Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

When you’re looking for a job, it’s important to showcase to employers both hard skills and soft skills, especially during job interviews. You’ve probably heard these terms tossed around at some point in your job search, but what are hard and soft skills? Well, to put it easily, hard skills are things that you learn through education or training, while soft skills are personality traits that you’ve developed through life experiences. Here we’ll go a little bit more in-depth on how to portray all of your skills to prospective employers and give examples of each.


Hard skills are technical abilities that are learned through education or training such as software proficiency, machinery knowledge, etc. Every industry has a minimum requirement of hard skills to obtain a particular position, which are generally easy to show off on a resume. For example, if you want to be a graphic designer, you either already know, or at least need to learn how to proficiently navigate the Adobe creative suite. If you’re a welder, you know how to safely handle a torch and properly utilize all of your safety gear. These types of skills should be explicitly written out on a resume and supported by official certifications, licenses, education and previous employment experiences. You can do a deeper dive into the context of your hard skills on your cover letter and discuss how these skills will help you in a new position during the job interview.

Some examples of commonly sought-after hard skills include, but are not limited to:

  • Multi-language proficiency
  • Database management
  • Programming languages
  • Manufacturing certifications
  • Machinery certifications


Soft skills are a bit harder to showcase since they generally aren’t supported by certifications or licenses, but instead are exhibited by the ways in which you conduct yourself.

Some of the most common soft skills include, but are not limited to:

  • Leadership
  • Effective communication skills
  • Ability to maintain interpersonal relationships
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Motivation/work ethic
  • Time management

As you can see, these skills are much harder to teach in a classroom and generally don’t have proficiency tests. Sure, there are some exceptions such as taking leadership training courses, but those types of sessions won’t suddenly make you a good leader overnight. As they say, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. In the same way, these types of courses can give advice on how to think about problems differently, but can’t provide the necessary environment for real-world experience.


It’s not always easy to explain how you have a soft skill. You can’t just point to your resume and say, “see? I have a certification in time management.” Rather, you’ll have to explain specific examples from your past employment or other life experiences. 

While including some soft skills examples on your resume and cover letter is a great idea, the most opportune time to prove your soft skills is during the job interview. Don’t just rely on your cover letter — simple things such as arriving to the interview early, grooming and dressing well, maintaining eye contact and properly articulating your experiences and how they’ll be an asset to the new position all show that you’re punctual, responsible, motivated, confident and well-adjusted.

Whenever you’re describing your experiences within your cover letter or in-person during an interview, be sure to provide very specific examples. After all, if you were hiring a new employee, would you hire the candidate that simply states, “I have leadership experience”, or the one that says, “For 3 years I managed a team of 5 employees and together we created new revenue streams by doing xyz…”? Exactly.


If you’re looking for a temporary position or a career change and possess soft and hard skills for labor, get in touch and submit your resume. Summit Staffing has worked with companies around the Midwest for over 30 years, placing the right candidates in the right positions. We’ll help you discover your soft skills and find ways to market them correctly to businesses that would be the right fit for you. Get in touch today!

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