What’s the Difference Between Soft Skills and Hard Skills?

Skills and experience allow us to be qualified for different positions – but what are hard skills and soft skills?

Published on March 14, 2019

Soft skills and hard skills are quite different but equally important. Hard skills are quantifiable and generally assist in a specific field, whereas soft skills can be applied to all types of work because they are more closely related to work ethic and communication. The easiest way to tell the two apart is to think of hard skills as any skill that can be tested on and soft skills as a subjective measure, assessed only in peer evaluation and similar review. Everyone has some combination of soft skills and hard skills, and it is important to continually work towards improving these skills.

As the recruitment industry develops, a heavier emphasis is being placed on a worker’s skills because skills are the most important factor in determining whether someone would be capable of a particular job. Skills are going to be used as a new currency when employers begin to identify the skills that a worker needs rather than using any other number of factors to decide if they would be a good fit for the company. Employers will take a close look at both soft skills and hard skills to determine if someone is capable for a position.


Soft skills

Soft skills generally fall into one of two categories: interpersonal and organizational. Interpersonal skills involve the ability to communicate, work with others, and lead, which causes many to believe that soft skills are inherent. However, both soft skills and hard skills can be practiced and learned. While general social ability can contribute to someone’s interpersonal skills, anyone can strengthen their soft skills through practice. Organizational soft skills are directly related to how someone performs their work through key skills like time management, prioritization, productivity, and planning. Truly measuring someone’s soft skills is not possible, but these skills can nonetheless be improved.


Hard skills

Hard skills are developed through training and experience. This might mean the ability to use software like Microsoft Excel, to weld, to speak a certain language, or any other ability to perform a certain task. With hard skills, proficiency is more easily determined – someone with years of experience as an electrician will be easy to tell apart from a novice. Hard skills generally become more developed with experience, so the differences between someone with great experience and someone with next to no experience are evident.


Both soft skills and hard skills are important to doing a good job. Each can also make it easier to shine at a new job, albeit in different ways. Soft skills are so important because they have a high degree of transferability from one job to the next. Skills like communication and productivity will be valuable regardless of where someone lands. Hard skills have the benefit of being easily tested upon – someone can more easily prove their ability with hard skills than with soft skills. Experience and skills, regardless of whether they are soft skills or hard skills, will make you qualified for a greater set of jobs.

Understanding the difference between soft skills and hard skills and working to develop both will make you a qualified candidate in more roles. Employers are looking more closely to assess whether candidates have the particular hard or soft skills necessary for the job. A truly capable candidate should have a well-developed set of hard and soft skills. To get ahead, strive to learn more and develop your skills. A strong skill set will make you more qualified for a wider variety of positions.



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