Hard Skills and Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

Having a college degree and a decent GPA used to be what would get you your first job, but now it’s just one of the requirements. Employers used to have a long training process that involved bringing people straight out of college and training them through rotational training programs.  Over the past decade,  the number of college graduates has doubled from 1 million graduates each year to almost 2 million grads...and companies’ needs have evolved.  With the abundant supply of new grads each year, employers can afford to hire only people who have the requisite skills they need and avoid spending a ton of time and money on training.  This will only become more true in the times of COVID when companies want people who are able to add value to the team as soon as possible.

It’s easy to say that companies need people with skills, but what specific skills are employers looking for? The easiest way to think about this is to break it down into soft and hard skills.

What are Hard Skills?

Hard skills are the qualifications on your resume that get your foot in the door. You can’t be born with a hard skill. Instead, hard skills are learned, either through work, education, or other training. Hard skills are also measurable. In fact, some interview processes even include testing of these skills, such as Excel or coding, so Hiring Managers can get a quantifiable evaluation of your skills.

The hard skills you’ll need are going to be pretty specific towards your career field since these skills encompass what you’ll be using in your day-to-day.

Hard Skills in Tech

  • Python
  • Scala
  • Angular.js

Hard Skills in Finance

  • Financial Modeling
  • Discounted Cash Flow Analysis
  • FInancial statement preparation

Hard Skills in Marketing

  • Search Engine Marketing
  • Lead generation through paid user acquisition

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are the skills that are much harder to define and harder to teach, but they are far more important for your career. If hard skills are what you’ll do, soft skills define how and how well you’ll do it. For example, say you’re highly skilled in Tableau, a data visualization tool used to present data and findings through visual representation. In order to best present insights to stakeholders and other teams, you will also need strong communication and storytelling skills.

The average person spends around 90,000 hours at their job, so you’ll be around your coworkers more than your family. Having great soft skills not only makes you better at your job, but it also makes you an enjoyable and easy person to work with, which means people will want to work with you and see you succeed. In fact, a LinkedIn survey shows that 57% of employers value soft skills over hard ones.

Another reason soft skills are valued is that they transfer easily from job to job. Companies may use a different development stack, a new mailing service, or even a different project management system, but being able to communicate and adapt under pressure will start adding value on day one.

Some Valuable Soft Skills for Every Path

  • Time Management
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Adaptability
  • Dependability
  • Work Ethic

How to Highlight Them?
While these skills are some of the most important, they are also some of the hardest to show off. You’re not going to be able to fit every soft skill you have on every application, so you need to think about what the company wants. If the posting mentions a lot of team-oriented work, then make sure to include interpersonal skills, such as conflict resolution and communication. Unfortunately, employers don’t really trust just seeing those words on a page. Most applications ask for you to submit a cover letter in addition to your resume.

Use this to fill out the backstory of your resume. Show that every soft skill you have was refined or picked up through experience. For example, you could’ve learned teamwork planning for a Greek life fundraiser or you’ve built leadership skills being a part of Model UN. Whatever your story is, tell it with your cover letter. The fuller a picture you can paint for your employers, the better.


How to Build up Your Skills at Home

The world has changed a lot over the past few months, and it might seem like everything has come to a standstill, but it hasn’t. Companies are going to keep needing workers, they just won’t have the bandwidth to train them. Thankfully, we have so many resources at our disposal nowadays to develop great skills right at home.

Hard Skills at Home

Soft Skills at Home

  • Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking
  • Creative Thinking: Techniques and Tools for Success


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