What’s the difference between a soft and a hard skill on a CV?

By Alan Taylor

A job advert will typically list a set of skills which are a standard requirement of the role. Some of these skills may need a qualification or two to obtain them, whilst others may have been learned from experience. In any case, these skills are often a standard requirement in order to function in the role. If you don’t have them, you are probably not eligible to apply.

There are two types of skills – hard and soft. Knowing the difference between the two will give you a clear advantage over the other applicants, as it will help you to write a far better CV.

Here are the differences between a soft and a hard skill on a CV.

A hard skill is a specific skill

Hard skills are learned abilities that are acquired and enhanced through practice, repetition, and education. –Investopedia

A hard skill describes something very specific. It could be anything from driving a crane to using certain computer software. It would require training and likely a qualification in order to be officially certified as having this skill.

There are lots of other hard skills which are quite common, like using Microsoft Office, answering the telephone or using a cash register. These skills don’t typically require a qualification, but again would require training and experience in some capacity in order to list them on a CV.

When an employer posts a job advert there will often be a list of hard or specific skills, and will be requested as a mandatory part of the role. If you don’t have these skills you will likely not be able to apply. Or if you do, you will likely be wasting yours and the employer’s time.

Not all hard skills are mandatory however, and you will need to use your own judgement and also carefully read the job advert to find out. If you are lacking in any essential skills for your dream career, it’s important not to give up and seek additional training and qualifications to progress further.

A soft skill is more generic

Soft skills are a combination of people skills, social skills, communication skills, character or personality traits, attitudes, career attributes, social intelligence and emotional intelligence quotients, among others, that enable people to navigate their environment, work well with others, perform well, and achieve their goals with complementing hard skills. –Wikipedia

A soft skill describes more day to day attributes and traits which we all have to some level. In stark contrast to a hard skill, you don’t have to necessarily train or gain a qualification in order to have one or be proficient.

Communication and problem solving are classed as soft skills, and both would be required for any role. The employer may not state these types of soft skills on the job advert, but that doesn’t mean to say they are not important.

When writing your CV you should always implement and demonstrate relevant soft skills, so the employer can get a better understanding of how you may perform for them. If you were applying for a customer service based role you would of course need to have high communication skills; both written and verbal.

Understanding which soft skills are vital requires a good knowledge of the role and the industry, and a lot of research – reading the job advert, the company’s website and social media pages. Once the right soft skills have been identified, a more detailed and relevant CV can be written to further impress the employer.