Hard vs. soft skills, and examples for your resume

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When you're looking for a new job, there are two kinds of skills you should know about: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are things you need to know how to do to do your job right. For example, if you want to be a server, you need to know how to take orders and serve food. If you want to work in a warehouse, you need to know how to use a hand truck or pack and label boxes.

Soft skills are your awesome personality traits that make you a great worker. These are things like being on time, having a happy attitude, and getting along with others.

When you're looking for a job, it's important to show what skills you have that will make you a good fit for the job you want. By showing off your hard and soft skills, you can make a case that you're the perfect candidate and stand out from other applicants.

We’ll walk you through it. Let’s get started!

Hard skills for front-line jobs

Hard skills are super important for front-line jobs because they show that you have the essential skills to do the job right. Employers want to make sure you have the right abilities to do your job well.

Having hard skills can make it more likely you'll get hired and do a great job. Look at the job posting to see what specific skills they're looking for.

You probably have more hard skills than you think. You can learn them in school, through your hobbies, and in your everyday life. Here are some basic hard skills that you might have, even if you don't have much experience:

  • Food handling and preparation. You’ve likely spent some time in the kitchen, and maybe learned some basic skills for prepping food and keeping things sanitary. If you work in the food industry, this is a must-have skill.

  • Math and counting. You learned simple math in school, like adding and subtracting, and quick multiplication and division, so here’s your chance to use it! If you handle money or inventory, you need this skill.

  • Computer skills. Computers are everywhere, and we bet you know how to use one. Tell your prospective employer about your tech skills!  It's helpful to have basic knowledge, even if you're not working in an office.

If you have a few years of experience, your list of hard skills might grow. You might learn how to use specific job-related equipment, know safety regulations, or handle payment, inventory, or stock. These are all skills that show that you're responsible and have experience with important tasks.

Soft skills for front-line jobs

Soft skills are just as important as hard skills because they show that you're a great person to work with. Employers want to hire people who are efficient, friendly, and dependable. Plus, soft skills often showcase your future job potential.

Here are some soft skills that are important for front-line jobs, especially when you’re just getting started on your career:

  • Dependability. When you promise something’s going to get done, does it get done? Can you be relied on to show up on time? These are very important to employers so if this is you, don’t be shy about it!

  • Active listening. Especially when you don’t have a lot of experience, you’re going to need to take directions from others, whether it’s your boss, your shift supervisor, or customers. Listening is the first step in following directions, so hiring managers look for this in most jobs at all levels. 

  • Time management. In many entry-level jobs there might be a variety of different tasks you’re expected to complete during your shift. The ability to prioritize tasks, complete them in the time available, and meet deadlines for time-sensitive ones is crucial for success. 

  • Positive attitude and teamwork. No manager wants to hire someone who’s difficult to work with, makes excuses, argues unnecessarily, or won’t carry their weight with other workers.  The ability to work well with others and contribute to a team effort is a must-have for most front-line jobs. If you’re more a ray of sunshine than a storm cloud, these might be skills you can highlight in your job search. 

Once you have a little work experience, then your soft skills will develop to a more advanced level. 

  • Initiative and self-motivation. The worker who knows what needs to be done and does it without being told? Solid gold. 

  • Adaptability and flexibility The dark side of “experience” is being rigid about only doing things one way. The world keeps changing, so experienced workers who adapt quickly to new procedures, equipment, or just a new manager’s way of doing things will always be valued. 

  • Positive influence and leadership. Even if a company isn’t looking to hire a manager or supervisor right now, they are always on the lookout to hire people with the potential to exert a positive influence on the whole team. Workers like this help teams accomplish more, and have the post potential for growth within the company. 

Showcasing your essential skills

So, where does that leave you? Both types of skills are important! Imagine you're a great server with all the hard skills needed for the job, but you're always late and have a bad attitude. You're not likely to keep your job for very long! 

To make a list of your hard skills and the soft skills you already have, start by thinking about your past experiences. Have specific experiences helped you build your skills, such as volunteering, participating in extracurricular activities, or even caring for a family member? These experiences can provide valuable insights into your personal qualities and abilities for both hard and soft skills.

Next, get input from others. Ask friends, family, teachers and coaches, or other individuals who know you well (including, if you have work experience, co-workers and supervisors) to provide feedback on your skills. They may be able to identify strengths or qualities that you didn’t think of.

Once you have a good list of your skills, take some time to tweak your resume and online work profile to highlight those skills. The best place to do that is where you describe your past work experiences, as well as in the “Skills” section of your profile and resume. 

Remember that you can go into more detail about your skills all the way through the job application process, including in the email you send to follow-up after applying and during the interview. Think of specific examples of how they’ve helped you achieve goals and will help you be effective on the job and practice talking about them in a few sentences. 

For your future career advancement, consider what skills you need to improve upon. For example, if you're a server and you're not great at math, you might want to practice your math skills so you can handle money more easily. If you're a warehouse worker and you're not great at working with others, you might want to practice communication and teamwork.

Remember, hard skills and soft skills are both important for career success. By focusing on both, you'll be more likely to land the job of your dreams.

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