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Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: Definitions & Examples for CVs

Soft skills vs hard skills… Is it really a competition, or rather more of a symbiosis? Learn everything you must know about hard and soft skills in the 21st-century workplace.

Roma Kończak, CPRW
Roma Kończak, CPRW
Career Expert
Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: Definitions & Examples for CVs

You’ve been hearing about hard and soft skills for a while now. Seems like all jobs require those all of a sudden. But are these just buzzwords, or do they actually refer to specific abilities? Is there any order of importance for soft and hard skills on a CV?

It’s time to end this confusion. This article has all the answers you need.

In this guide:

  • Examples of hard and soft skills for your CV
  • What are soft and hard skills and how they differ from each other.
  • How to develop soft and hard skills to advance your career.
  • Ways to list your hard and soft skills on a CV.

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Hard and soft skills on a CV example

Dorothy Milton

Project Manager

+447975333444

d.milton@email.co.uk

linkedin.com/in/dorothy.milton

Personal Statement

Goal-oriented project manager with 5+ years of experience. Certified in Agile Project Management. Keen to employ professional expertise to boost team efficiency while decreasing project costs at Star Advertising. Detected opportunities to cut costs by 14% and increase KPIs by 19% through outsourcing when coordinating a marketing project in 2021.

Work Experience

Project Manager

Media Plus Agency, Edinburgh

January 2019–present

Key responsibilities:

  • Managed a company expansion project worth £1,720,000 and achieved the objectives before the deadline.
  • Created project workflows in collaboration with marketing and customer service departments.
  • Established business relationships with internal and external stakeholders to facilitate effective communication for all project updates.
  • Mentored the assistant project manager during bi-weekly shadowing and 1-to-1 feedback sessions.

Key achievement:

  • Increased the KPIs of the marketing department by 19% while reducing costs by 14% through outsourcing to external contractors.

Assistant Project Manager

Hills Advertising Group, Edinburgh

July 2017–December 2018

Key responsibilities:

  • Assisted the marketing project manager in coordinating an advertising campaign worth £280,000.
  • Teamed up with project stakeholders to establish KPIs and create progress reports.
  • Planned project schedules, reviewed milestones, and established priorities for involved teams.

Key achievement:

  • Reduced delays in project completion by 17% by implementing new project trackers in Excel and monitoring progress with JIRA.

Education

B.Sc. in Project Management

University of Glasgow, Glasgow

September 2014–June 2017

2.1

  • Excelled in Human Resource Management and Business Decision Analysis subjects.
  • Collaborated with the student council to organise a project management conference attended by 12 guest speakers and over 400 business and management students.

Skills

  • Project management
  • Agile methodologies
  • Risk management
  • Project planning
  • Conflict resolution
  • Effective communication
  • Time management
  • Collaboration
  • Microsoft Excel
  • JIRA

Certifications

Agile Project Management Certificate, APMG International, January 2019

Volunteer Work

Project Coordinator

Green Cities, Edinburgh

June 2020–May 2021

  • Managed an 8-month communal garden project within the estimated budgets and deadlines.
  • Collaborated with the staff of the organization to recruit and train volunteers. 

1. What’s the difference between hard and soft skills?

Let’s make one thing clear: you need both soft skills and hard skills to succeed in any career.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are job-specific abilities and professional knowledge needed to carry out job-related duties. These skills can be learned via traditional methods such as schooling, vocational training, courses, etc. Hard skills can be evaluated using various tests and proficiency scales.

Let’s have a look at some examples of hard skills:

Top hard skills examples

  • Accounting
  • Automotive servicing
  • Budgeting
  • Computer skills
  • Copywriting
  • Data analysis
  • Graphic design
  • Home renovation
  • Marketing skills
  • Project management
  • Repair and maintenance
  • Risk management
  • Sales management
  • SEO optimization
  • Software engineering

As you can see, hard skills encompass a wide range of abilities, including craftsmanship, artistic skills, tech skills, and professional knowledge.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills (also called people skills or interpersonal skills) refer to personal qualities that help a person work with others and approach problems effectively. They are usually developed through social interaction and can be difficult to learn using traditional educational methods.

