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Skills To Highlight in Your Resume: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Pamela Fay
August 164 min read
Young woman taking notes in front of a laptop

Your resume needs to tell a compelling story in a quick scan. Skills are part of that. Should you include hard skills vs. soft skills? Maybe a little of both. You may only get a few seconds of the hiring manager’s attention on the first pass. Your best chance to make it to the next round is to highlight your best features. Your skills section can help you be a serious contender.

You may be tempted to eliminate the skills section to save space. But remember the resume’s main job: to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers so that you land the interview. The easier you make it for the resume reviewer to notice your unique capabilities, the more likely you will advance in the process. In the work experience sections, you can further strengthen the claims you make in the skills section by providing concrete examples.

There’s a skill to getting the skills section right. Don’t leave it to chance. Read on to discover the best practices you’ll need to keep in mind.

Where to Showcase Your Skills

Whether you’re using a chronological or a functional format, skills can be incorporated in your resume. With the chronological resume, you can either list your skills in a separate section or incorporate them into the work experience section. Ideally, you will include a combination of both. Place the separate section before or after work experience.

Remember that any applicant can claim to have any skill — but the hiring manager wants proof. That’s why you’ll want to support your skills with accomplishments that you’ve included in the experiences section wherever possible. Be sure to incorporate keywords from the job description.

If you have limited experience or are changing careers, a functional resume lets you shift the focus from your previous, non-related jobs — or the lack thereof — to the abilities you bring to the table. When using the functional resume format, put your skills near the top, following your contact information and objective or summary section.

What Skills Are Needed

There is little mystery about the skills to include. They are right there in the job description. If you need more insight, research the company, which you should do anyway. What do employees say about working there? What’s the culture like? What are the company values? But nothing replaces the information the company gives you in the listing of job responsibilities and desired capabilities.

Consider your capabilities and where they match the job posting. Focus on those. There’s no need to exaggerate. When you find the right job for your abilities, it will be easy to incorporate skills into your resume.

Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

When adding skills to your resume, there are two main categories: hard skills and soft skills.

Hard Skills for Your Resume

Hard skills are the tangible things you have been taught to do, often through college and work experience. Some examples of hard skills include:

  • Programming languages (Ex. Python and Go)
  • Writing (Ex. copywriting, creative writing, email writing, etc.)
  • Foreign languages
  • Data analytics
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Graphic design (Ex. Adobe Creative Suite)

Pay attention to the job responsibilities and duties. Those are the skills the employer wants to see on your resume. Avoid listing common office skills like Microsoft Word and Outlook unless they appear in the job description.

How about skills that aren’t mentioned by the employer? Use your discretion. If you’re applying for a receptionist position and you’ve taught yourself HTML, you’re an InDesign whiz and you speak fluent Spanish, these skills undoubtedly make you a standout applicant. They help to complete the picture of who you are and what type of employee you might be.

Soft Skills for Your Resume

Soft skills include things that you excel at on an interpersonal level when interacting with others. Although they tend to be less tangible than hard skills, they can be learned and developed through various experiences in your personal and professional life. For example, it may be a good idea to join a communication class that can enhance your conflict resolution and leadership skills.

Some of the most common soft skills include:

  • Emotional intelligence
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving
  • Organization
  • Coaching
  • Adaptability
  • Resilience
  • Conflict management
  • Leadership
  • High-achiever

If these soft skills appear in an actual job requirement, you can begin to see which verbs might resonate with the employer if they are included in your resume. For example, verbs such as communicated, collaborated, coached, led, etc. To do this, you’ll need to include them in the bullet points that describe your work experience. Soft skills can also be listed alongside hard skills, but be prepared to support them with examples during an interview.

Here are some examples of how to replace weak verbs with strong, soft skill verbs:

Weak: Worked with junior team members to help them use the ABC system Strong: Coached junior team members, resulting in a 25 percent improvement in response time scores

Weak: Handled the running of the customer experience task force. Strong: Led the customer experience task force in the delivery of a customer-facing cloud-based application.

Weak: Helped the Director of Operations in cost reduction efforts. Strong: Achieved a 20 percent reduction in cost overruns while assisting the Director of Operations

Weak: Worked with the transit and the communications team to… Strong: Collaborated with cross-functional teams to…

Consulting firm Deloitte says that occupations that are soft skill-intensive will comprise two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. So, be sure to include these in your resume to look more attractive to potential employers.

Rocket Resume Templates

You can surely find a job with little or no experience — first-time job seekers do it every day. But there are skills required for every job, and with hundreds of applicants for one position, make sure your resume highlights the skills that put you on top.

If you need a professional resume for your job search, Rocket Resume has thousands of templates that are customizable for your needs and industry. You’ll even find recruiter-approved bullet points so that you never have to face the dreaded blank sheet of paper.

Sources: Deloitte - Access Economics Forbes - Soft Skills are Essential to the Future of Work