You may have heard people talking about hard skills. However, it’s very possible that you’ve spent your whole life up until now not really knowing what they are referring to. The good news is that you probably already have a range of hard skills without really knowing it.
Hard skills are the technical competencies that a person brings to a job. However, with the ever-increasing rate of technological advancements, a LinkedIn global trend paper reported that the length of time a hard skill is valuable is growing shorter. While soft skills can compensate in part for these shifts, it’s more important than ever to be creative and versatile when maintaining and communicating your range of hard skills.
With this in mind, it’s never a bad time to consider the hard skills you possess and why they’re important. This blog post will cover:
- What is a hard skill?
- How to figure out which hard skills an employer wants
- Where you should list hard skills on your CV and in your job application
- The hard skills to avoid
- Examples of hard skills to include in your next application.
Around 75% of resumes are rejected before the recruiter even sees them, according to the CEO of Talent Inc.
LinkedIn cites that hard skills targeting the employer’s pain points are the key to getting a job interview. So there’s reason to believe that communicating your hard skills in the right way is at least part of the solution to making it into that coveted top 25%.
What is a hard skill?
Hard skills are proficiencies that are acquired through training or conscious learning. Unlike soft skills (referring to interpersonal skills or the way you execute work), hard skills are technical. You have likely gained some through time in education or training at a job. It is also possible that you have dedicated time to teaching yourself one as a hobby.
It can take years to master certain hard skills, which often makes them particularly valuable. On the other hand, since they are possible to acquire, some employers are willing to invest in training the right candidate. The importance of your hard skills will likely depend on your industry and personal circumstances.
Which hard skills are employers looking for?
This is the ultimate question you’re probably asking yourself when identifying which hard skills to put your time into. Some hard skills are in higher demand than others. However, the truth is that most of the proficiencies an employer will want to see will depend entirely on the job and the working environment.
The description of the job you are applying to is the best place to get an idea of the hard skills that an employer will be looking for. When it comes to prioritising which ones to highlight on a job application, list the hard skills mentioned in the job ad first. Only if you possess them, of course!
However, if you are preparing a CV for a spontaneous application or are researching the hard skills you will need in a future career, some occupation-specific research is in order. In fact, the hard skills expected of you could even differ from company to company.
To kick off your research, it can help to picture your ideal position five years from now. What skills do you currently lack that a person in that role would know how to do? If you’re still not sure, Google and LinkedIn are your best friends. Both sites can help you to figure out which tools and responsibilities the job role entails. Start by taking a look at the hard skills listed in job ads for the role you want.
Your dream job: Target the hard skills you need
Search for your ideal role on LinkedIn and pull up the profiles of several people in that position or a similar one. If they have filled out their profile well, their skills and/or experience sections could be goldmines for the hard skills that will be important for you to reach your goal.
Make sure to corroborate your findings with more than one professional in the field and with other general research!
Where to list your hard skills
Your hard skills are valuable assets that you should be ready to show off in a range of scenarios. However, when it comes to preparing yourself for a certain career — specifically, applying for a job — there are some tips you can follow.
Hard skills examples on your CV
If you are preparing how and where to include some hard skills on your CV, it’s important to consider the best CV format . A seasoned professional should opt for the reverse chronological format. However, some occupations and individuals who are new to the workforce often choose the functional format, or a hybrid of the two.
While each of these CV formats include a skills section, the format you choose will dictate whether it takes centre stage or not. For instance, you should be prepared to include a longer skills section in a functional or hybrid format. Present your most relevant hard skills in a clearly legible list, and complement them with several soft skills. If you need some more help with this, you can read our guide on how to write a CV .
While the reverse chronological CV format has a skills section, it is shorter and is a supporting section to the employment history section, which takes centre stage. On the flip side, you can include more detailed hard skills examples through your CV summary and/or employment history. Both of these sections allow for snippets of freeform writing highlighting your top accomplishments. This means that you can illustrate slightly more nuanced writing about times when you demonstrated a hard skill. You could even add some numbers and statistics to add gravity to your expertise and the stellar results you got.
Work with the ATS!
The Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is an algorithm that will rank job applications based on their suitability for the role. This will be calculated based on the presence of select keywords.
You want to make sure your efforts are recognised by the ATS in order for your CV to make it to the hiring manager. So, match the language and word choice used in the job description when communicating the most important hard skills.
Hard skills examples in your cover letter
Keywords are a great way to identify and illustrate your hard skills examples. However, there should be a little more to it. Much like the employment history and summary sections on a CV, the cover letter allows you to add more nuance into illustrative examples of times you demonstrated your technical expertise.
Using expressive language to explain the competency you demonstrated. Did you identify and fix a bug in your computer programming job? Tell a story! It will be much more compelling than a bullet point which reads “troubleshooting code compilation errors.”