You can see some examples of soft skills below:

Top soft skills examples

  • Adaptability
  • Attention to detail
  • Collaboration
  • Creative thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Flexibility
  • Patience
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Relationship building
  • Resilience
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Verbal and written communication

What makes soft skills so valuable is that they are highly transferable. This means that the same set of soft skills can be useful for a wide range of professions. For example, teachers, doctors, and managers need problem-solving skills to perform their jobs well.

To sum up, here’s a reminder of the differences between soft skills and hard skills:

Hard skills are:

  • Job-specific
  • Easy to learn through schooling or training
  • Easy to measure and evaluate

Soft skills are:

  • Transferable
  • Difficult to learn via traditional education
  • Developed through social interaction

So, which are more important: soft skills or hard skills? In fact, they’re both necessary for your success, no matter the profession. Yes, employers want experts in their fields, but they also want employees to work well with colleagues and clients. Many employers report soft skills gaps, as they encounter job candidates who have the required knowledge but lack interpersonal qualities.

It’s not surprising now that most job offers include a combination of hard and soft skills—and that your CV should also include them.

How to show soft and hard skills on a CV?

By now, you should understand the value of soft skills and hard skills. Time to learn how to highlight them on a CV in a way that satisfies recruiters.

First—do you know which hard and soft skills they expect to see?

If the answer is no, have a closer look at the job advertisement. Check the job requirements and find which skills or competencies they refer to. Hopefully, your own skill set matches them well.

Now, make a list of your own hard skills and soft skills, but only the ones that fit the requirements of this job.

Done? Then follow the instructions below:

1. Add hard and soft skills to your CV profile

Your CV profile should present the best version of yourself, and that includes your key skills. Whether you’re writing a CV objective or a career summary, make sure to throw in 1–3 hard and soft skills that fit the job description.

Let’s say the job needs someone who’s focused on the goal, has excellent project management skills, and shows initiative:

Soft and hard skills in a CV profile

Good Example

Goal-oriented project manager with 5+ years of experience. Certified in Agile Project Management. Keen to employ professional expertise to boost team efficiency while decreasing project costs at Star Advertising. Detected opportunities to cut costs by 14% and increase KPIs by 19% through outsourcing when coordinating a marketing project in 2021.

See? You don’t have to refer to the required skills verbatim, as sometimes that could sound artificial. Don’t be afraid to turn adjectives into verbs or nouns when necessary.

2. Include soft skills and hard skills in the work experience section

The work experience section is the best spot for displaying your skill set. Don’t just mention your past duties—instead, show career accomplishments that used the required hard and soft skills.

Let’s say the job requirements mention management skills, collaboration, relationship building, communication skills, and leadership qualities:

Hard and soft skills in work experience

Good Example

Project Manager

Media Plus Agency, Edinburgh

January 2019–present

Key responsibilities:

  • Managed a company expansion project worth £1,720,000 and achieved the objectives before the deadline.
  • Created project workflows in collaboration with marketing and customer service departments.
  • Established business relationships with internal and external stakeholders to facilitate effective communication for all project updates.
  • Mentored the assistant project manager during bi-weekly shadowing and 1-to-1 feedback sessions.

Key achievement:

  • Increased the KPIs of the marketing department by 19% while reducing costs by 14% through outsourcing to external contractors.

Remember that your work experience description should highlight your initiatives. Use CV action verbs at the beginning of each sentence.

3. Show soft and hard skills through education

Education in a CV isn’t just a filler. It can be an opportunity to show off your key skills. It’s worth including additional information about your educational background, especially if you’re writing an entry-level CV or a student CV. You can describe your academic achievements, relevant coursework, and extracurricular activities while mentioning hard and soft skills that matter in your desired profession.

This could be a response to a job offer that requires collaboration and organisational skills:

Soft skills and hard skills in the education section

Good Example

Education

B.Sc. in Project Management

University of Glasgow, Glasgow

September 2014–June 2017

2.1

  • Excelled in Human Resource Management and Business Decision Analysis subjects.
  • Collaborated with the student council to organise a project management conference attended by 12 guest speakers and over 400 business and management students.

If you’re a seasoned professional, you can keep the education section of your CV at a minimum. Your work experience is more important.

