When a hiring manager glances at your resume, they likely scan through the qualifications section to ensure you have the right hard skills. Every job requires unique technical know-how, and you’ll have a leg up if you’re already proficient in the software and techniques a potential employer uses.
Whether you’re a recent graduate, debating a career change, or want to upskill, understanding how to showcase your hard skills throughout your career offers you a competitive edge.
The definition of hard skills
Hard skills are technical abilities and job or industry-specific know-how. You typically learn these through formal education, job training, or self-directed learning and fine-tune them with practice and work experience. Some examples are data analysis, research, and academic writing.
Unlike soft skills, which are more nuanced and personal proficiencies such as time management and communication, hard skills are measurable and trainable. They often require a trackable step-by-step learning process and evolve over time as industries change and disruptive technologies innovate.
Depending on your industry, hiring managers might prioritize hard over soft skills. If you’re in a technology-focused role — like a website developer — you might need to know how to use web design platforms like WordPress and coding languages like Python.
Your proficiency with certain tools will guide how well you execute your responsibilities, which directly contributes to company-wide productivity.
But hard and soft skills work in tandem to increase your expertise in a subject. Proficiency in a foreign language is a hard skill, but critical thinking, nonverbal communication skills, and adaptability are essential soft skills. Combining both types is necessary to understand cultural nuances, recognize language patterns, and work through misunderstandings.
During a job search, the best approach is showcasing both your hard and soft skills. A recent LinkedIn survey found that hard skills pique a hiring manager’s attention, but soft skills get you the job. A recruiter wants to see that the company won’t have to train you on every role-specific program and tool necessary, but they also need to understand how you’ll problem-solve and collaborate.
You can highlight more technical and specific skills on your resume and show off your interpersonal soft skills during the interview process.
5 valuable types of hard skills
Technical know-how is vital to your career path. According to the 2023 Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, organizations and professionals around the globe are investing in learning skills related to technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and UX design.
According to the same Future of Jobs report, emerging technologies, the green transition, and global economic challenges are impacting in-demand hard skills. Here are some skills you could showcase on your resume in these areas:
AI and automated jobs are hot topics right now. According to a 2022 global study, 50% of businesses use AI for at least one operation. Another report by Goldman Sachs estimates that roughly two-thirds of US occupations will interact with AI technologies to complement their workflows and increase productivity.
Computer programs and platforms that redefine your workday will vary between industries. It’s important to pinpoint which technologies will likely be most in-demand for your role and then seek relevant upskilling opportunities.
To start, here’s a list of hard skills you could practice, leveraging AI to be more productive:
- Data analysis and using visualization platforms
- Workflow automation and robotic technologies
- Cognitive computing, like natural language processing and chatbots
- Cloud computing
- Data mining
Green skills enable the environmental sustainability of economic activities. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Green Skills report, the share of green talent grew 38.5% between 2015 and 2021. And green initiatives touch nearly every industry, with strong job opportunities in:
- Corporate services
- Public administration
LinkedIn’s Global Green Skills report suggests that expertise in renewable energies will become increasingly important in the US. Other areas of know-how include:
- Environmental awareness
- Environmental science
- Environmental management systems
- Environmental impact assessment
While you can apply computer skills to computer engineering or other high-tech jobs, these skills are more versatile than you think. Most data is produced in non-tech industries, like agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.
That’s likely why according to O*NET Online by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the most in-demand technical skill is proficiency in Microsoft Excel. It’s followed by additional Microsoft Office Suite software, including Powerpoint, Outlook, and Word.
Basic computer competencies are valuable office skills. As more work moves online, knowledge of office software can help you easily transition to other software with similar platform formats, like Google Workspace, QuickBooks, or Apache.
A Statista survey found that spending on digital transformation hit 1.6 trillion US dollars in 2021, and it’s expected to grow to 3.4 trillion by 2026. As the world increasingly relies on technology, the need for workers who can program will continue to rise.
According to the BLS, demand for software developers should increase by 25% through 2031, which is significantly faster than average. And jobs that use computer programming languages are expected to rise, like data scientists, web developers, and cybersecurity analysts.
Some programming languages and operating systems worth learning are:
- Oracle Java
- Structured query language (SQL)
- Hypertext markup language (HTML)
E-commerce, social media, and changing demographics have placed more buying power in the hands of consumers. As companies seek new ways to reach customers, marketing occupations are among the most in-demand jobs.
According to the BLS, the growth expectation for marketing managers is 10% by 2031. That translates to about 33,700 new jobs.
Marketing skills are often a mix of soft and hard proficiencies. You need strong time management, teamwork, and project management skills. But you also must have industry and employer-specific skills that help you predict and respond to consumer demands effectively.
Whether you’re interested in digital, print, or broadcast marketing, here are a few hard skills and platform proficiencies employers may look for:
- Google Analytics
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Copywriting and editing
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Graphic design programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign
- Color, visual identity, and branding theory
- Data analysis and reporting
Best hard skills to put on a resume for in-demand jobs
The BLS tracks data on the fastest-growing jobs in the market. Here are some resume skills examples you’ll likely find in job posts from the most in-demand fields.
Nurse practitioners top the BLS’ list of most in-demand jobs, and the healthcare sector is expected to grow by 13% through 2031. That faster-than-average growth translates into two million new jobs.
- Basic computer skills for data entry and updating electronic health records
- Up-to-date knowledge of bio-ethical standards
- Diversity training to improve your understanding of cultural, religious, and socioeconomic differences
- An understanding of budgeting and contracting best practices
- Knowledge of technological, regulatory, and legislative changes
- Medication management skills
- Medical coding and billing knowledge
- Experience with healthcare technologies like telemedicine, imaging software, and electronic monitoring systems
The job market for preschool teachers, postsecondary teachers, and museum workers is expected to grow faster than average through 2031. While you may associate education with strong people skills like conflict resolution and public speaking, educators possess a wide range of job-specific hard skills that go beyond their particular area of instruction.
Here are a few examples:
- Curriculum development
- Classroom and behavioral management
- Instructional strategy and design
- Literacy instruction and assessment techniques
- Learning management systems, multimedia computer programs, and online collaboration tools
- Educational games
- Data analytics and visualization technologies to analyze performance
Professional and business services
This sector covers various corporate jobs, from bookkeeping and payroll services to advertising and legal admin.
Pay close attention to the hard skills listed on job postings to show off your value on your resume. A job ad for an accountant might ask for QuickBooks proficiency, while a company might want its communications expert to be fluent in social media management.
But many office jobs share the following hard skills:
- Database and cloud computing management
- Project management software proficiencies
- Professional writing skills
- File organization and management
- Scheduling and calendar management
- Basic office software knowledge, like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint
- Financial management
Hard skills are an easy sell
Every role is unique, and most industries are in constant flux. But no matter the field you’re pursuing, showcasing your relevant hard skills shows hiring managers they’ll spend less time getting you up to speed in your new role.
Your current proficiencies give you a leg up on less experienced candidates, so show them off. Then, use the hiring process to express your soft skills — like asking great questions in interviews and communicating effectively via email.
And remember that you’re not alone in this learning process. You could ask your manager to mentor you or work alongside a friend to hold each other accountable. This collaboration might make the process easier — and it helps you with your soft teamwork and resilience skills along the way.