Don't forget to focus on your hard skills!

Now that it's time to apply for a job, your number one goal is going to be to stand out from the crowd of job seekers – all of whom claim to be the best. 

  • How do you prove you have what it takes to beat other candidates?

  • What are you going to do to get the attention of a hiring manager who just had over 100 resumes land on their desk? 

You know that you have to build a stellar resume that will wow them with your career achievements, so you've probably spent hours collecting every quantifiable accomplishment you can think of. 

That's not all you have to do, though! You need to create a list of skills to showcase on your resume, as well. There should be a balanced mix of hard and soft skills, so that future employers know you'll be able to do the job and get along with other members of the team. 

In this post, we're going to spend a fair amount of time on hard skills. Not only will we explain hard skills, but you'll walk away with the top hard skills to include on your resume, based on your industry. 

So, if you're ready, here we go!

What are hard skills? Definition and examples

The simplest answer to “What are hard skills?” is that hard skills are measurable. It may seem difficult to add a measurable achievement to some hard skills, but it's always possible. For example, you'll see things like “office management” and “email” in the lists below. You could indicate that you use office management skills to streamline processes or talk about how many emails you respond to daily. 

Here are some sample bullet points:

  • Slashed costs 15% by leveraging office management skills to streamline processes
  • Responded to approximately 20 emails per day, answering questions about product availability

When you break them down, hard skills for your resume will be everything you know how to do that will allow you to get the job done. It's the things you've learned from college, trade school, on-the-job training, and hands-on experience. For example, perhaps you learned how to do coding in school and then took a professional development class at work to hone your coding skills in a particular language for the tasks your employer needed to have completed.

Sometimes, you'll see the phrases “hard skills” and “technical skills” used interchangeably. It can be confusing, because a lot of people think of “technical skills” as something you do on a computer. However, in the world of job searching, “technical skills” can also mean the same thing as “hard skills.” 

Hard skills vs soft skills: what's the difference?

Employers look for a combination of both hard skills and soft skills when considering job applicants for open positions; both types of skills are required for on-the-job success.

Soft skills – also referred to as interpersonal skills or people skills – are personality traits that are challenging to quantify. Effective communication, leadership, and work ethic are all examples of soft skills. 

As we've mentioned, hard skills are the practical and technical skills that show you have the know-how to get a job done. As you read through the job description, you'll immediately recognize the hard skills as things you'll be doing on a daily basis to complete your work tasks. For example, analyzing data, identifying target markets, and performing A/B testing on marketing campaigns are great examples of hard skills for a Marketing Analyst.

Hard skills for your resume - examples

Even though the job market is constantly changing, some hard skills stand the test of time and usually rank pretty high on employers' lists. As you come up with your list of skills, be sure to include some of these hard skills on your resume:

1. Management hard skills for your resume

Besides having the required soft skills to be an effective manager, you also need hard skills to succeed. Management hard skills include:

  • Logistics

  • Hiring

  • Budgeting

  • Human resources knowledge

  • Finance

  • Accounting

  • Office management

2. IT hard skills for your resume

IT skills highlight your ability to use computer hardware and software programs, and they are valuable across numerous industries. These skills include:

  • Microsoft 365 (Word, Excel, etc.)

  • Email

  • Quickbooks

  • Database Management

  • Social media

  • Typing

  • Google Drive

  • Enterprise Systems

3. Project management hard skills for your resume

Project management skills highlight your ability to oversee and lead projects and include:

  • Strategic planning

  • Scrum management

  • Forecasting

  • Budgeting

  • Project scheduling

  • Agile methodology

  • Project collaboration platforms (Asana, BaseCamp, and so on)

4. Human resource hard skills for your resume

Every organization requires human resource (HR) skills. While many organizations have a dedicated HR department, smaller organizations might have an individual who wears more than one hat – including HR-related responsibilities. These may include:

