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What are Hard Skills?
Skills refer to any trait or personal attribute that helps you excel at performing a task. There are two main types of skills people can have: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills refer to skills that can be developed and improved through practice, repetition and education –– they also tend to be easy to evaluate and quantify.
This contrasts with soft skills, which refer to abilities that aren’t as easy to learn, demonstrate or quantify, such as teamwork, leadership, or interpersonal skills.
Hard skills often include subcategories such as hardware, heavy equipment, languages, computer programs, social media, and tool expertise. Having the right hard skills listed on your resume can make or break your chances of being called for an interview!
Types of Hard Skills
Every job requires a different set of skills to perform the job well. Here is a list we’ve put together of the most in-demand hard skills that companies want.
Top in-demand hard skills:
More top hard skills by type
- Cloud applications, such as JSON, Rest, and RPC
- Cloud architecture
- Cloud Middleware technologies
- Storage and data management
- Networking communication
- Machine learning
- Microsoft Office Suite and Google Drive Suite
- Natural language processing
- Pivot tablesg
- SAS, MySQL, Apache
- Social media
- Swift, Python, Perl, XML
- Data engineering
- Database management
- Data mining
- Data presentation
- Resource management
- Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, etc.)
- Color correction
- Design Software like Figma and Sketch
- Digital Product Design Software, such as InVision and Zeppelin
- Photo composition
- Print Design
- User Experience (UX) Design
- User Interface (UI) Design
- Video Production Software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Corel VideoStudio Ultimate
Hard communication skills
- Foreign languages
- Digital communication
- Foreign languages
- A/B testing
- Ahrefs, SEMrush, PageOptimizer Pro
- Content Management Systems (CMS), such as WordPress
- Google Analytics and Google Search Console
- Marketing campaign management
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
Mobile & web development
- Android Development
- Angular and Node Apps
- iOS App Development
- Software Revision Control Systems
- Swift, C#, Java, Objective-C
- Web Architecture and Development Framework
Network structure & security
- Authentication systems
- Encryption algorithms
- Incident response
- Network monitoring software like Wireshark and Nagios
- Risk Assessment
- Virtual and host-based firewalls
- Virus protection software like Ping Identity, Portswigger BurP Suite, and Symantec
- Agile methodologies, such as Scrum
- Project lifecycle management
- Project management software, such as Trello and Zoho
- PMP certification
- Risk management
- Strategic planning
- Copyediting (grammar, flow, syntax, spelling, punctuation)
- Content management
- Email writing
- Formal presentations
- Investigative journalism
- Grant writing
- Report writing
- SEO copywriting
- Writing press releases
How to Showcase Hard Skills
Here we’ll outline the process you should follow to include hard skills on your resume, cover letter and –– if you score one –– your interview!
In all three cases, follow this process to ensure you know which skills to include:
The job description is where employers tell you what skills they seek in their ideal candidate. You should tailor your resume and cover letter to what the company is looking for every time you apply for a job! Otherwise, your hiring documents may come off as generic or won’t target the right skills.
Once you’ve looked over some of the hard skills and duties the employer is seeking, brainstorm how to draw skills or examples from your career arc that match these skills. Use the same phrasing listed in the job description. That will show that you pay close attention and, better yet, help pass an applicant tracking system (ATS).
ATS are usually used by larger employers to prescreen and weed out candidates who aren’t a right fit for the role. So, an employer may not even see your resume unless you include the right hard skills.
Hard skills on your resume
There are two ways to feature skills in your resume. We go over it in greater detail on our How to Write Skills page.
The first is to have a “Skills” section and list them, keeping a balance with soft skills.
The second is to include them in the bullet points of your work experience and achievements. For example, instead of just listing the skill “SQL programming,” you could choose to feature it in bullet points detailing your work history, such as “Programmed SQL to achieve 4% reduction in page-load times.”
JobHero’s Resume Builder also comes preloaded with skills tailored to the job title that you’re applying for that will be auto suggested for you to select from.
Hard skills in your cover letter
Your resume is not the only place that you should showcase your skills! You should also do so in your cover letter.
In the first paragraph of your cover letter, skills can be a great way to introduce and market yourself. Drop mention of a couple of your top hard skills to catch the interest of an employer.
Also, in the second paragraph of a cover letter, if there’s no particular achievement you want to discuss, you could tell a story about how you use your skills to illustrate your work style.
These options are both present and easy to customize with JobHero’s Cover Letter Builder. Better yet, because it gives you auto prompts for writing, it is the fastest and easiest way you’ll find to write a solid cover letter!
Hard skills in an interview
If you’ve gotten called for an interview, that’s exciting news!
The biggest thing to keep in mind regarding discussing your skills on a resume versus during an interview is that the interview is expected to include a longer explanation of your claims.
Think of your resume as the preview on the back cover of a book that tries to get you interested in reading it.
The interview is where the employer gets the whole story. So, you need to justify your skills by going in-depth on how you put them to good use. That way, an employer can better assess and gauge whether or not your skills will fit their needs.
So, you need to go a step beyond just re-listing the skills you’ve mentioned on your resume. Tell a story about them!
After all, your resume is meant to be a quick list of your accomplishments; your interview needs to fill the rest of the story with more detail and a sense of career progression.
It will be a lot more impactful, and the employer will be more likely to believe you and want to hire you if you convince them why with a story that illustrates your skills in action.
For example, someone applying for a role as a software engineer could provide an answer to a common prompt like: “Tell me about yourself.”
Note how in the example, the candidate has put their top hard skills right up front to give a better picture of how it can benefit their overall work and the product quality.
Try to employ similar tactics to discuss your top skills!
Before the interview, look at the top skills that you mentioned in your resume and think about the best example, story, or anecdote that you could use to illustrate them.
Keep these anecdotes fresh in your mind for the interview so that you can impress an employer by being fully aware and confident about your abilities.
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Improve Your Hard Skills
As you can see, hard skills is an umbrella term that applies to hundreds of different specializations.
There’s no way to become an expert at every hard skill!
But if there is a career track that appeals to you, it is possible to target a set of hard skills essential to developing a career in this field.
For instance, if you want to become a computer programmer, you can read books to learn some different programming languages, or take an online course.
Many hard skills are possible to develop through your personal development and passion projects.
Others may require that you get more hands-on experience such as volunteering, doing an internship, or starting your own small business.