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4 April 2023 - 8 minutes

Soft Skills vs Hard Skills: What Do Tech Recruiters Want?

Technical knowledge is all you need to be successful in tech, right? Not quite.

Ironhack - Changing The Future of Tech Education


Whew! It’s finally time to start the job search and you know what your dream role is. But be it UI designer, cybersecurity professional, web developer, or data analyst, one thing is true: recruiters are looking for both hard and soft skills. What does this mean? Well, tech jobs are increasingly universal and employers want workers that can do it all. And no, we don’t mean doing every role. We mean your future employer will be looking for candidates that boast the technical capacities needed (hard skills) and general skills (soft skills). 

So what do we do about this? How do you prepare yourself for a job in the tech world knowing that recruiters want both? It’s not that hard, we promise. 

Hard & Soft Skills: What Are They?

As we mentioned above, hard skills refer to your more technical abilities that pertain to your specific role; soft skills are generic and personal abilities that are essential for a wide range of responsibilities.

Hard skills 

Your hard skills are what define your role, be it programming language knowledge, design skills, or math experience. Hard skills entail a specialized and close to expert knowledge of a certain field or skill, but are always able to be improved upon and expanded. You may think that these hard skills are only taught in school, but they can come from any life experience: 

  • Have you studied and become proficient in a foreign language or been bilingual since birth? Languages are a hard skill.

  • Have you taken accounting or data analysis classes? Excel knowledge is a hard skill. 

  • Have you worked a retail job and had to use a point-of-sale system? POS is a hard skill.

Soft skills 

On the other hand, soft skills are your more personal abilities that can’t be taught in a classroom or acquired from studies. Communication, teamwork, and problem solving are a few that are becoming increasingly popular with tech recruiters:

  • Have you had to work in a situation that required you to expand your horizons and interact with people of different backgrounds? Open-mindedness is a soft skill.

  • Have you had to solve some tough problems against the odds? Problem-solving is a highly desired soft skill. 

  • Are you capable of handling disagreements with coworkers? Communication is another soft skill. 

We know you still might not believe us. After all, tech recruiters looking to fill a web developer role wants someone who knows programming languages, not that is empathetic, right? Well, in reality, skills that can be taught, such as hard skills, can be developed and fine-tuned over time and no one wants to work with someone who isn’t dependable or able to communicate with their teammates. 

How to Obtain/Refine Your Skill Set

You know that recruiters are looking for well-rounded, skilled individuals to fill their empty roles and when reading job descriptions, you may feel intimidated by the desired skills outlined on the posting. However, it is possible to gain both the hard and soft skills needed or polish the skills you already have to make yourself an attractive candidate. 

Learning and refining hard skills 

The great news here is that hard skills are those gained through training, school, or work experiences and can typically be defined as something that can be taught or learned. Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to either learn a brand new skill or refine ones you already have. 

  • On the job learning: some skills require lots of practice and experience to gain proficiency and practical experience will help you become familiar with the skill and learn how to use it in a variety of settings. If you’re already working in tech and looking to upskill, on the job learning can help you become an even more attractive candidate.

  • Schooling: tech moves so fast that four year degrees aren’t required for the majority of roles, meaning you can use whatever means available to you to learn a new skill: bootcamps, online courses, workbooks, or online videos. 

When you decide to take on a new hard skill, try to follow these tips: 

  1. Be realistic: don’t try to learn four new skills at the same time; go slow and make sure you become proficient in one skill before taking on a new one.

  2. Set goals: if you are working a full time job it can be hard to find time for independent learning. Setting goals for yourself can help you stay on track and ensure you’re meeting your own expectations. 

  3. Be prepared for challenges: learning a new skill is a challenge, no matter your previous experience. Be ready to face dead ends and have a support system in place to help push through.

