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Soft Skills, Hard Skills and How To Blend Them

“Your hard skills help you acquire employment and your soft skills help ensure your employability. Hence, integrate hard and soft skills to fast-track your career.” – Professor M.S Rao

Dice spelling out soft, hard skills

When beginning the process of interviewing and hiring there are the obvious things that businesses look for when selecting the right candidate. The areas that are consistently focused on are experience, achievements, education, career progression and lastly, skills. Though it may seem like education and experience trump all, what skills a candidate possesses says a lot about what they can realistically achieve. Skills can be broken down into two categories: soft skills and hard skills.

The Significance of Possessing Both Soft & Hard Skills

Soft Skills are subjective but desirable skills that relate to the way one interacts with others and navigate their environment. These skills do not depend on acquired knowledge but are based on an individual’s personality and typically will complement their hard skills. Soft skills can help organization identify applicants who can exceed expectations of the job, choose qualified candidates who offer more than the typical employee requirements, make versatile hiring selections, see if the candidate fits business culture and hire for knowledge as well as potential.

There are notable soft skills that organizations look for. First, communication both orally and written. Communication is critical in multiple industries and examples include being articulate, be able to actively listen and be able to give and receive constructive feedback. Second is adaptability, with technology and organizations advancing faster than ever it is important that potential employees can easily navigate these changes and face them with optimism. Third is work ethic, hiring an employee who can take their future job head on with their best foot forward is imperative to keep an organization moving smoothly. Lastly is leadership, candidates who show selflessness, versatility, trust, confidence, and strong interpersonal skills build strong teams within the workplace which increases productivity and employee morale.

Three business people around a table smiling working together as a group.

Other chief soft skills include but are not limited to:

  • Problem Solving/Decision Making
  • Stress/Conflict Management
  • Critical Thinking
  • Creativity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Organization Skills
  • Teamwork

Hard Skills are teachable skills that come through education and experience. These skills are easily measurable and required for a specific job. Nobody is born with hard skills, though some skills may come more naturally to certain people over others. Hard skills can be learned through courses, training or with on-the-job experience. These skills are typically the ones listed as job prerequisites in listings.

Woman in a library doing research and preparing a presentation.

There is never a lack of need for valuable hard skills and there are a few that stand out beyond others. First and foremost are computer skills. Not only should candidates have the basic understanding of a computer they should also be proficient in office applications, database management, and programming. Second is technical skills which covers specific knowledge in IT, specialized equipment/software, and engineering. Third is project management skills. Applicants who want management positions should be able to complete projects within the time and budget restrictions, every time. They should also be able to work project management software and be proficient in risk management. The fourth notable hard skill is language skills. Candidates with these skills help bridge any language barriers and can help organizations expand or continue to work with international clients.

Other key hard skills include but are not limited to:

  • Marketing
  • Accounting/Finance
  • Writing
  • Design
  • Math/Science
  • Analytical Problem Solving
  • User Interface Design

Getting the Right Mix

Though hard skills are what are normally advertised and focused on, soft skills are slowly gaining importance throughout businesses. It is important to emphasize both during the entire hiring process. After acknowledging hard skills that are job specific, list soft skills that correlate. This proves to employers that a candidate not only has the knowledge to get the job done, but the confidence to outperform.

While addressing hard skills is easy since it lays in experience and education and is easily definable in a resume, addressing soft skills can be tricky. A sure-fire way to address them is a candidate could use examples of times they have communicated effectively, collaborated to reach goals, demonstrated outstanding leadership examples, or efficiently problem solved.

All in all, both hard and soft skills are critical for bringing the right candidate into the right organization. Beyond the practical knowledge (hard skills) to do a specific job, interpersonal (soft) skills aid in bringing job goals and objectives to fruition. In a LinkedIn study, 57% of employers value soft skills while making new hires and Carnegie Mellon Foundation found that 75% of long-term job success is dependent on soft skills that correlate with job specific hard skills. This makes soft skills on the same level of importance as hard skills and should be practiced and elevated throughout an individual’s career.