Illustrating technical skill sets in an interview
If you’re invited to interview, you can build on this approach of preparing illustrative anecdotes that show your technical capabilities. It’s something the interviewer is likely to ask about if they haven’t provided you with a practical test.
When it comes to illustrative examples, we recommend providing evidence of your skills using the STAR approach . Simply structure it using the following formula:
- Situation: set the scene by explaining the relevant context surrounding your example.
- Task: What was it that you had to do exactly?
- Action: Ideally it should be an action that you carried out single-handedly or led a team in executing. This is the core of your response. In this context, make sure this section clearly refers to the hard skill you’re trying to illustrate.
- Results: What were the results that your action led to? Make sure to have some quick facts to hand that demonstrate why you had an important part to play.
Remember to adjust the length of each point depending on the context. You may have a little more time to explain something in an interview, but on a single bullet on your CV you’ll want to keep it snappy.
List of hard skill examples
The variety of possible hard skills are even more numerous than the variety of possible job roles. As workplace technologies continue to shift and evolve, so will the technical skills that are required on the job. Here are some hard skills examples to inspire you to write a list of your own.
Copywriting; editing; search engine optimisation; grant writing; preparing analytical reports.
In most professions basic literacy is expected. However, writing can cover a multitude of crafts that you shouldn’t overlook. Dig a little deeper to see whether you can be more precise when describing the writing skills you’ve developed.
Microsoft suite; client management software; database management; proficiency with Windows and/or Mac operating systems; knowledge of a coding language; blockchain.
If you’re reading this blog post, you likely have some level of computer literacy. Just like writing, you may even find that you have honed some specific hard skill sets through those hours spent in front of the screen.
Fluency/professional proficiency in a modern foreign language; translation; interpretation.
Some people were lucky enough to be born into a family that speaks a different language to the one they speak at work, or they have picked it up later in life. In the world of work this could be your next super-power. Bilingualism is not something any old employee can learn quickly.
Financial data analysis; financial reporting; budgeting and forecasting; bookkeeping.
Money makes the world go around. In concrete terms, if you know how to handle your employer’s money then they will probably be glad to know about it.
Antitrust counselling; corporate compliance; litigation and risk management.
Whether you studied law or simply have an oversight of legal topics in your industry, it could be an asset to a number of workplaces. If nothing else, having an insight into any type of law often shows a wider understanding of the landscape in which your industry functions.
Construction; roofing; plumbing; knowledge of electrical equipment safety regulations.
Depending on the type of job you’re applying to, these skills can range from being incredibly useful to absolutely essential.
Funnel management; multimedia content creation; building communication strategies; A/B testing.
Companies are willing to pour millions into attracting their ideal customer. Even if your role isn’t in marketing, collaboration between teams or smaller workplaces could mean that these hard skills could still be attractive to a prospective employer.
Performance tracking; project scheduling; knowledge of agile methodologies.
Bosses love an employee who can deliver on time and under budget. This set of skills are particularly useful if you are looking to progress to a managerial role.
Stock counting; visual merchandising.
Working in retail demands more than customer service skills. Here are some ideas of the conscious learning you might have picked up while doing time on the frontlines of our highstreets.
Vehicle maintenance; preparing shipping documentation; coordinating routing.
Transportation or logistics can bring a range of transferable hard skills that will be useful for industry-specific positions, or a career change.
Knowledge of health and safety regulations; forecasting venue occupancy; event planning.
If you’ve worked in hospitality, you’ve probably earned a badge to say you’re ready for anything the world can throw at you. There are a plethora of ways to communicate the technical competencies you’ve picked up.
Mistakes to avoid
When communicating your hard skills, it’s tempting to want to list all of the technical capabilities you’ve ever learnt in the skill section of your CV. After all, together they create the unique perspective that you’ll bring to the job! However, there is an alternative.
Too long of a list can be overwhelming for a hiring manager. You even risk looking like you’re lying, or simply don’t know what you’re doing. It’s preferable to curate the top skills that it seems are required for the role. Your choice of the most relevant skills should be based on your research. If there’s room after adding your soft skills on your CV , then add one or two hard skills that will make you stand out.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of hard skills, you should feel well equipped to prioritise your learning and to better structure your job applications going forwards. Remember that when you’re thinking about the best hard skills to include on a job application:
- The value of soft skills vs hard skills will vary based on your employer and industry — but both are important.
- For job applications, communicate your hard skills using specified keywords and beat the ATS.
- LinkedIn can offer some great options to identify the hard skills you need to prioritise.
- Use the STAR approach when detailing examples of when you’ve shown proficiency in your hard skills.
- The list of possible hard skills are as varied as the list of possible jobs. So, think carefully when framing your skill sets in your job application!