Hard Skills – Definition, Importance & Examples

In any job application or interview, employers look for applicants with two very important sets of skills—namely soft skills and hard skills. A successful candidate would ensure that he puts both sets of skills on display.

While soft skills (interpersonal skills) play a crucial role for success in a job, they are harder to quantify than hard skills—skills that are acquired through formal education in schools, apprenticeships, online courses, vocational or training programs. These are the skills that include the expertise required by an individual for the job.

What Are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are job-specific and teachable abilities that are required in a candidate. These skills are those that are acquired through formal education, training programs, certification programs and coaching. They include the necessary expertise that is expected of employees, and are typically mentioned in job postings and descriptions to give an idea about what the job in question requires.

Hard skills are those that can somehow be quantified, defined, evaluated or measured. For instance, a degree from the university, proficiency in a foreign language, writing skills, mathematical skills etc can be classified as hard skills. They are most commonly evaluated during interviews to ensure that the candidates actually do what they claim to in their resumes.

Difference Between Soft Skills & Hard Skills

Both soft skills and hard skills are equally important when it comes to job applications. It is also important to understand their differences in various aspects.

The most basic difference between soft skills and hard skills is that the latter require the use of the left brain, or the logic centre, whereas the former require the right brain, or emotional centre to be used. Ergo, IQ is the key to hard skills, and EQ is the key to soft skills.

Hard skills are those that are gained through formal education, training and experience. Soft skills, on the other hand, are subjective skills that are acquired through the way you relate, interact and work with others on projects.

Hard skills are the ones that you need be able to perform a particular job. This may differ across various fields and industries, according to their requirements; for instance, a data analyst should have a fair amount of expertise in computer programming. Soft skills, however, are not very specific to a job. They are valued by all employers, no matter what field they operate in.

Hard skills can be defined and quantified whereas soft skills are hard to quantify. Providing an evidence of your hard skills is fairly easier when compared to evidence of your soft skills. For instance, if your employer is looking for someone skilled in computer programming, a certificate or program can be pointed to.

Importance Of Hard Skills

Since hard skills refer to the expertise you have acquired in any particular field, they also happen to be one of the most important skills listed in your resume. Although soft skills eventually determine whether you’ll get the job, a certain level of proficiency is always required to give you an edge over the other candidates. That proficiency is determined by hard skills. For instance, you wouldn’t be hired as a graphic designer if you didn’t know how to use editing software.

That being said, every job requires a different kind of balance between hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Skills Over Soft Skills

People who work in fields that are more hard skills-centric are extremely well-qualified and trained at their jobs. Their work is often more technical and soft skills take a back seat in their jobs. Physicians, engineers, scientists etc. often depend on their own ability and training to do their jobs, instead of focusing too much on team-work or management.

Equal Focus On Hard Skills & Soft Skills

Sometimes, a profession requires both sets of skills for success in the job. In fact, in these professions, soft skills enhance the person’s hard skills in a way that they’re co-dependent. For instance, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers etc. are required implementing both sets of skills. Aside from expertise in their fields (hard skills), doctors also need to have a high EQ to handle emotional situations with their patients.

Soft Skills Over Hard Skills

Careers that require a high amount of creativity, team-work, communication and networking skills depend on soft skills over hard skills. For example, the employees in the marketing and sales department do not necessarily need to understand the technical features of the product they need to advertise; they can succeed at their work as long as they can gain compliance from their customers.

Hard Skills Examples

Hard skills are innumerable. Every profession comes with a list of its own hard skills requirements. Here are 10 examples of hard skills that employers look for while hiring an employee.

  1. Computer Technology- In today’s world, it is very important to have a basic grasp of computer technology at the very least, since many companies require candidates to apply for jobs using a computer-based platform.
  2. Hard Communication Skills- effective communication is a very important soft skill. But factors such as being fluent in more than two languages, or a foreign language, serve as effective hard skills.
  3. Data Analysis- Data analysis is a highly valued hard skill across various industries, and not just finance. The ability to analyse data to use the information for the benefit of your company is extremely useful.
  4. Certificates & Licenses- While these may not be hard skills themselves, they give your potential employer a proof of your expertise in the required hard skills.
  5. Design- being artistically inclined may be a soft skill, but being adept at using digital tools for designing has become a very important hard skill. This proves to be essential as the consumers’ standards for design aesthetics have increased today.
  6. Cloud Computing- Due to the advance in internet and technology, companies are turning to cloud computing as a more convenient method to secure their data. This means that people who can build and manage cloud systems are in demand.
  7. Mobile & Web Development- Multiple websites are created every second and several apps are released every day. This would not be possible without people who are skilled at creating and managing apps and websites.
  8. Network Security- Companies are very confidential when it comes to their data. IT professionals who are skilled in encryption algorithms are higher in demand than ever.
  9. Marketing- convincing and persuading a customer purchase a company’s products or services requires a certain amount of expertise in communication. This ability is always valuable to potential employers.
  10. Project Management- This is a set of hard skills that is required across multiple of industries ranging from IT to construction. Due to this, hard skills related to management have become extremely important to employers.

Bottom Line?

Hard skills are important for completing a task at hand in a much better manner, but soft skills are equally important for advancement in your career. Both hard skills and soft skills are equally important. While the former makes sure you know what you’re doing or talking about, the latter ensures that you do it with flair.

Although soft skills aren’t given too much importance during the formative years or formal education, hard skills shouldn’t be neglected. Hard skills are mentioned in the cover letter of your resume when you apply for a job. While your soft skills enhance your hard skills further, no job can be done successfully without having a certain amount of expertise in that field. Thus, hard skills are those that serve as a foundation to the field you choose to work in.

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