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What Are Soft and Hard Skills? What Skills do Employers Look For?

It’s important to know the skills that are most important for companies that are hiring. This information will assist you to be better prepared for the application and interview process.

Looking for a Job or Making a Career Change?

There are three essential skill sets that applicants should demonstrate when applying for jobs:

Transferable, Soft and Hard Skills

Transferable Skills

These are skills that are useful anywhere, anytime, in any industry.

As you move from job to job there are some skills that you develop which are repeatedly required and which can advantage you in different jobs or industries.

Because you can apply many skills to a range of jobs or industries, they are referred to as transferable or portable. Business administration, project management, IT and communication skills are examples of transferable skills.

If you’re switching jobs or industries, you’ll need to focus on the skills that are transferable from your old position to the new one. Perhaps you are brilliant at researching online. Some jobs don’t specifically require this but if you have the skill it can be an advantage.

Imagine you are applying for a sales position, you might want to mention this skill as it can assist you in finding new clients that your employer may not have previously considered.

These transferable skills can be either hard or soft skills.

Soft Skills

There are some skills and qualities that employers require of all applicants for employment, regardless of the job position or level they are hiring for. These are called soft skills. They include the interpersonal skills and attributes you need to fit into the organisations culture and succeed in the workplace. In other words, being considered ‘nice’ is also a skill.

For example, employers will want to know how you cope with pressure, are you someone who has outlets or hobbies to blow off steam?  Are you a team player or someone who prefers to work alone, even remotely (from home)?

 Popular Soft Skills

  1. Strong work ethic
  2. Dependable
  3. Positive attitude
  4. Self motivated
  5. Team oriented
  6. Organised
  7. Works well under pressure
  8. Effective communicator
  9. Flexible
  10. Confident

Hard Skills

Hard skills are the specific skills you need in order to do a certain work correctly.

Hard skills are teachable abilities or skill sets that are easy to quantify and evaluate. For example, if you apply for an electrician job, you must have the ability to safely work with electricity – this is an obvious practical job expectation.

 Other examples of hard skills include:

  • Ability to speak many languages
  • A degree or certificate
  • Typing speed
  • Machine operation
  • Computer programming

This means that hard skills will differ from job to job as they are based upon the specific knowledge and abilities required to do the job.

How to Give Employers The Skills they Want

You’ll need to demonstrate hard and soft skills in your cover letter, CV and Interview. You need to show employers that you have the skills they need when you’re applying and interviewing for jobs.

Successful applicants know which hard and soft skills the company will find desirable.

Do your research about the company and the job position before you apply so that you can refer to specific information during the application process.

When you write your cover letter, you should  direct readers attention to your relevant skills immediately.

Present your CV so that it proves that you have the desired knowledge and skills sets that they are looking for in place. It’s important that you make these skills easy for an employer or recruiter to recognize.

Although certain hard skills are necessary for specific positions, employers often search for applicants with particular soft skills. This is because hard skills can be trained but soft skills such as conflict resolution, friendliness are more difficult skills to teach.

 Emphasize Your Hard and Soft Skills

During the job application process, it’s important that you emphasize both your hard and soft skills.

Although the interviewer will want to test and confirm your hard skills, they are also very interested in your soft skills. This means that even if you lack some of the hard skill requirements, you can still blow them away with your personality.

Recruiters will want to see how open you are to learning the skills you don’t possess, how positive and confident you are about your abilities and commitment to tackle challenges no matter how difficult they are.

Even if you lack a particular hard skill required by the company, you can emphasize a particular soft skill that you know would be valuable in the position.

For example, if the job involves working on a number of group projects, be sure to emphasize your experience and skill as a team player and your ability to communicate with team members. If you played a team sport, refer to this and explain what it has taught you.

Skills to Get You Selected

There are certain skills that employers consider more important when recruiting, selecting and hiring employees.

In order to get your application noticed, be sure to incorporate the skills you have that are required for the position for which you are applying in your CV and cover letter.

Also highlight your most relevant skills during job interviews.

Important skills:

The ‘About Careers’ website lists the following as the top 7 skills wanted by employers

  • Analytical
    Employees need to be able to work things out independently to succeed in the workplace. The level of analysis varies depending on the job and the industry. Employees are also expected to be able to organize, plan and prioritize effectively.
  • Communication
    The ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is essential, no matter what job you have or industry you work in. You will need to be able to communicate with employees, managers, and customers in-person, online, in writing and/or on the phone.
  • Interpersonal
    These are your people skills, they are the skills you use to interact and engage with people. We live in an age where social skills are highly regarded and people are sometimes hired purely for their ability to network and connect with people. These skills are usually tested during the interview.
  • Leadership
    When companies hire for leadership roles they specifically seek employees who can successfully interact with employees, colleagues, clients and others. Even if you’re not applying for management jobs, leadership is a valuable skill to bring to the employer.
  • Positive Attitude
    Attitude might not be everything, but it’s extremely valuable. Employers want employees who are positive, even in stressful and challenging circumstances. They want to hire applicants with a “can do” attitude, who are flexible, dedicated and who are willing to contribute extra, if necessary, to get the job done.
  • Teamwork
    Regardless of the job, employers want to hire people who are team players who are cooperative and work well with others. They don’t want employees who are difficult to work with. When you are interviewing be sure to share examples of how you worked well on a team.
  • Technical
    The technical skills you need will vary, of course, depending on the job. However, most positions require at least some technical skills.

Presenting Your Skills

Draw up a list of the skills and qualities that best reflects your background and experience and incorporate them into your CV and cover letters.

Think of examples of how you have applied these skills to achieve success on the job, in the classroom or in volunteer work.

Share the examples with your interviewers so they know exactly how much of an asset you will be if you’re hired.

Good luck in your job applications! Share a comment below!

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