When you’re looking for a new job, few elements of your resume are more important than your hard skills. If you want a hiring manager to take your application seriously, you need to prove that you have the right skill set to perform the job.
We’ll cover what exactly hard skills are, give examples of the most sought-after hard skills in 2021, and provide tips for including hard skills on your resume.
What are hard skills?
Hard skills are skills that allow you to perform job-specific tasks and responsibilities. They can be learned through formal education, apprenticeships or internships, certification programs, and on the job. Hard skills typically focus on particular processes or tasks and involve the use of specific tools or software.
They can also indicate general, all-encompassing expertise on a subject, like “Blockchain.” You’ll usually find the necessary hard skills for a job in the “Requirements” or “Qualifications” section of a job description.
In comparison, soft skills relate to your interpersonal abilities and intangible qualities that make you better at your job. A few examples of common soft skills are:
Hard skills include things like language skills, skills with particular software, job-specific skills, etc.
Soft skills can appear on a resume, but they’re more apt to show up on your cover letter.
Types of hard skills
Now that you understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills, you can probably see why having more hard skills can give you a competitive edge when it comes to landing your next job.
Here’s the interesting thing — many people have hard skills, but they don’t highlight them. Think about your resume. Does it simply list where you worked and the dates you were there, with a brief explanation of your job duties? Or do you list your academic career by simply stating what degree you have?
This is where you can revamp your resume and come out looking like a superstar. Don’t give mundane job duty descriptions; go out of your way to explain all of the hard skills you learned on the job or how the ones you used in college were instrumental to your success.
To successfully your hard skills, it helps to know what types of hard skills there are. We’ve compiled a list of examples below:
- Computer skills. Knowing how to work a computer is obviously a must, but your level of expertise is important. Can you program a computer, do back end technical work, or are you certified in some different types of programs that businesses want and need their employees to understand? These computer skills can include:
- Word Processing
- Microsoft Office
- Automated billing systems
- Database Management
- Social Media
- Technical skills. Technical skills can take your computer knowledge a step further and put you out there as an expert in information technology. Technical hard skills also relate to engineering and the sciences. These jobs typically have very specialized knowledge bases and employees will need to have training in some of these areas:
- Cloud Computing
- Artificial intelligence
- Python Programming
- STEM skills
- CRM platforms
- Management skills. You love being in charge and you’re darn good at it. The problem is, you’re not the only one. While people skills are an essential part of being a good manager, having the following hard skills will make you more employable:
- Project Management
- Business Analysis
- Human Resources
- Office Management
- Payroll programs
- Agile software
- Scrum management
- Marketing Skills. Marketing has been a booming business for a long time now and the internet has virtually turned the entire industry upside down and then filled it with a vast amount of marketing jobs.They all seem to need different skill sets from their employees. It’s crucial to match your skills with the position, which is why you need to turn the spotlight on the following skills, if you have them:
- Affiliate Marketing
- Search Engine Optimization
- Search Engine Marketing
- Google Analytics
- AdWords, Facebook paid ads
- Content Management Systems
- Social Media Marketing
- Marketing Research
- Email and Marketing Automation
- Analytical skills. Are you looking for a job where you need stellar analytical skills? Maybe you’ve spent your education or your career gathering data, analyzing it, and coming up with results or a hypothesis.Today, knowing how to accurately and appropriately analyze data is more important than ever before and there are a lot of jobs that need people with these skills. Make sure to highlight your talents if you have the following hard skills:
- Data Mining
- Data Engineering
- Database Management
- Data Presentation
- Analytical Reasoning
- Writing skills. Hey, guess what — you don’t have to be a writer, or want to be one, to need stand-out grammar and writing skills. Writing is necessary in so many different areas of business that, if you’re good at it, you need to brag a bit.Even in the most technical and scientific job, you still need to know how to write an email, present an intelligent proposal, and write up your results. You’ll find writing comes into play all the time and your boss is going to want to hire someone they can rely on to put together cohesive thoughts without grammatical errors.Let them know that you’re that someone if you have these skills:
- Technical Writing
- Proposal Writing
- Other languages
- Press releases
- Content management systems
- Academic writing
- Social media
- Design skills. Having some basic design skills can make you more appealing for just about any job. That is unless you want a job doing design — if that’s your career path, then you better be able to fill your resume lots of design skills and be able to demonstrate proficiency or even mastery of them.
- User Experience Design
- User Interface Design
- Adobe Creative Suite
- Digital Product Design Software
- Video Production
- Corel Draw
- Print design
- Accounting skills. So many different professions require some degree of accounting or math-related skills. Whether you’re in an office and adding up payroll or you’re out on the road, making sales and offering discounts — you’re going to need to know some math and have some accounting hard skills on your resume.
