Resumes & Cover Letters

Top Hard Skills to Put on a Resume (And How to Improve Yours)

February 22, 2021

Employers often look for particular hard skills when reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates for an open position. Knowing how to successfully portray these skills on your resume and in the interview can increase your chances of getting the job. Here we discuss the top hard skills to put on a resume, how to highlight them and how to improve yours.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are skills obtained through training or education that are required to complete a job. These skills can be technical knowledge or abilities that are easily defined and measured. Hard skills may also be considered job-specific skills and can vary from occupation to occupation. These types of skills can be acquired and honed through certifications, schooling, training, courses and on-the-job training.

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Examples of hard skills

The following are examples of a few of the most in-demand hard skills broken down into individual categories:

  • Communication skills
  • Computer technology
  • Data analysis
  • Accounting

Communication skills

Communication is typically considered a soft skill. However, some hard skills are classified as communication skills and are required to perform certain jobs. Common hard communication skills include:

  • Copywriting
  • Being able to speak more than one language fluently
  • Editing
  • Researching and reporting
  • Translation
  • Transcription
  • Word processing
  • Various forms of digital communication

Computer technology

Nearly every employee needs at least a basic understanding of computer technology to effectively perform their job in this day and age. However, many positions also require a more in-depth understanding of various hard skills related to computer technology. These may include:

  • Social media
  • Pivot tables
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access)
  • HTML/CSS
  • WordPress
  • JavaScript
  • Content management systems (CMS)
  • Adobe Suite

Data analysis

Several occupations require individuals to be able to analyze data using a variety of hard skills. These skills are most often obtained through training, certifications and courses. Popular data analysis hard skills include:

  • Data engineering
  • Database management
  • Data mining
  • Data visualization
  • Web analytics
  • Research

Accounting

There are several applications and platforms that financial professionals use to perform their jobs. Being proficient in these is often key to getting a position as an accountant or another type of financial specialist. Accounting hard skills include:

  • IBM Cognos Analytics
  • Microsoft Excel
  • ERP knowledge
  • Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Hyperion
  • QuickBooks and other accounting software
  • Big data analysis

Related: 6 Essential Accounting Skills

Marketing

Marketing professionals need a combination of both hard and soft skills to be successful in their careers. Here are a few of the most in-demand hard skills in the field of marketing:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Google analytics
  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Content management systems
  • Email marketing
  • Web scraping
  • Copywriting
  • Social media marketing
  • CRO
  • A/B testing
  • Project management

Design

Being a successful professional designer requires several hard skills. These skills often align with the current popular technology used in the design industry. The most common hard skills sought after by employers for design positions include:

  • User experience (UX) design
  • Adobe Creative Suite (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator)
  • Dreamweaver
  • Typography
  • Digital design software (various)
  • Photo editing
  • CSS
  • HTML

Related: Learn About Being a Graphic Designer

Web development

Web development professionals are often an integral part of a company's team. To be a successful web developer, you need several hard skills that may include:

  • iOS and Android app development
  • Graphic user interfaces (GUI)
  • Application programming interface (API)
  • CCS and HTML
  • JavaScript
  • Software revision control systems
  • Development and web architecture frameworks

How to improve hard skills

Here are a few ways you can improve your hard skills:

Practice hard skills regularly

Most hard skills require regular practice to become proficient in them. The more you practice, the better you will be at performing the hard skills necessary for your career. Create a practice regimen that you will follow and keep track of your progress.

Ask for feedback and constructive criticism

If you currently work with others who are already proficient in the hard skill you would like to improve, ask them for feedback and constructive criticism regarding your current performance and how you can improve. You can also ask them for recommendations as to how you could most effectively improve a particular skill and the steps they took to master their hard skills.

Take a class or course. Many hard skills require training to master

Taking a class or online course is a great way to learn more about a hard skill as well as complete assignments that improve your skill level in that area.

Pursue higher education

Another way to improve your hard skills is to pursue a degree in the field you are interested in. For example, if you want to be a computer scientist, you could get a degree in computer science or a related subject. Most degree programs will provide you with several topics related to the hard skills you need and give you opportunities to master them.

Hard skills in the workplace

The following are a few examples of how you can use various hard skills in the workplace:

Be proficient in computer basics

Computer knowledge is a hard skill that can easily be demonstrated in the workplace. Most positions require a basic understanding of computer knowledge, including how to use email, Microsoft Office and other applications. Make it a point to be as knowledgeable as possible in the computer applications required to perform your job.

Contribute to the organization's social media strategy

Many companies rely on social media to market their businesses. Contributing to your organization's social media efforts allows you to display your social media know-how as well as improve on your marketing hard skills.

Edit your digital communications before sending them

Editing is often considered a hard communication skill. You can make it a habit to edit all digital and written correspondence before submitting or sending it to display your editing abilities at work.

How to highlight hard skills

Here are tips for highlighting your hard skills on your resume, cover letter and during a job interview:

Hard skills for resume and cover letter

You should include your relevant hard skills on both your cover letter and resume to ensure they are noticed by potential employers. On your resume, include your hard skills in a skills section that clearly defines each skill. You can also mention the most important hard skills in your experience section as part of your previous job descriptions.

In your cover letter, choose two or three hard skills to mention and include an example of how you have used each in your previous jobs.

Hard skills for the job interview

When participating in an interview, there are a few ways that you can demonstrate your hard skills. One way is by physically showing your ability to perform a hard skill to the interviewer. For example, if the job requires you to type a certain number of words per minute, you may be asked to participate in a typing test. Be prepared to demonstrate any hard skills you have listed on your resume during the interview process.

Additionally, you may be asked to provide details of when you have used your hard skills in your past. Before going to the interview, brainstorm at least one example for each relevant hard skill that relates to the job you applied for.

You can also bring any documentation to the interview that shows your completion of a course or certification that supports a hard skill. Being as prepared as possible will help you successfully portray your hard skills and eligibility for the job.

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