Skills for Success: Technical Skills vs Soft Skills

Future employers look for applicants with two sets of skills throughout the job application and interview process: technical skills vs soft skills. They want technical skills and soft skills that are relevant and useful to the position they are trying to fill. Both skill sets are transferable from varying jobs and companies and should be displayed on your resume, application and during your interview.

You should understand the differences between technical skills vs soft skills in order to articulate and emphasize which are most important to the position you are applying for. Technical skills relate to specific technical knowledge and training required and valued for the position. Soft skills pertain to your personality traits and social abilities between managers and coworkers. Each skill is necessary to successfully perform in the desired role as well as advance within the company.

Learn what the definition of technical and soft skills, their differences and see technical skills vs soft skills examples. With this knowledge, you can highlight which are applicable to you on your resume and showcase them throughout the job search process.

What are Technical Skills and Soft Skills

Technical skills, or hard skills, are the knowledge that you acquire through training and hands-on learning from your previous education, job or life experiences. Every company and position will expect that you have certain technical skills specific to their industry.

They will either want you to have prior work experience or education in the field, with their exact requirements depending on the specific position. Often times, if the applicant doesn’t have prior experience but does have education, the employer will hire the candidate with the intention to teach the applicant on-the-job technical skills.

Soft skills are personal traits and habits that affect how you work individually and collectively. Soft skills directly impact your social abilities and how you interact among others. Employees can learn soft skills on-the-job as well, although these are generally harder to absorb and teach because the person has to change their personal habits.  

Common skills that correlate with positive traits and habits include open communication, being conscientious, helpful, dependable, fair, observant, reliable and sociable. Negative traits and habits can include thoughtlessness, lazy, acting arrogant, bossy, rude, or unfriendly. Positive and negative traits influence your ability to work well on a team and how you respond to supervisors.

What is the Difference between Technical Skills and Soft Skills

Employers and human resources recruiters seek to find applicants who possess proven technical skills and positive soft skills. The importance of hard skills cannot be understated as technicals skills are necessary to perform the functions of the position. Likewise, soft skills are necessary to create an agreeable and effective work environment for all involved. The difference between hard skills and soft skills can be compared to professional skills versus personal skills.

Depending on the job role, some employers value soft skills over technical skills because soft skills can be more difficult to change and develop. Technical skills can be essential when it comes to highly advanced positions, such as an engineer, doctor or architect. These candidates must have a certain level of knowledge or expertise in order to perform the job well.

However, soft skills in the workplace are vital to your career as well. Some companies may feel that soft skills matter more than hard skills. Technical skills may get you hired but if you don’t possess certain soft skills you will not advance within your position or company. When less technical knowledge is required at a base level, soft skills can become more important as they will determine how well you learn the job skills required

For example, there may be certain hard skills that are needed for an entry-level job that a hiring manager is looking to fill. The employer is trying to decide between two candidates. One of which has more technical experience but a former employer states that the applicant has poor communication skills.

The other candidate has less technical experience but a former employer says the applicant is open-minded and helpful to other coworkers. The employer may be more likely to hire the second candidate because they know the candidate is open to learning the technical knowledge needed and will be a good asset to the team.  

Technical Skills vs Soft Skills Examples

Now the really helpful information: the frequently desired skills section! Technicals skills are more easy to quantify than soft skills. These are the types of skills you learn in school, through books, in other training materials or in a previous job.

You will want to list these skills on either your resume or cover letter. One of the advantages of technical skills is that they are easily recognizable by employers or recruiters. Common hard skills employers look for include:

Technical Skills Examples

  • An educational degree or certification (Associate’s Degree, Bachelor's degree, program certification, etc.)
  • Bilingual or multilingual
  • Computer programming (Java, Python, C++, Ruby, etc.)
  • Design software (Adobe Software Suite)
  • SEO/SEM marketing
  • User interface design
  • Database management
  • Statistical analysis
  • Network security
  • Machine operation
  • Typing speed

A technical skill often comes with a solid way to show how you know it, such as a grade, project or prior job held. On the other hand, soft skills are subjective and much more difficult to quantify. They are often called “people skills” or “interpersonal skills” and, as such, you cannot point to specific evidence of how you possess a soft skill.

An employer needs more proof than your word for a soft skill. To demonstrate the use of a soft skill, share an example of a time when you used that skill. Explain the situation, how you acted or reacted and how using that skill benefited yourself, a coworker, a manager or the company. Common soft skills are listed below:

Soft Skill Examples

  • Leadership
  • Work ethic
  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving
  • Dependability
  • Motivation
  • Critical thinking
  • Organization
  • Willingness to learn
  • Flexibility
  • Patience
  • Open-mindedness
  • Helpful
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy
  • Integrity

Technical Skill vs Soft Skills: Which is More Important for Getting Jobs?

This is a trick question, as they are both important! Employers are increasingly looking for applicants that have a combination of the two. They want hard and soft skills and candidates that demonstrate both are highly desired within our technology-based, results-driven economy.

There are ways to highlight both skill sets when interviewing for a prospective position. In addition to what is on your resume, demonstrate technical skills by:

  • Providing a portfolio (digitally or physically)
  • Answering technical questions related to the position
  • Elaborating on prior training and job experience

Show evidence of soft skills by:

  • Be early to your interview (punctual and dependable)
  • Maintain eye contact (active listener)
  • Ask follow-up questions (active listener)
  • Speak clearly and elaborate when necessary (effectively communicating)
  • Answer questions related to job experience honestly (integrity)

When you apply for the position, and before your interview, review the job description thoroughly so you can accurately determine which skills are sought after. Also, make sure you research vacation from work and other benefits too. Analyze the job itself to figure out what technical skills will help you complete assignments.

Soft skills tend to be more universal so get in the habit of polishing your people skills on a regular basis. Just like technical skills, soft skills require repetition to improve and perfect. The sooner you build on your interpersonal skills, the sooner you will be able to implement them in real-world settings that can positively affect your future career.


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