Workplace skills are broadly thought to fall into two categories: Soft skills, and hard skills.
While soft skills (such as empathy, motivation, and leadership) govern the interpersonal aspects of a job role, hard skills are the technical abilities required for that role. Due to the fact that they are acquired through education and training, hard skills are generally easier to quantify and demonstrate than soft skills.
Hard skills also tend to be industry specific - e.g. web development or graphic design - when compared to soft skills, which are largely transferable between industries. This is not to say that some hard skills aren’t transferable - for example, if a candidate is fluent in a foreign language, this will be an asset in multiple industries.
Examples of hard skills are as follows:
Technical skills: Proficiency in using specific software, programming languages, or tools relevant to a particular job.
Data analysis: The ability to analyse and interpret data using tools like Excel or statistical software.
Language proficiency: Fluency in one or more languages, both spoken and written.
Engineering skills: Knowledge and expertise in engineering principles, such as mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering.
Accounting and finance: Understanding financial statements, budgeting, and other financial analysis skills.
Medical procedures: Skills related to specific medical procedures or techniques in healthcare professions.
Project management:The ability to plan, execute, and oversee projects using project management tools and methodologies
Hard skills have several key characteristics. To simplify these characteristics into three categories:
Industry or job specific: Hard skills tend to be specific to a specific career or industry, although as mentioned, certain hard skills are transferable.
Acquired through education or training: Hard skills are taught through formal education, training, and experience.
Evaluation: Hard skills tend to be easier to quantify or “prove” due to the fact that they have been taught and then measured through assessments, tests or other metrics.
Adaptability (the ability to adjust to changes in your role or industry) is not a hard skill. Due to its interpersonal nature, adaptability is considered a soft skill.
While soft skills are also important and desirable to employers, hard skills are essential when it comes to completing the practical tasks and demands of your job, and ensuring a high level of quality.
Certain industries also have specific standards, regulations or certifications that candidates have to adhere to. Employing people with the necessary qualifications and skills ensures their compliance.
As mentioned, hard skills are far easier to prove and demonstrate than soft skills.
There are several ways to prove hard skills:
Education and training: The most obvious way to demonstrate your proficiency in a given hard skill is through formal education and training. Certificates, diplomas and degrees from relevant institutions can then serve as evidence of these skills.
Work experience: Specific examples of times you used hard skills in past job roles can showcase practical application of these skills.
Publications or presentations: If you have authored any articles, research papers or presentations, these demonstrate your knowledge and skills in a given topic.
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