Important Hard Skills for Your Resume & How to Include Them
If you’ve been in the job search for a while, you’ve probably seen some mention of soft skills, those somewhat-difficult-to-quantify, people-oriented, transferable qualities that help job seekers stand out among other applicants. Skills like attentiveness, leadership, and communication are all considered soft skills.
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However, hard skills can be just as essential for job hunting success. Hard skills are specific to a given industry, are usually technical in nature, and are acquired through training and work experience. For instance, a blog writer could list copywriting and SEO as hard skills, whereas something like time management or scheduling flexibility–while still great skills that can be essential to blogging–are soft skills.
Luckily, because they’re technical and teachable, hard skills tend to be easy to quantify on a resume. For example, it’s a lot easier to back up your coding skills with numbers than your empathy. Here’s a question, though: Would you rather work with a programmer who didn’t know the Python programming language, or an programmer who was a jerk? Neither, right?
Both hard skills and soft skills are essential to performing a job well, so be sure to include a balance of the two in your resume.
Why is it Important to List Hard Skills on a Resume?
Hard skills demonstrate to recruiters that you have the technical prowess necessary to do a specific job. A candidate may be a hard worker who gets along well with others, but if they don’t have tangible experience in writing copy for Instagram, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be the best choice for a mid-level Social Media Manager position where they’ll need to be posting on Instagram every day.
When you take the time to read through job descriptions and apply for postings with hard skills at or near your current level, you’re both more likely to land the job and more likely to excel in that job. Identifying these skills and mentioning them in your resume helps the recruiter see that you’d be a good fit for the job.
Identifying Hard Skills in a Job Posting
So how do you know which hard skills you need for a specific job? Be sure to read the entire posting. This can feel tedious, especially when you’re applying for dozens of jobs each day. However, tailoring your resume to the specific job you’re applying for will mean greater success in your job search and less applications overall.
Hard skills can be found throughout a job description. However, you should pay special attention to the section labeled “Requirements,” “What We’re Looking For,” or something similar. These list the hard skills that are essential for the job, and how much experience you’ll need for each skill.
Pay close attention to what skills are listed as “required” or “must-have,” and which are designated “preferred but not required,” “nice to have,” “preference will be given to candidates with…” or something similar. If you don’t several hard skills that are required (and don’t have equivalent transferable skills), it’s probably not worth applying for the job.
If you want to go above and beyond (or you’ve stumbled upon your dream job description or ideal company), closely read through the job description and write down every hard skill that’s listed. Put a tally mark when a skill is listed more than once.
(Or, you can create a word cloud with just the requirements section of the posting. Just be prepared to filter out the prepositions and other common words that obviously aren’t hard skills.)
Once you have a solid list, look through it with your own master resume in mind, and create a resume based around the skills you have that appear on your list. Please, please, please don’t list skills you don’t actually have. Recruiters don’t like being lied to; it wastes their time and yours.
You should also make sure you write your hard skills on your resume exactly how they’re worded in the job description. Because most companies utilize an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), you’ll need to use identifiable keywords to ensure your application gets the attention it deserves. For a job posting that lists a PMP certification as a requirement, for instance, a recruiter is likely going to search for resumes that include the keyword “PMP” or “Project Management Professional” and start with those.
Tips for Career Changers
If you’re transitioning into a new industry, reading through job descriptions can also help you identify hard skills gaps to overcome through additional training or certificates. What specific licenses do jobs in your desired industry recognize or call for? Can you earn these for free or low cost online or through a program specific to your city?
Sites like LinkedIn and Udemy offer a wide variety of training courses for hard skills. Since these sites have resources for many different industries, you may find it easier to search for specific courses or certifications you have in mind rather than trying to browse.
Pro tip: Depending on where you live, you may be able to access Udemy courses for free with your library card.
Many certifications, licenses, etc. are industry-specific, so be sure to research resources for your desired industry as well! For example, HRCI provides certifications for those transitioning into human resources, while Course Report gives a comprehensive list of coding bootcamps by city, as well as user reviews for programs.
