (professional) skills while highlighting the ones you have.

What are soft (professional) skills and hard (technical) skills

Skills are learned or improved traits people use to perform tasks or maintain positive, working relationships with others. Soft skills, also known as professional skills, are competencies and abilities associated with your personality and help build a good dynamic with others. Soft skills are not confined to one job and can benefit you in any workplace. Hard skills, or technical skills, are measurable abilities and knowledge that come through learning and can be job or task-specific. Everyone has skills that are important at work and for your independent development. These skills can also make you stand out in your job search.

Examples of different skills

Hard skills are teachable abilities that you can measure and are needed for specific roles:

  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Social Media
  • Microsoft Office
  • Welding
  • French

Soft skills are developed character traits that impact how you work on your own and with others:

  • Adaptability
  • Time Management
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Flexibility

Check out this NSI Career Pathway Plan on soft skills.

How to build skills

You can learn hard skills through schoolwork, online courses, watching how-to videos, classes taught by local organizations, or even on-the-job learning. Soft skills courses are becoming more common, but most soft skill development comes by working with others and asking for feedback or constructive criticism. It may require that you step out of your comfort zone, but awareness and self-reflection of soft skills can help you both in the workplace and in areas of your personal life.

How to present your skills to an employer

As you apply to jobs and participate in interviews, you’ll want to demonstrate how your skillsets can benefit employers and make you successful in your new position. Think of skills you have and make a list of those that match the traits sought in this new position. For example, if you are applying for a Human Resources position, listing welding on your resume would be neat, but there are much more relevant skills like accounting, scheduling, communication, or problem-solving. If you need help, reach out to friends and former colleagues to see what skills they think you have. You can also visit the Browse Careers page and refer to career cards for jobs you’ve had and the job you’re applying to.

When talking about your skills, try to show the impact they had. Here’s an example that demonstrates soft skills like listening and adaptability as well as hard skills like scheduling and accounting: “While dealing with post-pandemic staff shortages, I listened to the needs and concerns of our employees and structured a schedule to accommodate their best interest, minimize absence, and decrease turnover for increased sales during high demand.” Before going into your interview, practice going over examples of how you demonstrated important skills in the workplace.