- Banking Operations
- Financial Statement Preparation
- Excel (Advanced) ability
- Data analysis and modeling
- Microsoft Visual Basic
- Career-specific skills. Not all careers fit into the examples above and some have very different skills. If you’re an electrician, for example, you have different certifications you need and those may vary by state. And that’s just one possible career path. The following jobs are just some that have their very own set of hard skills which don’t fit into the types listed above:
- Radiologic Technician
- Tool-and-Die Maker
- Hair Stylist
- Pharmacy Technicians
- Physical Therapy Aide
- Automotive Technology
This is just a very small list of careers that require some sort of certification or education, with job-specific hard skills. If you are in one of these fields or looking to break into one, you probably already know what employers need and want to see, so make sure you’re emphasizing your abilities.
Every field and industry has its own particular set of hard skills. Take some time to learn about the most valued hard skills in your career path now to make your life easier later.
How to include hard skills in your resume
The above list doesn’t even begin to cover the very tip of the iceberg — there are that many hard skills out there. The good news is, if that list got you thinking of your own skills, then you’re headed down the right path.
Now it’s time to include your hard skills on your resume in a way that entices hiring managers and recruiters. Rather than just a list of where and when you worked, you’re going to really make each job sound like a key step in getting to the new job you want. Do this by following these tips:
- Read the job description carefully. Pay close attention to the “Requirements” or “Qualifications” section in the job description. This part is usually loaded with all the hard skills that the hiring manager deemed essential for a candidate to possess.Don’t worry if you don’t have every single hard skill you see listed there (unless it’s a really big part of the job).As long as you possess more than half of the required hard skills, go ahead and apply. And, in the meantime, start looking into courses for hard skills you lack that keep popping up in job descriptions for your career of choice.
- Make a master list of hard skills. Next, write down all of the hard skills that you possess, even if you’re unsure if they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for. Brainstorm a bunch so you have a big list to select your best hard skills from.
- Match your skills with those from the job description. If you can match up all of your hard skills to those found in the job description, you’re golden. But even if you can only find 2-3 hard skills that line up perfectly, you can still turn to your master list of hard skills. From there, try to find skills that are at least similar to the required skills.For example, if you’ve only used Salesforce but you’re applying for a job that uses Zoho, you can still mention that you’re experienced using CRM software.
- Collect certifications. Gather any certifications you have and make digital copies that you can attach to a resume or application. This will come in handy if a hiring manager or recruiter wants to verify your skills.
- Include a skills section. Your resume’s skills section can take a few different forms. For a chronological resume, which most job-seekers should use, you can simply include a bulleted list of 4-10 skills (most of them hard skills) after your education section.Some candidates also choose to indicate a proficiency level with each skill or provide a brief sentence explaining their experience with it.If you’re writing a functional resume, your skills section will include fewer skills, but more detail for each skill. Choose between 4-6 skills (again, mostly hard skills), and give more information about your experience with each. You can either include 2-4 bullet points or simply a short 2-4 line paragraph explaining your experience with each skill.
- Flesh out your list of skills with solid examples. It’s not enough to simply list skills in your resume’s skills section. Bring them to life in your work experience section with a few of your biggest accomplishments involving each skill. For example, “Used Excel to create an accounts receivable spreadsheet to track invoices, reducing turnaround time by 16%.”
- Understand keywords. Sure, this sounds a little off track for some job applicants, but here’s the deal — most companies now use applicant tracking software that reviews your resume before a human ever does. This means if you’re applying for the job of Social Media Manager, but you never list Social Media Manager in your resume, your resume might never make it to a human.Likewise, you know that a Social Media Manager job probably is closely affiliated with keywords like Facebook, Twitter, Google Analytics, YouTube, etc.
These might be some of your hard skills, which is great because you can mention them, and then mention them again so that the ATS really puts you in the category of “Possible Candidate” and you make it to the next round of the application process.
One thing to remember as you’re writing your resume — this is not the time to be shy or modest but it’s also not the time to lie. Be honest about your skills but brag your pants off; it’s the best way to get noticed for what you’re good at.
How to improve your hard skills
Hard skills can always be improved with a bit of hard work and dedication.
- Take a class. It’s never been easier to sign up for online courses in just about every topic you can think of. If you’re really looking to beef up your resume, opt for classes that include certifications (although these usually aren’t free). But if you’re mostly interested in education for its own sake, there are tons of great free options out there.
- Go back to school. If you think a degree would fulfill your curiosity on a subject or simply net you higher lifetime earnings, going back to graduate school can be a gamble. Look into your field and industry to see how valuable a graduate degree really is, because going back to school is not a cheap option for improving your hard skills.If you decide grad school is a good route for you, look for a program that involves a lot of hands-on experience — the more you can apply hard skills as you pick them up, the more expertise you’ll gain.
- Get a mentor. Mentors are like cheat codes for learning the ins and outs of hard skills. Online courses are great, but sometimes it feels like only a fraction of what you learn is actually applicable to your job. With a mentor, you can ask direct questions about your tasks and pick up on the essential hard skills more quickly.Ask for feedback often and accept constructive criticism gracefully. A good mentor will put you and keep you on the right track.
- Practice often. Whatever route you choose to start improving your hard skills, look for ways to put them to work early and often. For example, if you start taking a class on Python programming, look for ways to implement what you’ve learned into your workflow. You’ll certainly run into a lot of issues, but then you know exactly how to focus your future studies.
This article first appeared on Zippia.