Including Hard Skills In Your Resume
You should include hard skills throughout your resume, but they’ll mostly make appearances in three sections: your Skills section, your Summary of Qualifications, and in the bullet points in your Professional Experience section. You can also give specific stories about using these skills in your cover letter and LinkedIn About section.
Your skills section, as you’d imagine, is an important spot to include hard skills on your resume. But be sure not to overdo it! Leave out skills that aren’t relevant to the job you’re applying for, as well as proficiencies that recruiters would assume most applicants have.
(For instance, unless it’s listed in the job posting, no recruiter needs to know that you know how to use Microsoft Office. Most will assume that’s a universal skill.)
Your skills section should be a bulleted list, separated into categories so it’s easy for the recruiter to quickly scan through. Be careful not to add too many skills or your resume will start to look cluttered and unpolished. Sure, it’s okay to add some skills that aren’t specifically listed in the job description if you believe they’re relevant, but don’t throw everything on there. (Remember, you can include up to 50 skills in the Skills section on your LinkedIn profile though!)
Summary of Qualifications
Your Summary of Qualifications is another great place to mention hard skills. However, these few sentences should be even more to-the-point than your skills section. Consider the following portion of a Summary of Qualifications for an HR professional:
Compassionate, results-driven Human Resources Associate with 5 years of experience managing payroll, leaves of absence, and employee onboarding.
Your summary of qualifications doesn’t need to be overburdened with hard skills. Focusing on soft skills here gives recruiters greater insight into the sort of all employee you are. Your summary is a bit like your greatest hits – it should be filled with the info you want recruiters to know right away.
So consider which hard and soft skills are most essential for the job you’re applying for, as well as how much experience you have with those skills. Whether they’re hard or soft, you want to build your summary around the skills that you’re an expert in.
Finally, your resume should include hard skills in the bullet points of your professional experience section. Here’s our go-to bullet point formula for those in need of a refresher:
(1) Active Verb + (2) Contribution and Skills Used + (3) Result
(4) Add Metrics to Contribution and/or Result
If you’re using the formula and including bullet points relevant to the job you’re applying for, it’s likely that you’re already including hard skills here! Just in case, though, here’s an example of how a bullet point with hard skills might look on a resume for a healthcare worker:
- Administered medication for patients, aiding in the care of 20 patients daily
In the above example, administering medication is a hard skill, but notice that it’s only part of the bullet point rather than its entirety. Your bullet points should expand on your skills in a way that answers the question “So what?” for recruiters.
What did using this skill accomplish? How did it impact your organization as a whole?
Hard Skills for Top Industries
Which hard skills does your industry call for? Well, the only way to really find out is to read the specific job posting you’re applying to (are you sensing a theme here?), but here are some hard skills you’ll likely encounter, based on the six industries that are most common among our resume writing clients:
- Data encryption
- Financial reporting
- Cash flow management
- Projecting fiscal balances
- Data analysis
- Search engine optimization
- Social media
- Marketing analysis
- Project planning
- Budget management
- Project scheduling
- Task management
- Human Resource Information Software
- Employee relations
- Patient data analysis
- Chart requirements
- Monitoring vital signs
- CPR/first aid certification
- IV insertion/removal
These lists aren’t comprehensive, but they’ll give you a starting point for identifying the hard skills to include in your resume and cover letter!
The (Hard and Soft) Skills to Pay the Bills
Hard skills prove that you have the technical abilities needed for your specific job. You can identify which hard skills a job requires through thorough reading of the job posting. These skills should be mentioned throughout your resume, especially in your Skills section, Summary of qualifications, and Professional Experience section.
While hard skills for your resume are essential, it’s important to remember that a blend of hard and soft skills is what most recruiters are really looking for. Consider both the interpersonalskills that make you a great candidate as well as the technical skills needed for a specific job. With a blend of the two, you’ll be well on your way to a resume that lands you interviews for the job you want!
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