Skills for CV: Hard skills vs Soft Skills - Guide

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Skills for CV: Hard skills vs. Soft skills

Do you know what the difference is between hard skills and soft skills? One of the hardest things for students, next to getting alcohol poisoning and still graduating, is finding a job after graduation. In reality, if three years of university has taught you anything, it’s how to complete an entire syllabus in one night, get creative with your cooking on only £30 a week and learning to control your anger when a 9am lecture is cancelled the morning of. They know what they’re doing! But nowhere do we learn the skills employers are actually looking for in a job candidate.

So you probably find yourself asking: what skills do I need to mention on my CV to get this job? What is the meaning of a soft or a hard skill? How do I share my skills, expertise, accomplishments and all round awesomeness with prospective employers? Don’t worry, because in this guide you will learn about the definition of a soft skill, a hard skill and how to best provide a history of your experience on your resume.

Table of Contents

What are hard skills?

If you’ve ever spoken to a career counselor or even spent time learning about the job search process, you have more than likely heard of hard skills. Despite being told about it and hearing it on more than one occasion, you still don’t know exactly what it means, right? Okay, so hard skills are part of the skill set required for a job. Employers include the expertise necessary from an individual to successfully obtain the job or internship in question. So, basically, they are job – specific skills required from a candidate and are typically listed in job postings and job descriptions.

Types of hard skills

Hard skills include the specific knowledge and abilities required when applying for a job. Examples of hard skills include:

  • Computer programming
  • Web design
  • Typing (yes, it isssss a hard skill)
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Writing
  • Mathematics
  • Legal knowledge

These types of skills are all learned and can be best defined, evaluated and measured – hence making them a hard skill.

They are the most commonly used during the hiring and interview process to compare candidates for employment. In most industries, employer will test their candidates hard skills, to make sure that they can really do what their CV claims they can do.

What are soft skills?

In sum, soft skills are basically the personality attributes, personality traits, inherent social cues and indeed communication abilities required from any job. Soft skills are the skills used to characterise how a person interacts with others.

Unlike hard skills, that a person learns and develops upon over time, soft skills are similar to emotions. They’re much harder to learn and develop upon over time. In addition, soft skills are skills that are harder for employers and hiring managers to measure and evaluate.  

Types of soft skills

Soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Creative thinking
  • Work ethic
  • Teamwork
  • Networking
  • General decision making
  • Good time management
  • Motivation
  • Effective problem solving
  • High levels of critical thinking
  • Conflict resolution

Always focus on your most relevant skills.

When searching for a job, it is easy to just apply for every job that sounds the best. But it’s important to understand what it is that you are good at, trained in and where your skills sets are. That way you can make a more informed decision on the type of job to apply for and then you will know what skill sets to look out for in the job description and if you are the right candidate.

Why are hard skills so important?

Hard skills are everything you need to be able to successfully carry out the daily tasks and responsibilities expected from you in your role. For example, it’s very unlikely you will land that role as a graphic designer unless you know how to use editing software, trained to be creative and can draw a basic straight line. Just like becoming a graphic designer, you need to have a certain level of proficiency in your profession to completely perform the tasks on the job.

Even though hard and soft skills are equally as important, many careers have a higher demand for one over the other.

So, the hiring manager at a small business may place more importance on the hard programming and computer abilities of their applicants. Even more than say soft skills like interpersonal strengths, especially if the development and IT teams work alone. Therefore, if you are applying for a role that values hard over soft skills, make sure to emphasize those accordingly in your application and interview.

What hard skills to put on your CV?

There are particular hard skills that are of the most interest to employers and applicable to almost every job and type of company. If you’ve got these general skills, you’ll enhance your marketability. These skills are as follows:

1. Analytical

Job candidates have to be able to demonstrate an ability to work core data and figures out, regardless of what job role you are applying for – this is always applicable.

The five types of analytical skills you must demonstrate are:

  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Research
  • Communicating results on a spreadsheet, document or presentation.

2. Problem-solving

In nearly every sector, industry, company, whatever – problem-solving is one of the key hard skills employers seek in graduate applicants. It is almost impossible to find a blue-collar, administrative, managerial or any professional position that doesn’t require problem-solving skills of some kind.

The steps to demonstrating problem-solving skills are:

  • Analysing the factors or causes contributing to the unwanted situation
  • Generating a set of alternative interventions to achieve your end goal
  • Evaluating and researching for the best solution
  • Implementing a plan

3. Technical skills

All recruiters and hiring managers are seeking university graduates who can jump right in on the first day of work and start helping the company achieve its goals. That’s, in sum, the ideal candidate.

Technical skills are the abilities and knowledge needed to perform just about any task. They are practical and often relate to information technology mathematical or scientific tasks.

Examples of technical skills include:

  • Programming languages
  • Use of online tools
  • Mechanical equipment

Note: While technical skills are often important for careers related to information technologies and other scientific fields, many other industries now also want employee to have some technical skills. users who have got hired between 2017 and 2018 demonstrated the following hard skills:

  • Microsoft office
  • Research skills
  • Computing skills
  • Previous experience of management or entrepreneurial skills.

Why are soft skills so important?

It’s easy to understand why employers want job candidates with particular hard skills. After all, if you are hiring a carpenter, you’d like to think they have the necessary skills in carpentry.

However, soft skills are important to the success of almost all employers. This is because, almost every job ever created will require you to have to engage with other colleagues, customers, whatever. Therefore, being able to interact well with others is important in any job.

Another reason hiring managers and employers look for job candidates who demonstrate good levels of soft skills is because these skills are transferable. Therefore, can be used in any job or work setting. This then makes job candidates with soft skills very adaptable employees.

What soft skills to put on your CV?

