Global talent shortages have reached a 16-year high, according to LinkedIn, with over 75% of employers reporting that they can’t find the talent they need for their open positions. These talents include a combination of hard skills and soft skills that are critical for positions within an evolving organization.
Hard skills provide the technical foundation for job performance, while soft skills enable individuals to effectively apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios.
Many contemporary national leaders have found success due to their exceptional hard skills in various fields, including:
- Warren Buffett: Finance and investment analysis
- Jeff Bezos: Computer Science and engineering skills
- Mary Barra: Engineering skills
- Tim Cook: Operational management skills
- Elon Musk: Mathematical and engineering skills
Steve Jobs understood the importance of hard skills, and because he knew his engineering skills were below par for his position, he made it a point to learn marketing principles and communication skills. “He has to find other areas to make himself important,” his partner Steve Wozniak told CNBC, which eventually led to Jobs’ reputation as a genius marketer.
Hard skills are the foundation upon which innovation, expertise, and tangible accomplishments are built—they propel you to excel in your profession while driving a meaningful impact.
In this article, learn the meaning of hard skills, get examples of these skills across several industries, and find out how to showcase them on your resume.
- In an increasingly competitive job market, possessing relevant hard skills can make or break a candidate’s chances of being hired.
- Jobseekers only match about 59% of the hard skill requirements stated in job posts.
- 76% of companies use skills-based hiring to fill open roles and 55% use role-specific skills tests to vet candidates.
What Are Hard Skills?
Hard skills refer to specific abilities or knowledge that are gained through formal education, training, or experience. These skills are typically associated with a particular field, industry, or profession and are easily measurable and verifiable. They are essential for performing specific tasks, job functions, or activities within a role.
Over the last five years, there has been a decrease in degree requirements across many sectors, including information-technology (IT) jobs, managerial operations, and healthcare. A report conducted by Harvard Business Review and Emsi Burning Glass found that there has been a shift to skills-based hiring, with potential employees being evaluated based on demonstrated skills and competencies.
Hard skills can be confirmed by employers through pre-employment testing, employment history, and certifications. Unlike soft skills, they are relatively easy to assess and play a critical role on your resume and the hiring process.
Some examples of hard skills include:
- Technical proficiencies
- Language skills
- Mathematical and analytical abilities
- Design and creativity skills
- Project management capabilities
- Scientific research techniques
- Financial analysis expertise
- Engineering know-how
- Medical and healthcare competencies
These skills are critical for effectively carrying out job responsibilities and are often sought after by employers when hiring for specific roles.
Hard Skills Examples
1. Technical and Computer Skills
Technical skills are specific abilities and knowledge that enable individuals to perform technical tasks or functions within various industries. These skills are typically quantifiable and involve expertise in areas such as programming, data analysis, engineering, healthcare procedures, digital marketing tools, and more, allowing individuals to effectively tackle specialized challenges and contribute to their respective fields.
Here are examples of technical skills and how they are used in different industries:
- Data Analysis and Analytics: Proficiency in tools like Excel, R, or Python’s pandas library enables professionals to process and analyze data, and tools like Tableau or ggplot2 create meaningful visual representations of data.
- Engineering: Skills in CAD software to design and model mechanical components and knowledge of circuit design and analysis software (such as MATLAB and LabVIEW) for designing electronic systems. For civil engineering, proficiency in structural analysis software (like SAP2000) for designing and analyzing building structures.
- Healthcare: Skills in using imaging software for analyzing X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans, and proficiency in EHR systems for recording and managing patient information.
- Digital Marketing: Knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) tools for improving online visibility, and skills in tools like Google Analytics or social media analytics platforms to track and analyze online engagement.
- Finance and Accounting: Proficiency in spreadsheet software (such as Excel) for financial modeling and analysis, and skills in using accounting software (like QuickBooks) for bookkeeping and financial management.
56% of organizations believe that their employees need to improve their technical skills to keep up with advancements in technology.
2. Language and Communication Skills
Language or communication skills refer to the ability to effectively communicate, both verbally and in writing, in one or more languages. Strong language skills are crucial in various industries for clear communication, collaboration, negotiation, and customer interaction.
Here are examples of language skills and how they are used in different industries:
- Customer Service: Possessing verbal communication skills that allow you to speak clearly and politely to help customers with their inquiries or problems, and written communication for responding to customer emails or chat messages professionally and accurately.
- Business and Management: Using persuasive language to reach agreements and make deals and delivering clear and engaging presentations to colleagues, clients, or investors.
- Translation and Interpretation: Converting written and spoken content from one language to another accurately.
- Journalism and Media: Creating news articles, features, and reports that inform and engage readers.
- International Business: Using appropriate language and gestures when communicating with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds and being able to negotiate, draft contracts, and communicate effectively in multiple languages.
- Content Creation and Marketing: Writing persuasive and engaging advertisements, product descriptions, marketing materials, and social media posts.
- Legal Services: Drafting legal documents, contracts, and case briefs with precision and presenting legal arguments persuasively in court or during negotiations.