  • Compensation

  • Salary administration

  • Benefits administration

  • Performance reviews

  • Employment law and legal compliance

  • Payroll

5. Design hard skills for your resume

Design skills are in high demand in this modern age of online content marketing. These skills include:

  • Illustrator

  • Print design

  • Acrobat

  • Color theory

  • InDesign

  • Photoshop

  • Typography

6. Marketing hard skills for your resume

Marketing skills represent a wide range of general knowledge, including consumer research, sales, advertising, and online marketing. Virtually every organization requires at least one individual with marketing expertise, that could include:  

  • Copywriting

  • AdWords

  • Funnel management

  • Google Analytics

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Pay-per-click (PPC)

  • Social media marketing

7. Analytical hard skills for your resume

Analytical skills highlight your ability to research, analyze, and present data. Many positions and levels within an organization require analytical hard skills, which include:

  • Forecasting

  • Reporting

  • Data mining

  • Research

  • Database management

  • Metrics

  • Data engineering

8. Artificial intelligence hard skills for your resume

The use of AI is on the rise. With that also come positions that require you to be knowledgeable about machine learning. If you've been able to do anything with these new concepts, they should be front and center in your well-crafted resume. Examples of artificial intelligence hard skills include:

  • Data wrangling

  • Data manipulation

  • Cloud storage

  • Algorithm development

  • Natural language processing

  • Machine learning libraries

  • API development

  • Distributed computing

Why are hard skills important?

Hard skills show employers that you have the knowledge to perform the requirements of a position. 

Every job requires hard skills specific to the position and industry. If you want to land an Accountant job, for example, you will need to know how to use accounting software and formulas. To work as a licensed Public Accountant, you must pass a CPA exam that indicates you have the minimum necessary knowledge to perform the job. 

Hard skills that transfer across industries

As mentioned, there are specific hard skills required for positions based on the industry, but there are also many other professional skills to list on a resume that are valuable and transferable across industries and functions. Examples include the following: 

Cloud platform knowledge 

While the use of AI is becoming more and more prominent, cloud computing is nothing new. In fact, so many organizations conduct so much of their business online, that things like cloud-sharing software are a must. To that end, companies need someone who understands how to manage those platforms.

Language skills

Being fluent in writing and speaking your native language is an essential hard skill; it's also valuable to be fluent in more than one language. 


Certifications are an excellent way to highlight hard skills, since they require you to take coursework and pass an exam that verifies your skills. 

Writing skills

Virtually every position requires some level of writing. This means organizations want to know you have good grammar and can effectively communicate in writing when they hire you.

How can I acquire hard skills?

Interested in acquiring hard skills to up your resume game? Fortunately, there are numerous (and low-cost) ways to develop hard skills.

On-the-job training and volunteering

On-the-job training is one way to acquire hard skills. If you don't have the opportunity to acquire new hard skills at your current job, consider volunteering at a local organization

Online courses

There are numerous free and low-cost online courses available to develop in-demand hard skills. Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy, MIT OpenCourseWare, and Google Digital Garage are all examples of online platforms that offer various online courses - with many even providing accredited certification programs. 

Degree programs

While going back to college isn't the least expensive or time-sensitive option to acquire hard skills, sometimes it's necessary. If you are looking to change career paths, for example, getting a second degree or your master's is viable for learning new hard skills. 

How do I include hard skills on my resume?

It's vital to highlight hard skills on your resume. To do so, you should:

  • Add a hard skill or two to the headline of your resume

  • Mention in-demand hard skills in your resume summary

  • Create a detailed “Skills” section on your resume to highlight your hard and soft skills

  • Include skills-related keywords throughout your “Work Experience” section

  • Include relevant certifications in your “Education & Certifications” section

In your headline

The hard skills on your resume need to mirror the job description of the role you're applying to. The first place to do that is in the headline of your new resume. Since this is the first line of your resume (other than your contact information), it will really help you to stand out from the crowd.

Now, a lot of people will simply be putting a title on their resume, Project Manager, for example. But because you know about the importance of having hard skills on your resume, you're going to write something like Project Manager with Expertise in Budgeting and Risk Management.

