The Top Hard Skills Employers Seek

Image by Emilie Dunphy © The Balance 2019

If you’ve ever spoken with a career counselor or spent much time learning about the job search process, you’ve probably heard of hard skills.

But what exactly are hard skills, and how are they different from soft skills? What are the most in-demand hard skills that employers look for?

Hard Skills Defined

Hard skills are part of the skill set that is required for a job. They include the expertise necessary for an individual to successfully do the job. They are job-specific and are typically listed in job postings and job descriptions.

Hard skills are acquired through formal education and training programs, including college, apprenticeships, short-term training classes, online courses, and certification programs, as well as on-the-job training.

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Types of Hard Skills

Hard skills include the specific knowledge and abilities required for success in a job. These types of skills are learned and can be defined, evaluated, and measured.

They are most commonly used during the hiring and interview process to compare candidates for employment.

In some industries, employers may even test candidates’ hard skills to make sure that they can really do what their resume claims they can do.

Once you have the job, your employer may evaluate your hard skills again, if you’re up for a promotion or a transfer.

Top Hard Skills Employers Want

LinkedIn reported on the hard skills that are in greatest demand in 2020:

More Examples of Hard Skills

The following are examples of some of the hard skills required for different occupations:

  • Accounting
  • Administrative
  • Analytics
  • Auditing
  • Automotive Technology
  • Banking Operations
  • Bookkeeping
  • Budgeting
  • Carpentry
  • Construction
  • Database Management
  • Design
  • Editing
  • Electrical
  • Engineering
  • Financial
  • Hardware
  • Healthcare
  • Java Script
  • Languages
  • Legal
  • Manufacturing Technology
  • Marketing Research
  • Mechanical
  • Medical Diagnosis
  • Nursing
  • Optimization
  • Pharmaceutical Coding
  • Pipefitting
  • Python Programming
  • Project Management
  • Proposal Writing
  • Reporting
  • Science
  • Software
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Spreadsheets
  • Teaching
  • Technical Writing
  • Testing
  • Translation
  • Transcription
  • Word Processing

Types of Soft Skills

Conversely, soft skills are attributes and personality traits that impact interpersonal interactions and productivity. While different, they are equally as important as hard skills in the workforce.

LinkedIn rated the following five soft skills as most valued in the workplace:

  • Creativity
  • Persuasion
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Emotional Intelligence

Hybrid Skills

As the workplace evolves, candidates with hybrid skills are becoming increasingly valuable. Employers seek applicants with a blend of soft and hard skills because they have the flexibility that enables them to add value to the organization and to keep up with change.

The Importance of Skills in the Workplace

Both hard skills and soft skills are important in the workplace, and the top skills employers look for will depend on what the employer is seeking for a particular position.

The main difference between hard skills and soft skills is that hard skills can usually be taught in a series of concrete steps. From an instructor’s or a manager’s perspective, teaching someone how to code is a more easily defined process than teaching them to listen and communicate effectively with a client.

Soft skills can’t be learned by rote, and they involve emotional intelligence and empathy, which often makes them more complicated to impart to a student.

The bottom line is that both hard and soft skills are important to career readiness. Once you have both, you’ll be able to do your job well in the real world, where it’s essential to know what you’re talking about—and be able to talk about it so that other people can understand.

Focus on Your Most Relevant Skills

When job searching, it’s important to include the skills the employer is seeking in your resume and job applications. The desired skills (both hard and soft) will be listed in the requirements section of job postings and help wanted ads.

Highlight the Skills That Qualify You for the Job: Start by highlighting the skills that are the closest match to the job requirements in your job application materials.

Match Your Qualifications to the Job: But while you need to match your qualifications to a job, there is more to it than just looking for keywords in the listing. It’s also essential to go beyond the job posting.

Go to the employer’s website to see if their listing provides additional information that might not have made it onto a job board or a referral from a friend.

See More Skills: Finally, review employment skills by the job or a general list of skills for job applications, resumes, and cover letters.

Article Sources

  1. GFCGlobal. "Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills." Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.

  2. LinkedIn. "The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2020." Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.

  3. USAID. "Workforce Connections: Key Soft Skills." Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.

  4. Association for Talent Development. "Hybrid Jobs Need Hybrid Skills," Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.

  5. NACE. "Career Readiness Defined." Accessed Feb. 10, 2020.