The Difference: Hard Skills vs Soft Skills
Are you looking for a job or to change careers? It’s no secret that companies are looking for skilled employees for their workforce. You’ve undoubtedly seen job postings that come with a long list of skills in addition to required years of experience. You may be wondering what it means when job postings mention “hard skills” and “soft skills.” Though you’ll be acquiring and refining both types of skills throughout your career, it’s important to distinguish what makes hard skills different from soft skills.
According to Indeed.com, “Hard skills, also known as technical skills, are technical knowledge or training that you have gained through any life experience, including in your career or education.” Hard skills are the ones that most typically show up first in a job posting as technical requirements that an applicant should have.
Hard skills generally include software, tools, hands-on experience and certifications. Most jobs in today’s world can’t be done without some basic knowledge and experience, and employers want to know you can hit the ground running without having to provide extensive training.
Want to show off the hard skills that make you shine? You can highlight these through a portfolio of projects you’ve completed. When applying for a job, list specific tools and software in your resumé and be sure to display all relevant certifications and education. You may even need to take a skills test as part of the screening process.
On the other hand, soft skills are habits and personality traits that determine how well you work with others, voice your opinions, or manage your time. Some of the top soft skills employers look for include organization, empathy, dependability, integrity, effective communication, and adaptability.
Soft skills aren’t as easy to quantify or demonstrate as hard skills are. However, you can highlight your soft skills during the interview process by being timely, maintaining eye contact, asking follow-up questions, and answering questions genuinely.
Why Do Employers Need Hard Skills?
Without skilled employees, companies would spend a significant amount of time training their workforce. While many organizations do offer internships to provide hands-on training to help recent graduates attain hard skills, hiring people with hard skills already developed means they can retain their competitive edge and innovate more quickly. Jobs can be done efficiently and employees with hard skills can be trusted to make key decisions. Additionally, having multi-skilled employees keeps small teams agile.
What Are The In-Demand Hard Skills for Tech Jobs?
A good developer will know which tools will help them work more efficiently and structure code properly. Developers should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the most essential libraries and frameworks including Node.js, Express, React, Angular, jQuery and Bootstrap.
Knowing what’s going on in the back end of an application is a must for for web developers. Experience with hosting, servers, databases such as MongoDB and PostgreSQL, building and connecting to APIs, and user authentication are all in-demand hard skills. In addition, you’ll need to understand how to deploy code to Heroku and use version control such as Git and GitHub. Last but not least, experience working with agile methodology is a top hard skill companies look for when hiring new developers.
First and foremost, UX research and user testing are fundamental parts of the job and need to be conducted in a systematic way to understand what users want. Like scientists, designers need to plan, conduct studies, and analyze the results. UX and UI designers also need to be able to create product roadmaps that clearly communicate user research findings to the development team.
One of the top sets of hard skills UX and UI designers need is wireframing and prototyping. Wireframing is setting up a rough sketch of a user interface to show the basic elements of an application or page. Though wireframes can be drawn by hand on paper, designers need to know how to use digital wireframing tools like Figma, Balsamiq and Azure.
Prototyping is a key point in the development process. This involves creating realistic-looking designs of the application based on the wireframes you set up and the user feedback received. Prototyping software to learn includes InVision, Proto.io, Sketch, and Webflow.
Though it may sound more like a soft skill, visual communication is a hard skill UX and UI designers must develop. Visual communication involves studying and understanding layout, icons, typography, color, images and design theory.
Data scientists harness tools and languages to extract and interpret valuable and meaningful insights. Becoming a data scientists requires hard skills like programming as well as mathematical knowledge, especially statistics.
The most widely-used programming languages in data analytics are Python and R. These include powerful tools and libraries such as numpy for storage and calculation, pandas for data manipulation, and scikit-learn for machine learning.
Data scientists need to perform data querying, extraction, cleaning, mining and modeling. Tools to master include SQL, Microsoft Excel, Apache Hadoop, Apache Spark, and MapReduce. Once the data has been analyzed, findings need to be transformed into digestible business insights through data visualization tools like Tableau, Power BI, and D3.js.
A basic foundation of cybersecurity is having a deep knowledge of how operating systems work. A cybersecurity analyst needs to know the ins and outs of the file systems and processes in Linux, Windows, and MacOS. This includes the operation of computer networks, hardware, LAN configuration, routing, and protocols.
Cybersecurity analysts also need to know their way around network architecture, firewalls, antivirus software, and malware. Detecting and preventing security breaches and brute-force attacks using intrusion detection software are some of the most important things you’d be tasked with!
Knowledge of laws and regulations, auditing practices and zero-trust policies, along with experience in artificial intelligence, are all cybersecurity hard skills that can further boost your employability.
How to Learn Hard Skills in Tech
Don't get discouraged if you lack the hard skills required for the career you want– nowadays, you don't need a three or four year degree to learn things like web development or data analytics. The paths to professional development are much more flexible, and the internet is chock-full of resources, of which some are even free!
But if you want intensive training to be job ready in just 9 weeks, you can become an Ironhacker! We offer hands-on training in web development, UX/UI, data analytics and cybersecurity, and our Careers Resources help you get the Tech career you've always wanted. Check out our bootcamps!