Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Posted by Liz Fitzgibbon on

What’s the difference?


Hard Skills – are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify, for example a Degree or Certificate, proficiency in a foreign language, machine operation, typing speed.  These ‘hard’ skills are often listed in your cover letter when applying for a job and are easy for an employer to recognise.

Soft Skills – Also known as ‘people skills’ or ‘interpersonal skills’ are things like flexibility, leadership, communication, teamwork, time management, patience, motivation.  It isn’t enough to just say that you possess a ‘soft skill’ so the best way to demonstrate that you possess a particular quality is by sharing examples of times you used a soft skill.  Some in demand soft skills that employers look for are:

  • Maturity
  • Emotional Communication Skills
  • Interpersonal Creativity
  • Positivity
  • Skills
  • Flexibility

How to highlight your Skills

You need to highlight your skills on your CV and cover letter and mention your skills during your job interview.

STAR Interview response technique

This technique can help you show off your soft skills. STAR which stands for Situation Task Action Result is a way to answer behavioural type questions like “Describe a time when...” which will help you to recall a work-related challenge, what role you played, what you did to affect the outcome, and what the result of the action you took was on the situation.  

What Skills should I highlight?

The type of skills you will need to highlight will very much depend on the job you are applying for. For example if it is a managerial role you will need to demonstrate leadership skills to show your ability to delegate and solve problems and supervision experience.  Some interpersonal skills which would be desirable to the employer may include; empathy, patience and diplomacy.

Emphasize both Hard and Soft Skills

You need to emphasize both types of skills during the Job Application process.  This way you will ensure that even if you lack a particular hard skill it will help to mention a soft skill that you know would be valuable to the position you are applying for, (if the job role involves working as a team, include examples which will show case your skills and experience as a team player and ability to communicate).

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