Soft and Hard Skills: What you need to know

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Your ability to demonstrate both soft and hard skills during the job application process will likely contribute to you overall success.

What are soft and hard skills?

Soft skills can be viewed as personal attributes and traits. An example of this would be your ability to solve problems. Hard skills on the other hand refer to your technical knowledge and ability.

Examples of hard skills include Microsoft excel or accounting software use. An easy way to distinguish between the two is to simply understand hard skills as your technical ability whereas soft skills are your interpersonal skills.

Why are they important to me?

Employers are looking to identify a job applicant’s soft and hard skills through the whole recruitment process. This usually begins with your resume, where employers look to identify your soft and hard skills to predict your suitability for a position.

This will also occur through the interview stage where the interviewer will look to identify and understand your soft and hard skill set. The theory is that soft and hard skills can be assessed to predict your suitability for a position.

During the resume screening process employers are looking to quickly identify the desired soft and hard skill and hence will be trying to identify key words e.g. team work (soft skill) and Microsoft word (hard skill).

Many organisations actually use software to identify keywords indicating these skills – if the program doesn’t identify the desired amount of soft and hard skills, your resume may never be viewed by a person. Thus, make sure your soft and hard skills are included in your resume and cover letter.

During the interview stage the interviewer will be trying to identify and understand your soft and hard skills in order to assess your suitability for the position.

Behavioural based interview questions often focus on your soft skills e.g. tell me about a time you had to work as part of a team to meet a tight deadline. In such example your ability to work as part of a team is the soft skill being identified. It is important that you answer such questions using the STAR technique. Read more about this here. Your hard skills are usually identified using skill verification based questioning.

Psychometric testing is another recruitment method used to identify soft and hard skills. Personality testing is a commonly used form of psychometric testing used to identify soft skills. Hard skills can be assessed through psychometric tests including numerical and verbal reasoning.

Tailoring your soft and hard skills for specific jobs

You can tailor your soft and hard skills to align with a particular position. A well written job ad will outline the key soft and hard skills required for the position e.g. previous experience operating hand tools (hard skills) or demonstrated ability to solve problems (soft skill).

Analyse these key soft and hard skills and include as many as possible in your resume. Remember to match the words used in the job ads with the words used in your resume and cover letter.

You can also use the key soft and hard skills identified from the job ad to predict the focus areas of an interview.

When preparing for an interview make sure that as the bare minimum you are able to answer behavioural and skill verification questioning surrounding the key soft and hard skills. This will ensure better prepared responses during the interview. For a list of commonly asked interview questions please click here.