If you’ve ever looked for a job, you’re likely aware that there are two categories of workplace skills, referred to as “hard” and “soft.” Having a solid understanding of what these terms mean, which skills you possess (from each category), and how they can be applied to the job you want, can be a crucial step in the job-search and interviewing process.
In order to help understand the difference, Idealist.org wrote an article breaking down the two categories of skills and what you should know about them. We've highlighted some cogent points relevant to those in the cancer community looking for work.
First, what is the difference?
Hard skills: competencies that can be taught. They are quantifiable and measured — skills learned in a classroom, training program or even on the job. Examples include a college degree, certification in a specific competency, mastery of a software program and being able to read/write/understand another language.
Soft skills: traits that relate to interactions with others. These can certainly be practiced and potentially improved; they are not measured in quite the same way as hard skills and are more difficult to teach. They can include empathy, communication skills, enthusiasm and patience — skills that often come naturally to some and not to others.
During the job-search process, hard skills can be easier to list and highlight on a resume. If you are proficient in a software, you can put that level on a resume. The positive aspect of hard skills is that you can improve them when needed. If you were out of work for some time due to treatment and recovery, you can take a refresher course in a software; or if your certification has lapsed, you can study and take an exam to get re-certified. This is particularly helpful if you’re looking into changing careers and know there are specific hard skills the role will require.
Explaining the quality of your soft skills can require a more nuanced approach. For instance, if you possess excellent leadership skills, this may be challenging to explain on a resume or in a cover letter, but in an in-person interview, you can give an example of a time that this trait came into play. It can also be difficult to personally identify soft skills on your own, so soliciting input from those in your personal and professional network can be helpful. Work with others to understand how they view you. Do they find you to be an articulate communicator? Can they identify times when you demonstrated critical thinking? Sometimes we focus more on what we lack versus what we possess, so enlisting others in this step can be extremely helpful.
Determining hard and soft skills can be particularly helpful when making a career change. Check out our recorded webinar on Career Change to learn more about making a successful transition.
Be sure to take a look at our Job Search Toolkit for various tips on the entire job-search process, including best practices for resumes, cover letters and interviewing. The guide is available for free in hard copy or as a downloadable PDF.
And for even more interviewing suggestions, check out our article on “Interviewing Methods & Tips.”