4. Make a separate hard and soft skill section

Don’t forget to include a skill list in a CV. It should include only the most relevant skills for the job you want. So, stick to the hard and soft skills mentioned in the job advertisement and pick 6–10 key abilities to put on your CV.

Soft and hard skills in a CV skill section

Good Example

Skills

  • Project management
  • Agile methodologies
  • Risk management
  • Project planning
  • Conflict resolution
  • Effective communication
  • Time management
  • Collaboration
  • Microsoft Excel
  • JIRA

Remember that computer skills are hard skills, too. Most jobs require a certain level of computer literacy, so you should mention digital skills on your CV as well.

5. Highlight hard skills and soft skills in additional sections

You can squeeze in more information about your skills. Just add some extra CV sections and describe related achievements. You can mention any certifications proving your skills, add information about professional associations, talk about volunteer work, and even put your personal interests on a CV for an extra boost.

Here’s how someone highlighted their project management, budgeting, and collaboration skills:

Hard and soft skills on a CV: extra sections

Good Example

Certifications

Agile Project Management Certificate, APMG International, January 2019

Volunteer Work

Project Coordinator

Green Cities, Edinburgh

June 2020–May 2021

  • Managed an 8-month communal garden project within the estimated budgets and deadlines.
  • Collaborated with the staff of the organization to recruit and train volunteers. 

No matter what you choose, be specific. Don’t just say “demonstrated collaboration skills while volunteering”, but give additional details to paint a bigger picture of your qualifications.

If you don’t feel confident in your soft skills or hard skills, continue reading—you’ll learn how to improve your skill set.

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How to develop hard and soft skills?

If you want to develop new skills or improve the ones you already have, there are many ways to do it. It’s best to pick the one that matches your personal preferences, as something that works for one person might not work for another.

However, before you jump into working on ten different skills at the same time, consider what you really need. You can ask more experienced colleagues about the skills that could help advance your career, but also try to reflect on your own interpersonal abilities. A case study conducted on university students has shown that self-reflection is a great way to observe your own growth and gain confidence in soft skills use. 

Here’s how you could work on developing your hard skills and soft skills:

Attend in-house training

That’s the most cost-effective way to develop your skills. Many companies offer on-the-job training and in-house workshops on a variety of subjects. You can ask your direct supervisor for development opportunities, and there’s a good chance they will help you come up with a plan on how to improve your soft skills or hard skills.

Get certified

Certification courses can be costly, but they’re usually worth the money. Showing off a certificate from a prestigious organization can attract headhunters and quickly advance your career. Before signing up for any course, check reviews and vet the institution offering the training to ensure it’s all professional.

Learn from books

Yes, it does sound old-fashioned. But you don’t have to rely on ye olde paperbacks from the 1970s. There are countless books written specifically for self-learning purposes, and they present information in a clear and concise manner. You can learn new skills at your own pace.

Sign up for webinars

Thousands of experts in different fields offer webinars. You can find something that matches your interests in a matter of minutes. Webinars can not only help you gain foundational knowledge on a topic, but often also provide expert tips that are invaluable. Many webinars can be attended free of charge.

Try online courses 

Most educational institutions offer online courses nowadays. You can choose from paid courses that end with an exam and a certificate, or try free ones from The Open University and other organizations.

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Key points

This article covers everything you need to know about soft skills and hard skills.

Here’s a reminder of the main points:

  • Hard skills are job-specific abilities and professional knowledge specific to the industry.
  • Soft skills are transferable qualities that help us navigate social situations and overcome problems.
  • Hard skills can be learned using traditional schooling methods.
  • Soft skills can be developed through interaction with others.
  • Both hard and soft skills are essential in the modern workplace.
  • Your CV should include a selection of soft skills and hard skills that match the job requirements.

That’s all! Would you like to clarify any of the points from this article? Maybe you know a great way of developing soft or hard skills that’s not mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below.

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Roma Kończak, CPRW
Roma Kończak, CPRW
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Roma is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and career expert with international work experience and a background in education and humanities. She has spent considerable time assisting individuals in advancing their careers by helping them improve their communication skills in diverse cultural and professional settings. She has written over 50 articles on effective approaches to resume writing and career advice.

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