Regardless of the job you are applying for, you will need to demonstrate certain soft skills. In order to succeed at work, you must be able to communicate effectively with all managers, co-workers, clients, customers, etc. Therefore, it is important you present these soft skills on your CV:

1. Communication skills

When applying for a job, the one soft skill that recruiters can evaluate the best is your communication skills. It is vitally important that you demonstrate high levels of communication skills, as in any job you will need to be able to effectively communicate to others. Communication skills include face to face communication, written communication or over the phone, with the ability to speak clearly and politely.

Examples of communication skills include:

  • Ability to listen
  • Negotiation
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Reading body language
  • Writing reports and proposals
  • Verbal communication
  • Visual communication

2. Critical thinking

No matter what job you are applying for, employers want candidates who can analyse situations and make the best-informed decisions. Whether you are working with data, teaching, fixing a home electrical appliances, you need to be able to understand problems and think critically and come up with a solution.

Skills related to critical thinking include:

  • Adaptable
  • Desire to learn
  • Resourceful
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Tolerant to change and uncertainty
  • Willingness to learn

3. Teamwork skills

Hiring managers always look for a job candidate who best demonstrates that they can work well with others. Whether you will be doing a lot of team projects, or simply working in and out of teams, you need to be able to work effectively with those around you.  

Skills related to teamwork include:

  • Accept feedback
  • Collaborative
  • High levels of emotional intelligence
  • Empathetic
  • Team player

Skills needed per profession

Business Development

Business developers work to guide and implement strategies for the development of the business by evaluating the businesses current performance and looking for places where it can improve by identifying new opportunities and building and maintaining relationships with clients and business partners.

While some business development work does not always require a degree, depending on the company, it does help having that level of academic achievement when applying for a business development role. You will need strong hard skills in English, math, communication and information technology.

The top hard skills required from business developers are:

  • Negotiation skills
  • Strategic planning skills
  • Computer literacy
  • Business intelligence
  • Collaboration skills


There are many subtypes of marketing and many positions within each type. From entry-level jobs writing press releases or content marketing to higher-level brand management positions and other strategic, administrative roles. In the past, marketing often proceeded on the basis of intuition and personal experiences.

Although marketing involves many different skill sets, depending on the job, there are certain core skills that marketing positions require. Below is a list of the core skills needed when applying for marketing positions to apply to your CV and cover letter:

  • Good knowledge and use of technology
  • Analytical thinking  
  • Good communication skills
  • Creativity


Unfortunately, business management is a lot more than simply telling employees what to do. Those in management positions must understand all aspects of the business from finance, communication, an understanding of the market and relevant technologies and policies. Their work is critical to helping everyone else work together seamlessly.  

Management skills overlap with leadership skills, as both involve problem-solving, decision making. Planning, delegation, communication and time management. But from a hard skills perspective, good managers often require good leadership skill.

Most management skills are related to fie basic, fundamental functions:

  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving
  • Networking
  • Planning

Tip: Researching the company is vitally important, so as to find out what the companies management structure and style is like. In addition, what skills you require.


The job outlooks for accountants are very strong and the earnings are well above the median. Accounting basically refers to the managing or inspecting of an organisation’s financial records. This role requires a core group of similar skills.

The core hard skills required are:

  • Analytical
  • Detail-oriented
  • Good idea on how to use and store information on various tools.
  • Ability to coherently organise and track all financial information.


If you are interested in a career in law, that probably started around when you finished Suits on Netflix, right? Either way, having a degree in law will make you stand out in today’s competitive job market.

From environmental law to criminal law to property law, and just about everything that allows you to act like Harvey Specter (if you haven’t watched Suits, it’s on Netflix) every legal career requires a different skill set. However, with that being said – there are a few skills that are necessary for anyone in law.

Analytical skills which include:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Logical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Sound judgement

Communication skills which include:

  • Explaining complex ideas clearly
  • Listening
  • Mediation
  • Negotiation
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Persuasive skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication

Interpersonal skills which include:

  • Client care
  • Collaboration
  • Conflict management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Counselling
  • Customer service skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • People skills
  • Working with others

Research skills which include:

  • Investigation
  • Legal research
  • Posing research questions


There are many positions in many different sectors that involve selling something. These roles are often very lucrative and may provide a very satisfying degree of flexibility and may provide a very satisfying degree of independence and flexibility. As is with many roles, a particular educational background is often required for those interested in a career in sales.

The skills you need for a career in sales are:

  • Position based skills – management, marketing & public relations
  • Personal mastery skills – ethics, meet goals & sincerity
  • General skills – cold calling, negotiation & consultations
  • Communication skills – listening, public speaking & networking

It’s important to note, that although hard skills are vitally important, they alone won’t be enough to help you get that role.

Although they’re a great way to showcase your technical ability to employers and recruiters, there are many other things that are far more important to job seekers.

The truth is, in order to have a successful cv, you must be able to demonstrate a good combination of hard skills and soft skills. That way employers and recruiters know that you are not only practically equipped to deal with a role, but also that you’ll be able to work well within their team and deal with other important elements of the job within the organisation.

What is the difference between soft skills and hard skills?

Hard skills are about the skills which are required to be able to fill in a certain position. Soft skills however, are more about personal traits then abilities. Things such as social skills, working in a team and so on fall under this category. Find out more on soft skills here.

How to write a good cv in general?

Besides the importance of mentioning hard skills and soft skills on your cv, there a few general things which need to be written in your cv. Want to know what these things are? Then read about 5 tips to writing the perfect cv.

What other aspects besides soft and hard skills are important to mention on your cv?

Having extracurricular activities on your cv might lead to you standing out to an employer. Anyone can participate in extracurricular activities. For more information, read the article on the importance of extracurricular activities.

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