Hard skills vs. Soft skills

When seeking new recruits or considering internal promotions, it’s essential to identify the specific skills required for each role. Some of these skills are innate, while others may require formal training.

Hard skills should be outlined in the role specification, detailing the technical competencies needed. Soft skills, which encompass interpersonal and emotional intelligence, should be included in the person specification.

By reading this guide, you will gain the ability to clearly distinguish between the hard and soft skills necessary for your open positions. Additionally, this insight will prove invaluable for individuals aiming to enhance their resumes and effectively showcase their top skills.


Hard skills vs soft skills: what is the difference?

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are specific competencies, skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to perform a specific task or role. They can be learned through education and professional development. Usually, they are technical (but not always) and easily measurable.

Hard skills can be evidenced through educational certificates or practical demonstrations.

Take software development, for instance. It requires knowledge of programming languages, primarily aimed at writing computer programs. The proficiency level in this skill is readily measurable.

Consider the field of design as another example. While it varies—ranging from interior to web design—the fundamental requirement is a specific skill set tailored to perform precise tasks.

Knowledge of the Microsoft Suite is yet another hard skill. Learning to proficiently use tools like Microsoft Word and Excel is often crucial for specific job functions.

Therefore, each role demands a unique set of hard skills essential for performing designated tasks effectively.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are personality traits, social competencies and skills, knowledge, and abilities used to perform interpersonal activities and unique tasks. Sometimes they are also called human skills.

Soft skills often stem from your inherent personality traits and social abilities, though they can be honed through practice and professional development.

Measuring soft skills, especially when you’re hiring new employees, can be tricky due to the limited information available. You really get to know a person’s soft skills through personal interactions.

While there are techniques and tests aimed at assessing these skills, be aware that their results can be imprecise and not always reflective of true ability. It’s only in real-life situations that you can accurately see how well someone handles these areas.

There are certain soft skills you’d likely want all your team members to possess, such as punctuality and the ability to collaborate effectively. Other skills, like leadership, communication, strategic thinking, and problem-solving, might be crucial for specific roles.

Soft skills don’t come certified, but you’ll recognize them as you work with someone. Natural leaders will instinctively take charge and guide others, while reliable timekeepers consistently show up on time or inform you ahead of any delays.

What’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills?

The key difference lies in the nature of soft skills, which are closely intertwined with an individual’s personality and aren’t always teachable.

While you can enroll your team members in courses to enhance leadership, communication, and other soft skills, there’s always an innate aspect to consider. Some people are naturally more inclined to possess strong leadership qualities than others.

Hard skills, on the other hand, are rooted in what people learn. These skills are task-specific and easier to teach. You can send people to development courses to acquire new hard skills or to refine existing ones.

As careers progress, people often need to adapt and enhance their skill sets, especially when stepping into leadership roles. They’ll need practical knowledge specific to their positions along with interpersonal skills that allow them to excel.

It’s important to note that your best employees might not necessarily excel in both soft and hard skills. While versatility is a bonus, not all roles demand expertise in both areas.

List of hard and soft skills

There are many hard and soft skills, so that we will list only a few.

Hard skills Soft skills
Web development Communication skills
Microsoft office Timekeeping
Interpreting data Persuasion
Financial planning Leadership skills
Copywriting Motivation
Troubleshooting Ambition
Project management Negotiating
Programming skills Critical thinking
Social Media Marketing Creative thinking
Bookkeeping Work ethic
Spoken languages Collaboration
Adobe Creative Cloud Active listening
CRM platforms Positive attitude
Research Energy
Data engineering Enthusiasm
Design Friendliness
Diagnostics Honesty
Google analytics Confidence
Sales funnel management Problem-solving
Coding languages Adaptability
Construction Conflict resolution
Content creation Inspire people
Storytelling Mentoring
Presentation skills Empathy
Logistics Patience
Business development Cleanliness
Engineering Cooperation
Market research Emotional Intelligence
Quality assurance Influence
Technical writing Self-awareness
Affiliate marketing Networking
Editing Multitasking
Proposal writing Competitiveness
Video production Respectfulness
Auditing Independence
Carpentry Perseverance
Plumbing Dependable
Business etiquette Self-awareness
Forecasting Wit
Data presentation Persistence
Prototyping Trainable
Systems administration Public speaking
Search Engine Optimisation Understanding body language
Marketing strategy Flexibility
Facebook marketing Supervisory skills
Google Ads Delegation
Lead generation Courtesy
Online advertising Showmanship
Conversion optimization Diversity and disability awareness
Link building Accountability
DevOps Self-confidence
User Interface Design Customer service
Accessibility Team Management

Now that you know the difference between soft and hard skills, it’s time to analyze which ones need to be added to your organization. And what to do next?

How to develop hard and soft skills?

You can check our article about employee development methods, we have mentioned what methods work best for different skills sets and particular skills.

It will help you find ways to train your employees and improve your own skills.

Regarding leadership skills check our leadership development plan guide because it is a unique skill set and it requires specific training.

One way to map, manage, and track the required skills and skill gaps of your employees is to use a skills matrix.