Just like that, you have three hard skills on your resume, whereas the person who just put the title only has one. You're already winning!

In your summary paragraph

The very next thing that should appear on your resume is the profile paragraph (or summary). It just so happens that this is also a great place to inject hard skills into your resume. Keep it short and sweet, though. You're not trying to dump everything you know into this paragraph. 

Remember to refer to the job description to identify the relevant hard skills the employer seeks and then weave those phrases into a three- to five-sentence paragraph that talks about how your career history aligns with those hard skills. 

Here's an example:

Dynamic leader at the forefront of product management, offering unmatched experiences in discovering, fine-tuning, and launching artificial intelligence (AI) products to solve problems. Known for captivating global markets, guiding cross-functional teams, and elevating product management to improve performance and exceed metrics. Leverages a keen understanding of market trends and emerging technologies to bring a fresh perspective, especially as it relates to science and healthcare, to drive forward-thinking strategies and contribute to groundbreaking advancements.

This paragraph has 10 hard skills that can be tweaked and adjusted to fit within the scope of the job – in this case Product Manager. 

In your Skills section

As you make your list of skills for your resume, put them into columns – hard skills on one side and soft skills on the other side. Be sure that the hard skills that land on your resume are specifically relevant to the job you're applying for.

In your Work History section

As you write the professional experience section of your resume, the best way to prove your abilities is with examples of things you've accomplished. Since hard skills are measurable, having achievements laced with relevant hard skills in this part of your resume is a must. 

Use bullet points that begin with a verb – to show action – and contain an achievement and at least one to two hard skills. Here's a real-life example from a client who sought an FP&A role:

  • Achieved Opex forecast accuracy within 2% through advanced scenario modeling and proactive risk identification

The beauty of this bullet point is that not only does it contain an achievement, but it also has hard skills all wrapped up into a single point. 

In your Education and Certifications section

Remember we said that hard skills are things you learned in school? Well, here's the place to expound on those skills. Of course, you'll add the degree you obtained and the school you got it from, but you can also talk about projects you completed and relevant coursework to further prove that you have what it takes. Also, things like certifications can add bulk to your hard skills.

Here's what that could look like:

Bachelor of Science - Finance & Accounting | Big California University

Relevant coursework: Financial Statements, Financial Plans, Accounting, Banking, Investments

Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) | CFA Institute

Don't forget about hard skills in your cover letter

There was a time when cover letters were mostly ignored. That time has passed, and we can thank the pandemic for the change. Your cover letter can be used to break the tie between you and another candidate or to explain a question that may pop up in your resume. 

Since they're being read more and more, having a cover letter gives you a great opportunity to add more hard skills to your application. You want to avoid simply regurgitating the hard skills on your resume. Instead, use the cover letter to expand on new ideas. 

Remember to refer back to the job description. Check to see if there are any keywords (i.e. hard skills) that you just couldn't find a spot for in your resume and then tell their story in the cover letter. 

Here's a great example of expanding on the concept of hard skills in your cover letter – coincidentally enough, this excerpt comes from that same real-life FP&A client mentioned in the last example:

In my current role as the Sales Finance Controller at ABC, Inc., I have been instrumental in steering the sales organization's financial strategies, leading annual planning for a large portfolio with bookings that exceed $900M and Opex over $100M. On top of that, I employ transformational leadership skills to guide over 500 staff. My commitment to process improvement is further evidenced by pioneering a new company process for ABC Inc., streamlining operations, and optimizing financial processes.

The right hard skills win the day

Hard skills speak to your proficiency in completing job duties and tasks. Highlighting them throughout your resume, based on the guidance above, will help your resume get into the hiring manager's hands. 

Not sure how to make your hard skills pop on your resume? Our resume writers are ready to help. If you've already written your resume, we can give it a once-over for you for free – we have a free resume review available.

This article was originally written by Ronda Suder and has been updated by Marsha Hebert.

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