Over 91% of polled employers felt that communication skills were crucial when making hiring decisions.
3. Mathematical Skills
Mathematical skills involve the ability to understand, manipulate, and apply mathematical concepts and techniques. These skills are valuable across various industries for tasks ranging from calculations and analysis to problem-solving.
Here are examples of mathematical skills and their applications in different sectors:
- Finance and Banking: Conducting financial analysis using mathematical models to assess investments, risk, and profitability.
- Engineering: Using mathematical principles to conduct structural analysis and design and optimize automated control systems for machines and processes.
- Data Science and Analytics: Analyzing and interpreting data trends, distributions, and correlations and implementing mathematical algorithms to develop predictive models.
- Medicine and Healthcare: Employing mathematical algorithms for image reconstruction and analysis in medical scans and using statistics to analyze clinical trial results and medical research data.
- Technology and IT: Utilizing mathematical concepts for secure data encryption, decryption, and optimizing data flow and performance networks.
- Manufacturing and Production: Conducting quality control by applying statistical methods to ensure consistent product quality and identify defects and using math to optimize stock levels and reorder points.
- Environmental Science: Creating mathematical models to simulate and predict environmental changes and their impacts and to study ecosystems, population dynamics, and environmental trends.
- Retail and Marketing: Using mathematical models to predict consumer demand for products and services and applying math to develop pricing strategies.
While high-order math is necessary for careers in engineering and statistics, reports show that 94% of all workers use basic math in their jobs.
4. Design and Creativity Skills
Design and creativity skills involve the ability to conceptualize and develop innovative ideas, as well as translate those ideas into tangible solutions or visual representations. These skills are highly valuable across diverse industries, driving product development, user experiences, and aesthetic appeal.
Here are examples of design skills and their applications in different sectors:
- Graphic Design and Advertising: Creating engaging graphics, logos, and layouts for advertisements, websites, and marketing materials.
- Fashion and Apparel: Developing clothing designs that reflect trends, functionality, and aesthetics and creating unique patterns for fabrics used in clothing and accessories.
- Product Design and Manufacturing: Crafting innovative and user-friendly product designs and building physical or digital prototypes to test and refine product concepts.
- Architecture and Interior Design: Engaging in spatial planning by designing layouts that optimize space utilization and flow within buildings and displaying skills in aesthetic integration by incorporating colors, materials, and furnishings to create visually appealing interiors.
- Film and Entertainment: Creating storyboards that allow for visualizing scenes and sequences through hand-drawn or digital storyboards and engaging in set and costume design by creating immersive environments and outfits.
- Marketing and Branding: Implementing branding strategy by developing visual identities, logos, and brand guidelines that reflect a company’s values and designing creative campaigns that capture attention and drive engagement.
- Education and E-Learning: Working in educational material design to create visually appealing and engaging educational resources for learners.
Only 25% of individuals feel that they are fully realizing their creative potential.
5. Project Management Skills
Project management skills involve the ability to plan, organize, execute, and monitor tasks and resources to achieve specific goals within defined constraints. Effective project management ensures projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the desired quality standards.
Here are examples of project management skills used in different industries:
- Information Technology: Coordinating teams to develop and deliver software applications according to deadlines and specifications and managing network upgrades or system installations.
- Construction: Overseeing the planning, scheduling, and execution of construction projects, ensuring safety and compliance.
- Healthcare: Managing the process of conducting clinical trials, ensuring adherence to protocols and regulatory requirements, and coordinating the renovation or expansion of healthcare facilities while minimizing disruptions to patient care.
- Event Planning: Planning and executing events such as conferences, weddings, and trade shows, considering logistics, budgets, and timelines.
- Marketing Campaigns: Leading teams to develop and implement marketing campaigns, tracking progress and adjusting strategies as needed.
- Manufacturing: Ensuring smooth production workflows, from raw material procurement to finished product assembly, and implementing quality control.
- Consulting: Guiding consulting projects by defining objectives, allocating resources, and delivering actionable recommendations.
- Financial Services: Overseeing investment projects by implementing strategies, portfolio management, and risk assessment.
61% of organizations provide project management training while 47% have a clear path for project professionals.
6. Analytical Skills
Analytical skills are the ability to collect, interpret, and analyze information, data, and situations to make informed decisions, solve problems, and draw meaningful conclusions. These skills involve breaking down complex problems into smaller components, identifying patterns, recognizing trends, and evaluating evidence to develop effective solutions. Analytical skills are valuable in a wide range of industries and professions as they enable individuals to make well-informed decisions and improve processes.
Here are some examples of how analytical skills are used in different industries:
- Business and Finance: Analyzing market trends, competitor strategies, and consumer behavior to make informed business decisions and identifying potential risks and assessing their impact on business operations and profitability.
- Data Science and Analytics: Analyzing large datasets to uncover patterns, correlations, and insights that can inform business strategies or scientific research.
- Engineering: Evaluating the strength, stability, and performance of structures using mathematical models and simulations and investigating the root causes of equipment failures to prevent future occurrences and enhance reliability.
