CV skills: what’s the difference between hard and soft?

There are two types of skills an employer looks for on a CV – soft and hard. Typically the hard or specific skills are the most important, and can sometimes carry a candidate through to an interview. However, an employer is also interested in seeing a high level of soft skills – but what’s the difference?

Soft vs. hard skills

To understand what these two different types of skills are, let’s first of all take a look at a few examples of hard or specific skills:

  • Computer programming
  • Fork lift truck operation
  • Typing
  • Book keeping
  • Electrical
  • SEO marketing
  • Mathematics

You can see from the above list that these skills would be a mandatory requirement for a specific role. The term ‘hard’ is used to describe this skill because it is essentially set in stone. When pursuing a particular career you would need to train and sometimes gain a qualification in order to acquire a hard skill.

So what is a soft skill?

The term ‘soft’ describes a more generic personal trait or attribute. Without a certain set of soft skills you would be unable to function within the workplace effectively. Let’s now take a look at a few examples:

  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Problem solving
  • Team work
  • Friendliness
  • Helpfulness
  • Patience
  • Organisation
  • Time management

As opposed to a hard skill you don’t have to necessarily train or gain a qualification in these soft skills. Most of them are learned with experience, and some come more natural to others. It’s the combination of hard and soft skills which make for an ideal candidate.

How to write hard skills on a CV

When it comes to hard skills they will often be listed on the job advert. Pay close attention to these skills as you will need to highlight them on your CV if you want to gain an interview.

There are three types of hard skills that you need to list on your CV:

  • Mandatory skills – cannot apply without them
  • Important skills – could apply without them but are very desirable
  • General skills – a part of the job but less important than the above

The first thing to do when writing a CV is ensure you hold the mandatory hard skills. These are very career specific and may also require the necessary qualifications. You could apply without them, but you would be facing an instant rejection. So don’t waste yours and the employers time, and either consider something else or gain those particular skills through education or lower lever positions.

For mandatory skills you could consider having a ‘Core skills’ section on your CV. This would isolate and highlight these necessary skills so the hiring manager can see them instantly. Typically you would want to consider having these core skills on the first page of your CV.

Pay close attention to how the employer has worded the skills on the job advert. For instance, if you have a particular skill but you call it something slightly different on your CV, then change this to match their exact wording. The same would apply for anything else within the job advert, and matching some of the important keywords would make your application stand out.

How to write soft skills on a CV

Soft skills are much harder to incorporate into your CV than hard skills, because you have to avoid simply listing them. An employer would want to see evidence and examples of your soft skills and would fail to be impressed if you just stated that you had them.

Hard skills do also have to be proven within your CV, but a candidate could still make it to the interview stage by listing them (not recommended). Our advice would be to provide results and achievements that backup every single claim on your CV to avoid any issues. But when it comes to soft skills, this can be a little harder.

Let’s look at two examples of how you can prove you have a particular soft skill:

(a) I have great communication skills

(b) I successfully negotiated more contracts than any other Sales Representative in the Nottinghamshire region for 2018. With a total of 28 and revenue exceeding £210k, I also won Salesperson of the year award for the second time running.

It’s very clear to see how the second example would easily beat the first. It offers a more detailed and subtle approach to tackling the soft skill ‘communication’. The lesson to learn from this is that you should avoiding telling the employer how great you, and instead provide the evidence.

Prove you have the right soft skills

The hiring manager has no reason to trust anything you say on your application, and has the difficult task of trying to figure out who is telling the truth. The job seeker that can provide the most credible CV will often win the race, so don’t fall behind with your cliché statements and provide lots of results.

Finally, when it comes to providing evidence of soft skills on your CV, make sure you focus upon giving lots of examples – but they have to be relevant. Avoid using your application as a chance to list your entire career history. The employer is only interested in what you can offer that directly relates to the role and the company. So decide which soft skills the employer would want to see and focus every word on demonstrating your abilities.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *