What are Hard Skills?

Whatever industry you choose to work in, chances are that you’ll need a specific set of hard skills. Unlike soft skills, these are usually technical skills that require knowledge of certain processes, software or concepts that you can apply during your role.

If you’re applying for your dream job, it’s important to check that you have the right skills and develop your understanding of them during your employment. In this article, we explore the question ‘what are hard skills?’, the importance of hard skills and how they differ from soft skills.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are the specific competencies you need to be effective in your job. They represent the results of any training or experience you gather during your education or working career.

If you’re a graphic designer, for example, your hard skills may include an understanding of design software, design concepts and how to iterate on designs or expand on an established brand. Since hard skills are requisites for performing a role, they’re often specifically listed in the job description for a role.

Related: What are soft skills? (and why are they important?)

Why are hard skills important?

Hard skills are vital as they demonstrate your ability to perform your job. The hard skills that you have are what help you stand out compared to other candidates during the recruitment process and essentially, they dictate how you progress through your career.

The experience and competency that you have with certain hard skills will essentially gate you from certain roles and until you build this understanding, you may be limited. If you apply for a graphic design role, for example, the employer will expect you to have graphic design skills.

What is the difference between hard skills and soft skills?

The main difference between hard skills and soft skills is how easy they are to transfer between roles and industries.

Hard skills are generally set in stone throughout industries, even though the way they’re implemented may differ from person to person. For example, a graphic designer using Photoshop or Illustrator will generally use them in the same way regardless of the business, whereas soft skills are vaguer and how you apply organisational skills, for example, may change radically depending on where you work.

Since soft skills are personal traits and habits, they’re skills that you can adapt to a broader range of roles. You generally learn soft skills throughout your career and they’re shaped by your experiences with colleagues, management and stakeholders. Hard skills, on the other hand, you generally learn during your formative years or through training, online courses or apprenticeships. They’re much more formulaic and generally require more formal training.

Ultimately, you need both sets of skills to excel in your career. While hard skills will get you a role, soft skills will help you excel during a role and directly contribute to your career development. During your career, the two sets of skills are co-dependent and make you a more well-rounded individual.

Related: How to improve your communications skills 

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What are the different types of hard skills?

While there is an almost infinite range of hard skills that are largely specific to your chosen career path, there are some hard skills that you can develop that can be tailored to many different situations:

Writing skills

Writing skills are used in many different roles that you might not immediately expect and most modern jobs involve a degree of writing. It’s largely expected that you’ll be able to craft emails for colleagues and create reports or fill in paperwork related to your role. Writing skills can also help you create a great cover letter or CV which is important when applying for a new role. As you develop your writing skills, you’ll also build a better understanding of tone and how to approach written communication professionally.

Project management skills

Having project management skills is a huge benefit for employees who work in professional services or industries such as construction or IT. Understanding how to manage larger projects, communicate goals and deadlines or manage other team members is incredibly valuable. Project management skills may include an understanding of how to approach ‘agile’ planning concepts, which are increasingly being adopted by a wider range of sectors. 

Management skills

As you progress through your career, it’s more likely that you’ll begin to supervise or manage other employees. When you reach this point in your development, having good management skills is vital for maintaining an organised and efficient team. Specific management skills may include budgeting, hiring, planning and business development. This hard skill often goes hand-in-hand with soft skills such as leadership skills which can help you become a more effective manager.


A big part of many modern roles is being able to present your work or results to stakeholders or colleagues. This responsibility requires several hard skills including data analysis, research and in some cases, knowledge of presenting software such as Powerpoint or Slides. Having these hard skills, alongside soft skills such as adaptability, stress management and public speaking, can help you become a more effective presenter.

How to demonstrate your hard skills

One of the most important parts of having hard skills is your ability to demonstrate them effectively. You want to make sure that you’re showcasing your hard skills on your CV or within your cover letter, as they’re vital for being considered for the role. In many cases, it’s a great idea to list your hard skills towards the top of your CV, as it’s more likely that they’ll be seen during the screening process.

It’s important to provide context when highlighting your hard skills within your CV, as this reinforces how you utilise your skills and the direct impact you can offer an employer. You may highlight the results that you’ve achieved and use actual metrics as evidence.

Finally, take the time to introduce your hard skills in your cover letter and plan how you might demonstrate them in your interview. If you have anecdotal evidence, use this as much as possible and then suggest how you’d use that to help your new potential employer.

Related: How to write a CV: Tips and Examples

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