Jobseekers: hard skills vs. soft skills, what’s the difference?

The Jobseekers Series is a series of articles The Daily Vox team has put together to help prospective jobseekers. Job Seeking is a costly and difficult process. This series seeks to make it a little easier with tips and advice. This piece will focus on skills. 

During the job application and interview process, employers look for applicants with hard skills and soft skills. To be a successful candidate, it helps to understand the difference between these two types of skills. 

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are concrete skills that are required for you to actually do your job. If you’re a chef, cooking would be a hard skill. If you’re a web developer, coding would be a hard skill.

Hard skills are learned through school, training, or previous work experience. They are job specific and are listed in job postings and job descriptions. Hard skills include:

  • Technical skills
  • Computer skills
  • Microsoft Office skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Marketing skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Management skills
  • Project management skills
  • Writing skills
  • Language skills
  • Design skills
  • Certifications
What are soft skills?

Soft skills are known as people skills or interpersonal skills. These are personal habits and traits that shape how you work on your own and with others. Soft skills include:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Positive attitude
  • Teamwork
  • Work ethic
How to include hard and soft skills on a CVs and cover letter

The type of skills to highlight during the job process vary depending upon the type of job for which you’re applying. 

When creating or updating your CV, include a “Skills” section that highlights your hard skills and soft skills. For clues on what to include and prioritise in your skills section, review the job position you’re applying for. Hard and soft skills the employers want to see might be found in the “requirements,” “education” or “desired skills” sections of the post. 

The best way to highlight your skills is to provide examples. Highlight your hard and soft skills in your cover letter and give specific examples of instances when you demonstrated these traits at work.

How to highlight your skills throughout the interview process

You can highlight key soft skills by:

  • Punctuality: showing up on time or early to the interview 
  • Active listening: maintaining eye contact and asking follow-up questions 
  • Effective communication: speaking clearly when prompted
  • Integrity: Answering questions about your CV and experience honestly

You can highlight your hard skills by:

  • Elaborating on your experience and training
  • Providing a digital or physical portfolio 
  • Effectively answering technical questions related to the work
  • Effectively working through skills tests (if required at the interview)

The Job Seekers Series:

Help for jobseekers: Here’s how to write a CV – The Daily Vox 

Jobseekers: How to apply for a job in-person – The Daily Vox

Jobseekers: How to write a cover letter – The Daily Vox 

The List: Popular job search websites in South Africa 

Jobseekers: 7 common interview questions – The Daily Vox