Master this CV-writing technique to land the role

Needless to say, your CV needs to sell you to the hiring manager. The hard and soft skills you include – and how you include them ‒ can make the difference between progressing to the next stage or landing in the reject pile. But what are these skills anyway – and how should you present these hard and soft skills on your CV? Let's take a look.

Hard skills vs soft skills

Hard skills, or “technical skills,” are specific to a particular job and relate to the knowledge or ability required to do that job. They don't usually transfer well from one sector to another and are generally acquired through learning and experience. 

Why include hard skills on your CV: They let recruiters see whether you're able to perform the role they're recruiting for. Hard skills examples include:

  1. Coding 

  2. Fluency in another language 

  3. SEO marketing 

  4. Accounting 

  5. Data analysis

  6. Technical writing 

  7. Sales

  8. Project Management 

  9. Video production 

  10. Audit

  11. Graphic design

Soft skills, or “transferable skills,” are those that can apply to numerous different jobs in any sector because they aren't specific to any particular role. Soft skills are linked to personal or character traits that can be transferred into any position. 

Why include soft skills on your CV: They let recruiters understand how you would fit into the role and into the company culture. Soft skills examples include:

  1. Communication 

  2. Teamwork

  3. Problem solving

  4. Time management 

  5. Interpersonal skills 

  6. Critical thinking

  7. Emotional intelligence

  8. Adaptability

  9. Active listening 

  10. Creativity

  11. Reliability

Should I include both hard and soft skills on my CV?

Yes. It's unlikely that you'll get a job based on either your hard or soft skills alone, so it's vital that your CV strikes the right balance. Whilst you'll need to include both, the weight you give to each will depend on your career level and the requirements of your job.

For example, a recent graduate will probably lean heavily on soft skills, until they develop more industry-specific hard skills that they can emphasise. A senior executive will have a wealth of hard skills to lean on, so soft skills will be less prominent on their CV as they will be assumed to have them. 

Moreover, a software developer will need to emphasise their hard skills, such as DevOps and automation, to prove that they have the technical know-how to do the job. A call-centre worker, on the other hand, will need to emphasise their soft skills, such as their communication and interpersonal skills. They can be trained in the product knowledge they need, so their CV will necessarily have a greater emphasis on soft skills. 

How to include hard and soft skills on a CV

First up, don't use a “Hard Skills” or “Soft Skills” label or heading on your CV. Recruiters can distinguish which is which, so you'll only need to include them throughout your CV. The following sections are prime places for showing off hard and soft skills on your CV: 

Profile section 

As your elevator pitch, the profile paragraph should contain the most critical skills to sell you into the role you're applying for. In most cases, this will mean focusing on hard skills that are prerequisites for progressing to the next recruitment stage. 

Expert tip: Look at the job advert in depth to get a good idea of what to include here. 

Key Skills section 

This is the obvious place to add skills to your CV, but don't go overboard. A long hard and soft skills list with no context isn't an exciting read, so limit yourself to no more than 12 skills here. You'll want to weigh this in favour of hard skills, although a few soft skills from the job advert won't be out of place. 

Expert tip 1: For hard skills, cross-reference your hard skills list with a few adverts for roles that interest you (and even your current job description), to make sure that you've included everything relevant. 

Expert tip 2: Ensure that your soft skills align with the level of the role you're aiming for. Whilst simply demonstrating the ability to communicate professionally and articulately may be enough at entry level, a senior executive will need to show higher-level interpersonal skills, such as “stakeholder engagement,” “negotiation,” and “influencing,” instead of just “communication.”

Professional Experience section 

The Professional Experience section is the place to give context to the skills you want to showcase. Use bullet points not only to list your skills, but show the impact they've had on the business and the value you've been able to add. 

Expert tip 1: Put hard skills into context so employers can understand how you apply the skills practically. For example, to showcase your “training” skills, say "Delivered training in crisis management to audiences of up to 20." 

Expert tip 2: Try to present your soft skills as an achievement. For example, to demonstrate your “teamwork” skills, say "Increased customer satisfaction levels by sharing knowledge of new products with the team," or "Improved team morale and communication by organising informal team lunches." 

Education section 

In most cases, the Education section isn't the place to be showing off your skills. However, if you're looking for an entry-level role and have no previous professional experience, you may want to expand this section to include skills gained whilst studying. Soft skills such as time management and teamwork can be gained in academic contexts, as well as in a professional environment, so use this section if needed to cover skills you can't fit elsewhere. 

Professional Development section 

The Professional Development section is ideal for displaying your hard skills. If you've completed a course or gained a certificate in a topic relevant to your target role, make sure you list it here. It doesn't need to be an official, accredited course – even online or in-house learning counts. 

Hobbies and Interests section 

This section isn't obligatory on your CV, but it can be worth including if you've gained skills outside of work that don't fit within your professional experience. This can be particularly useful for career changers, returners, and recent graduates. 

Hard and soft skills on a CV examples 

Now that you understand how to incorporate hard and soft skills on your CV, all that remains is for us to provide some examples that you can use as inspiration. Below, you can see the hard skills underlined and the soft skills in italics.

Student CV

In the Profile section:

A capable and reliable A-level student with a proven aptitude for teamwork. Willing to listen, share ideas and follow instructions. Combines initiative with a drive to find the most efficient way of completing a task. Gets on well with others and is quick to learn new skills and processes.

In the Professional Experience section:

  • Assisted with coaching junior club members aged from 9-15

  • Represented the Computer Science course as a Subject Ambassador, communicating clearly with prospective students and parents about the course 

Software developer CV

In the Profile section: 

A knowledgeable Senior Software Developer, with sound technical expertise in analysis, design and development for Windows, mobile and web platforms. Collaborates with clients to meet their needs, explaining complex technical concepts in an easily understandable manner and avoiding jargon. Confident in developing software and algorithms that drive innovation, increase efficiency and solve challenges. 

In the Professional Experience section:

  • Managed software development projects through their full lifecycle, including documenting customer requirements, producing specifications and costings, and deploying software

  • Leading, supporting and delegating to a team of 5 on- and off-shore staff to ensure deadlines were met

Senior executive CV

In the Profile section: 

A commercially and financially astute Operations Director, with an extensive background in maintaining compliance and governance standards. Confident controlling multi-million-pound budgets and prioritising conflicting demands to consistently achieve statutory deadlines. Combines sound judgement with the ability to identify and mitigate risk. 

In the Professional Experience section: 

  • Led fundraising to secure £7 million by significantly improving the relationship with an independent fundraising charity 

  • Saved £50,000 annually by procuring a digital solution and actively listening to resolve problems flagged by colleagues

Highlight the right mix of hard and soft skills

To summarise, hard skills are specialised whereas soft skills are transferable between roles. If you want to create the strongest possible application, make sure you showcase both on your CV.

Don't forget that, as well as emphasising your hard and soft skills on your CV, you should also aim to strengthen your application with a well-written cover letter or personal statement.  As these documents are generally more flexible than a CV, you can employ the STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to give credible, high-impact examples of your skills. With a CV and supporting documents that make both your hard and soft skills stand out, you'll be giving yourself the best possible chance of securing your next role. 

Is your CV doing justice to your skills? TopCV has a free CV review service that will give you objective feedback. Submit your CV here.

This article was originally written by Jen David and has been updated by Charlotte Grainger.

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