Hard & Soft Skills: What Employers Are Really Looking For

Hard & Soft Skills: What Employers Are Really Looking For

When you apply for a job, potential employers and recruiters are assessing your skills above all else. They want to know if you have what is takes to be successful in the role. All your skills can be categorized into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. Knowing the skills you possess in each category will help you be successful interviewing and ultimately landing the role.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are the measurable attributes and qualities needed to perform a job. These attributes are the meat and potatoes required to carry out the expected job responsibilities. Hard skills are gained from  prior experience or acquired through training or certification. A differentiator between hard and soft skills is that hard skills can be easily measured. For example, an Accounts Payable Specialist is expected to pay employees on time and error free. The ability to process the payroll is a hard skill. This skill can be measured by evaluating if the payroll was processed on time and completed without error.

When evaluating a job opportunity, be sure you can do at least 80% of the job’s hard skills before applying. Check off which hard skills from the job posting you have and take note of any you have not yet accomplished. If a job requires hard skills you have not done before, reflect on past work history to determine if there are any skills which may be a good substitute. During a job interview, highlight the hard skills you have which relate to the job and be transparent about any areas to grow. Express your ability to adapt and list other skills which could transfer over based on your previous experiences.

Reviewing your hard skills every few months can be valuable. Make a list of your daily, monthly, and quarterly duties under each section to record your hard skills. As you assess your hard skills,  answer these questions:

  • Is this skill measurable and quantifiable?
  • Was this skill taught or learned by experience?
  • Does this skill help me perform a specific task?
  • Is this a specialized skill relating to a certain technology or license?

Soft Skills

Soft skills are defined as personal attributes which enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Think back to your hard skills and consider any underlying soft skills which enabled you to perform your job. Let’s keep the Accounts Payable Specialist for the example. What soft skills might enable this person to perform the function of processing payroll on time and error free? This role may need to communicate effectively with colleagues to submit department payrolls before a given deadline for approval and processing. Naturally then, you would need to possess interpersonal communication skills and the ability to lead others in accomplishing a task.

What personal attributes make you unique in the workplace? What good habits and patterns have you noticed about yourself? What personality traits make you the best candidate for the job?

Soft skills are universal and can be applied across your own experiences. Review the job you are applying for and try to identify what soft skills would enable you to be successful in that position. Anyone can say he or she works cohesively with a team, so have a situation or story from your experience which demonstrates your soft skills. These skills are not necessarily visible and can sometimes be challenging to articulate.

Make a list of your own top 10 personal skills. Here are some examples of soft skills:

  • Interpersonal
  • Communication
  • Collaborative
  • Creative
  • Reliable
  • Problem-Solver
  • Adaptable
  • Time Management Skills
  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Self-Motivated
  • Analytical

Highlight All Of Your Skills

Recruiters and employers will often look at your LinkedIn profile when considering you for a role. LinkedIn provides you the opportunity to list up to 50 skills on your profile. Take advantage of this by making sure your profile lists both hard and soft skills. You can also endorse the skills of former colleagues or coworkers, who in turn may return the favor.

When applying for a job, always be prepared to highlight both hard and soft skills. You never know when a recruiter may call unexpectedly for an interview on the spot! Knowing both sets of skills and how they allowed you to be successful in the past will help you be prepared to do well in an interview.

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