Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills for the Transitioning Veteran

What is the difference between Hard Skills and Soft Skills?

Are they important to include on my resume?

Hard Skills are skills you have learned in a classroom or through on-the-job training.  These skills are job-specific and are required for the career field you would have acquired them in.  This type of skill-set is often seen on job posting descriptions.

Hard skills include skills learned in college, certification programs, training course programs, internships, apprenticeships and on-the-job training.  Here are some examples:

– Project Management
– Operations Management
– Database Management
– Program Development / Training
– Logistics Management
– Strategic Planning
– Risk Management
– Strategic Planning
– Operational Planning
– Policy & Procedure Implementation

Hard Skills are VITAL to the success of your resume and can make the difference between your resume being read or ignored.  Too often I edit resumes that have soft skills, loads of military jargon, and not enough keywords to draw the interest of the hiring manager.

If you do not have certain hard skills, then do not add them. These skills are job-specific and you will be expected to be proficient in them. Unless you are fully proficient in a foreign language or a software program, do not put it on your resume.   Adding hard skills you do not have will get you into trouble on the job, so be sure not to lie about them.

Hard Skills are extremely valuable and must be added to your resume in three locations: in the summary, in your skill bullets, and within your job descriptions.  Hiring managers will skim your resume for the hard skills they require in a job candidate, so these can make or break your chances for an interview.   The key to hard skill bullets is informing the hiring manager quickly about the knowledge, education, and abilities you have for the job.

When you apply for a job, most companies will have an Application Tracking System (ATS).  The ATS looks for keywords that can often be found in the job posting description.  A good way to check on whether your resume is ready to send out to potential employers is to see how many keywords your resume has compared to the job description.  Then adjust your resume accordingly.  Be aware that if you copy a job posting word-for-word, hiring managers will know and they will not like it.

So what is the right number of skill bullets?  9 – 12 MAX, listed  in 3 columns.  If you do not have 9-12 Hard Skills, then you will list soft skills instead.

Soft Skills relate to your character, work ethic, personal attributes and how you interact with others.  These skills can be learned (though not in a formal setting like hard skills) and they will vary from person to person.  A person who obtains a certification, by working hard and passing the test, still may not have the soft skills need for the job.  For example, someone may become certified in Human Resources and be able to add HRCI Certified to his/her resume, but may not be a good communicator and leader.  Some examples of soft skills are as follows:

– Communication
– Mentor / Motivator
– Leadership
– Team Building
– Critical Thinking
– Problem Solving
– Organization
– Multitasking
– Results Oriented
– Trainable

Soft Skills are still very important and I always add them when editing a resume.  They just should not be the only ones you put on the resume. There should be a balance.  For someone in sales, good soft skills in communication and team leadership would be required.

Hard and Soft Skills are both important to having your resume be read and getting you to the interview.  Listing skills and expertise that are specific to the job can and will make a huge difference.  If you are not getting calls and wondering what you could do to edit your resume, start by looking at the skills you have listed for yourself and how they line up with jobs you are applying for.  You may be surprised to find that this could be the very thing standing between you and that interview you wanted!

                  – Jena Muller

Trident Transitions Veteran Foundation 
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