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What are soft and hard skills?

Learn how to apply soft and hard skills to your CV and cover letter


You may have heard of the terms ‘soft skills’ and ‘hard skills’ when people talk about employment, but what do they mean and how can you apply them to your job search?

Soft skills vs. hard skills

Soft skills are personality-oriented skills, such as teamwork and patience. Scientists believe that these skills are related to the right side of the brain, which is where your emotional responses are.

Whereas scientists believe that hard skills are related to the left side of the brain, which is where your logical responses are. Hard skills are quantifiable abilities, such as completing a degree or learning a specific skill (e.g. being able to speak a different language).

Soft skills are often referred to as ‘people skills’ or ‘interpersonal and intrapersonal skills’, because of the way you use these skills in terms of relating to and interacting with other people.

Soft skills examples:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Problem solving
  • Motivation
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Patience
  • Work ethic
  • Persuasion
  • Creativity
  • Having a positive attitude

Hard skills are defined by a specific, teachable ability that can be measured, for example your English or Maths qualifications/level. Hard skills are the qualifications you put on your CV or cover letter to allow potential employers to see whether you have their desired skills required to succeed in the role.

Hard skills examples:

  • Measurable qualifications (a degree or certificate in a specific subject)
  • Being able to speak a foreign language
  • Computer skills
  • Data analysis
  • Typing speed
  • Machine operation

Applying soft and hard skills to your job search

Both hard and soft skills are essential and desirable for a variety of jobs. The skills that you should possess will differ depending on the role, however if you demonstrate a balance of both then your CV and candidacy will be more appealing for potential employers.

When applying soft and hard skills to your CV and cover letter, you should always ensure that you tailor the skills and examples of those (primarily for soft skills) to the specific role. By doing so, you show employers the most relevant details about you and you also show that you understand what the role requires from the candidate.

For example, if you are applying for a care assistant role, which requires you to have, the below qualities:

  • an NVQ level 3
  • medication admin experience with a relevant qualification
  • team player
  • good at communicating

The first two are qualifications that you possess (i.e. the hard skills) and the last two are personality-oriented (i.e. the soft skills). The two hard skills can be detailed in your CV, whilst the two soft skills can be included in your cover letter with relevant examples of when you were a great team player and showed strong communication skills.