- Marketing and Advertising: Studying consumer preferences and purchasing patterns to develop targeted marketing campaigns and analyzing social media data to track engagement, sentiment, and user behavior to refine marketing strategies.
- Education: Designing and analyzing tests and assessments to measure student learning outcomes and instructional effectiveness.
About one-in-four workers are employed in occupations in which analytical skills are most important, according to a report by Pew Research Center.
7. Engineering Skills
Engineering skills encompass a wide range of technical, problem-solving, and creative abilities that engineers use to design, develop, and optimize various products, systems, and solutions. These skills are critical in industries that rely on technological innovation, design, and construction.
Here are examples of engineering skills and how they are applied in different industries:
- Mechanical Engineering: Creating 2D and 3D models using computer-aided design (CAD) software for machines, devices, and mechanical systems.
- Civil Engineering: Calculating the strength and stability of buildings, bridges, and infrastructure to ensure safety and compliance with regulations.
- Transportation Engineering: Planning and designing transportation systems, including roads, highways, airports, and rail networks, to optimize traffic flow and safety.
- Software Engineering: Writing, testing, and debugging code for software applications, ranging from web development to mobile apps and embedded systems.
- Chemical Engineering: Developing and optimizing chemical processes for manufacturing products such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food.
- Environmental Engineering: Creating strategies for waste reduction, recycling, and disposal to minimize environmental impact.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth for engineer workers, with nearly 140,000 new jobs expected for engineers over the 2016–26 decade.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
“Your hard skills help you acquire employment and your soft skills help you ensure your employability. Hence, integrate hard and soft skills to fast-track your career.”Professor M.S. Rao
Both hard and soft skills play crucial roles in an individual’s success and are essential for thriving in the professional world. Here’s the breakdown of the five main differences between hard skills and soft skills:
- Hard skills: Hard skills refer to specific, teachable, and measurable abilities or knowledge gained through education, training, or experience.
- Soft skills: Soft skills encompass interpersonal and non-technical skills related to interactions and behaviors.
- Hard skills: These skills are technical and task-oriented, often specific to a particular field or industry.
- Soft skills: These skills involve personal qualities, behaviors, and attitudes that contribute to effective communication, collaboration, and problem-solving.
- Hard skills: Examples of hard skills include programming languages, data analysis, graphic design, and foreign language proficiency.
- Soft skills: Examples of soft skills include communication, teamwork, adaptability, and critical thinking.
- Hard skills: Hard skills are learned through education, training programs, certifications, and hands-on experience.
- Soft skills: Soft skills are developed over time through experiences, interactions, and self-awareness.
- Hard skills: They can be objectively assessed through tests, exams, or direct demonstrations.
- Soft skills: They are subjectively assessed through self-evaluation, peer feedback, and observations.
The Most In-Demand Hard Skills for Your Resume
Hard skills provide tangible evidence of your qualifications and expertise, making them an important aspect of your resume. They demonstrate to potential employers that you possess the specific technical abilities necessary to perform the tasks and responsibilities of the job.
Listing specific hard skills that meet a job requirement will set you apart from other candidates and increase your chances of landing the position. However, according to a report by Finances Online, only 59% of resumes focus on hard skills, even though a large majority of employers state that they value this information when hiring.
The most in-demand hard skills to consider learning and adding to your resume are:
- Software development
- Data analysis
- Artificial intelligence and machine learning
- Digital marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Structured query language (SQL)
- Cloud computing
- Agile Methodology (Scrum)
- Robotics engineering
- Process automation
- Project management
To showcase your hard skills on your resume, create a “Skills” section near the top (after the summary or objective). Then organize your skills into subcategories, indicating the type of hard skill and what credentials or education you have to back it up.
Hard Skills Require Continued Education
In-demand hard skills are always shifting to address market needs. Make sure to stay up-to-date on these shifts and remember that it’s important to continue learning and growing.
Improving your hard skills involves a combination of learning, practice, and hands-on experience. Consider picking up one new hard skill every year to remain a competitive candidate in your given industry.
Here are several steps you can take to enhance your hard skills:
- Identify your goals: Clearly define the hard skills you want to improve. Are you aiming to learn a programming language, master a software tool, or gain proficiency in a specific area?
- Access learning resources: Online platforms like Coursera, Udemy, edX, and Khan Academy offer a wide range of courses on various hard skills.
- Enroll in workshops and bootcamps: Participate in workshops, seminars, or coding bootcamps that provide intensive and focused training in specific hard skills.
- Practice regularly: Apply what you learn through practical exercises, projects, and challenges to reinforce your understanding.
- Work on real projects: Apply your skills to real-world projects. This practical experience is valuable for deepening your understanding and building a portfolio.
- Collaborate and seek feedback: Collaborate with others on projects or coding challenges to gain diverse perspectives and receive feedback on your work.
- Take online certifications: Many platforms offer certifications that validate your skills, such as Microsoft Certifications for software proficiency or Google Analytics Certification for digital marketing.
Are you ready to learn about other skills that employers are looking for while hiring? Read this article next:
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