Performing any job requires the use of multiple skill sets. Many jobs require skills related to physical or digital tools—these are often called "technical skills." Technical skills can vary widely across industries and jobs. In this article, we explore the variety of technical skills you might need in your career path, as well as how to improve them.
What are technical skills?
Technical skills, also known as hard skills, are qualities acquired by using and gaining expertise in performing physical or digital tasks. There are many different kinds of technical skills. Traditionally, people working in mathematics, computer science, mechanics and information technology have used many technical skills. Today, however, many more industries rely on employees with technical knowledge. For example, retail and foodservice workers often need to know how to use point-of-sale (POS) software.
Some specific examples of technical skills might include:
- Programming languages
- Common operating systems
- Software proficiency
- Technical writing
- Project management
- Data analysis
Technical skills vary widely between industry and job type. For computer programmers, knowledge of various coding languages is considered a technical skill. Customer service representatives may need technical skills relating to customer management and telephone systems. Teachers might need technical skills related to instructional technologies and software applications ranging from student behavior monitoring to grading.
Why are technical skills important?
Technical skills are important because nearly every job relies on different tools, programs and processes. If you have sought-after technical knowledge and skills common in your industry, you’ll be a more competitive candidate. For example, while a welder may have a positive demeanor and excellent customer service skills (these are good examples of “soft skills”), his or her skillful handling of a torch will be crucial to their technical and practical success.
Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
What skills are employers looking for?
When employers post jobs, they often include lists of both “required” and “desired” technical skills.
“Required” skills are often considered a prerequisite to performing the job successfully upon hire. For example, if you’re applying to be a chef, you may be required to possess basic cooking skills. While some companies can provide on-the-job training, others may need to hire an experienced chef who will only need to be trained on new recipes.
When an employer lists “desire” skills they are indicating that while there are some competencies they would like to see on a resume, they may be open to hiring someone without that experience. Employers are often willing to help new hires acquire desired skills on the job, if necessary. This may be common for positions with a high turnover rate or those that have specialized tools or programs which are difficult to gain experience with prior to employment.
Related: Best Skills to Include on a Resume
Examples of technical skills
The type of technical skills that you may be required to know or learn will depend on the job you’re seeking. However, there are several technical skills that are common across different industries.
Here are a few examples of different technical skills you may see listed on job posts:
In addition to software engineers, there are many jobs today that require programming knowledge. If you’re looking for a job as a writer, for example, you may be required to have some basic knowledge of HTML.
Other highly sought-after programming languages may include:
Review the job posting as you fill out your skills section on your resume or Indeed Resume. If you have the skills that employers are looking for, you should list them on your resume.
Productivity software applications
Most industries use both common and specialized software. This often includes what’s known as “productivity software,” or software designed to help get work done faster and more efficiently. Most commonly, this includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software.
Other sought after productivity software applications:
- Google Suite (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms)
If any of these programs are listed as a requirement in a job description that interests you, you should include them on your resume. However, because this software is so prevalent and often a basic requirement of many jobs, you may not need to list it on your resume unless you know specialized aspects of these programs. For example, instead of listing “Expert in Microsoft Excel” you could be more specific “Expert in Microsoft Excel, including vlookup and pivot tables.” Especially if productivity software is not mentioned in the job description, you may want to leave it off your resume and prioritize listing other requirements.
Technical skills vary by industry, so it’s important to do some research on the industry you’re looking to work in. You can do this by looking at job posts from employers in that industry and creating a list of the common technical skills employers list. Highlight those you already possess or can easily learn and consider prioritizing them on your resume.
Here are a few examples of position-specific technical skills you may find on job postings:
- Budget planning
- Risk management
- Project planning
- PM tools (JIRA, Trello, Monday.com)
- SCRUM methodology
- Agile methodology
- Product roadmaps
- User experience design
- Programming skills
- Product lifecycle management
- QA testing
- Adobe creative apps
- Interactive media
- UX research
- Color theory
- Responsive design
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Digital media
- Social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
- Automated marketing software
- Content Management Systems (CMS)
- Content creation
- Google Analytics
Marketing analytics tools
- Medical billing
- Medical coding
- Electronic medical record software
Other industry-specific skills include:
- Retail and foodservice: Point of sale software
- Architecture and engineering: CAD software
- Shipping and transportation: Logistics management software
- Journalism and writing: Content Management Systems
- Accounting and finance: Bookkeeping software
How to improve your technical skills
If you’re changing industries or positions, you may need to consider improving on or acquiring new abilities. There are several steps you can take to improve your technical skills.
1. Enroll in courses for different skills
Most technical skills can be learned through a dedicated training program or class. Depending on the type of skill, you may be able to learn that skill taking one or more courses, either online or in person. There are free and paid classes available online.
2. Use a self-study training program
There’s a chance you may be able to acquire different skills through self-study programs. That could include “how-to” books, self-paced online lessons, or free training materials available from different sources.
3. Learn from a professional
You may be able to locate a professional who already possesses the technical skills you want. If so, that individual may be able to help teach you the skills you’re looking for, either for free or for compensation.
4. Learn on the job
Some employers may be able to provide on-the-job training. If you do not have certain technical skills an employer desires, make it known that you are eager to learn whatever skills are necessary to effectively perform the job.
How to include technical skills on your resume
When applying for jobs, you can use both your resume and cover letter to highlight your most important and relevant technical skills employers may find valuable.
Technical skills for resume
Your resume should include a skills section that highlights your most valuable technical skills relevant to the position. Your resume should include 10-30 skills, with a combination of soft and hard skills. Try to have your technical skills account for at least half of your skills section. While you may possess several different skills, focus on the technical skills that the employer is looking for that make you a competitive candidate.
Technical skills: Skill 1 | Skill 2 | Skill 3 | Skill 4 |
1. Name and contact information
2. Summary or objective
3. Professional history
a. Company name
b. Dates of tenure
c. Description of role and achievement
6. Optional (Awards & Achievements, Hobbies & Interests)
For some jobs, you may want to avoid listing the most common technical skills that the potential employer would assume every applicant already has (such as proficiency in an email platform, for example).
Technical skills for cover letter
In your cover letter, you may want to mention a few of your most valuable skills. However, keep in mind that the cover letter should be focused, brief, and avoid self-promotion. Your cover letter should give the employer a solid introduction to who you are, but also on what you know about the company, its values and how you might be a good fit for the company’s vision.
Cover Letter Format
1. Date and contact information
2. Salutation or greeting
3. Opening paragraph
4. Middle paragraph(s)
5. Closing paragraph
6. Letter ending and signature
How to keep your technical skills current
Unlike soft skills, technical skills change with time. Once you’ve successfully landed a job, it can be helpful to keep your technical skills active. Use them as frequently as possible and refresh those skills with continuing education. In many cases, the tools or programs you commonly use will change over time, so the technical skills you possess now may need to be enhanced with new knowledge. It’s better to get ahead of changes in your field instead of waiting until your skill is outdated.
Keep your resume updated as you gain new technical skills or enhance the ones you currently possess. Whether you’re in a technical field or in skilled labor, employers want workers who have the skills required to get the job done efficiently and successfully.