Learning and refining soft skills 

Although being compassionate seems easier than Python proficiency, soft skills are actually harder to obtain because they typically come from personal experience over time. However, it’s possible to work on them: 

  • Observing others: we’ve all had that coworker that stays calm in any situation and boasts incredible patience. If you see others practice soft skills that you want to improve upon, watch how they handle themselves in tough situations and try to practice the same behaviors. 

  • Self-reflecting: you’re your best teacher and if you reflect on situations where you just know you could have reacted better, take these as learning experiences to put soft skills into practice in the future. 

When you decide to focus on gaining a new soft skill, follow these tips: 

  1. Ask for feedback: talk to coworkers, your boss, friends, or family members for areas where you can improve your people skills. Take their advice and focus on these areas of improvement. 

  2. Be reflective: it’s called a learning curve for a reason: you won’t be the world’s best communicator after putting new techniques into practice just one time. After you face situations where your new soft skills are required, reflect on what you did well and what can be improved upon in the future. 

  3. Be patient: everyone has a different skill set and some soft skills may come harder to you than they do to your peers. Take it slow and be patient with yourself: real change takes time. 

How to Highlight Your Skills on Your Resume 

We all know the importance of listing out your skills on your resume but it can be tough to organically incorporate them into your resume. Let’s take a look role-by-role to help you create the best possible resume. 

Skills for web development 

Web development is a very wide field and your ideal role could be as a programmer, software engineer, frontend developer, Scrum master, or PM. Here are some tips specific to two common positions in webdev: 

  • Web developer

  • Hard skills: HTML, JavaScript, CSS, Responsive Design, CMS, testing and debugging, and libraries and frameworks

  • Soft skills: communication, teamwork, time management, self-awareness, and accountability

  • Scrum master

  • Hard skills: domain knowledge, technical knowledge, software design, programming and process integration

  • Soft skills: outcome ownerships, leadership, coaching and mentoring, conflict management, and problem solving

Skills for UX/UI design

UX/UI design is a popular field with those looking to harness their creative abilities and technical knowledge to create user-friendly interfaces that help both the client and the user get what they need. There’s too many positions to count, but let’s check out what UX designers and UI designers should highlight: 

  • UX designer

  • Hard skills: information architecture, wireframing, prototyping, UX writing, coding, and usability testing

  • Soft skills: communication, critical thinking, user research, and empathy

  • UI designer

  • Hard skills: Sketch, InVision, wireframing and prototyping, responsive design, and design tools

  • Soft skills: curiosity, collaboration, communication, feedback, active listening

Skills for data analytics

If you’re heading into data analytics, you’re probably clear on the importance of hard skills to show your future employer that you can handle any data they throw your way. But that’s not the only thing data analysts or data scientists need: 

  • Data analyst

  • Hard skills: SQL, machine learning, data management, probability, and statistics

  • Soft skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, curiosity, and creativity

  • Data scientist

  • Hard skills: Python, data visualization, Excel, statistics, NLP, machine learning, and advanced math skills

  • Soft skills: storytelling, adaptability, product understanding, critical thinking, and business knowledge

Skills for cybersecurity 

As cyberattacks increase across the world, more and more cyber professionals are needed to combat these attacks and predict vulnerabilities to prevent future attacks. Security architects and security engineers are just two roles in a rapidly expanding field: 

  • Security architect

  • Hard skills: programming languages, database management, statistical analysis, and storage system and management 

  • Soft skills: communication, interpersonal skills, decisiveness, and problem-solving skills

  • Security engineer 

  • Hard skills: Python, firewall and intrusion detection/prevention protocols, ethical hacking, threat modeling, Java

  • Soft skills: adaptability, interpersonal and communication, passion, curiosity, and active listening

The short answer to our questions is both. And of course we waited until the end to tell you this! But as tech becomes increasingly complex and particular, employers will be looking for candidates that possess both hard and soft skills which means you need to prioritize this on your resume, highlighting both, not just your technical skills. 

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge and become a high-quality applicant with both hard and soft skills to offer, Ironhack’s bootcamps are the right choice for you. Poke around and see which one calls to you; we can’t wait to hear from you!

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