Nowadays a lot of vacancies contain the terms hard and human skills. Yet not everybody knows what they mean, or even what the difference between the two is. If you want to be more confident as an applicant, it’s wise to carefully express your skill set on your CV. Karl Bladt, senior consultant with staffing specialist Walters People, explains how to mention them on your CV.
It’s important to understand what hard- and human skills exactly are, and what the difference is. Karl: “A hard skill is simply something you can learn or optimize through education, training, or experience. These are technical competences. Human skills on the other hand, can be linked with personality traits. It’s about the traits that make the employee or applicant who they are.”
Soft or human?
Karl clarifies: "Nowadays we speak of human skills, but that was not always the case. Previously, these competencies were called 'soft skills'. But I don't think this term is appropriate. It has a somewhat negative connotation. After all, there is nothing 'soft' about the skills. Skills like flexibility, empathy, etc. are not 'soft' but 'human'. The idea that hard and human skills are total opposites is also inaccurate. In the first place, they are complementary competencies. An employee who only has hard skills will do his job less efficiently than someone who has both."
Companies still too often miss out on their ideal leaders because not enough attention is paid to those human skills. They are crucial interpersonal qualities that go hand in hand with hard skills. "Fortunately, things are gradually improving.," says Karl. Organisations are increasingly recognising the importance of human skills. It is therefore particularly important to include both your hard skills and your human skills on your CV.
But why are these so important? You need the hard skills, which are acquired through training and education to fulfil your daily tasks. “But human skills are equally important” indicates Karl. “Our character traits make us who we are, and therefore how we act in the workplace.”
As a recent graduate, what skills should you include on your CV, or what should you emphasise in a job interview? There are a few competences that are indispensable on your CV and, in addition, they will score well. Some examples of hard skills you can highlight are language skills and IT skills. As a finance professional for example, you can add financial and analytical skills. A few examples of human skills: purposiveness, flexibility, communicative, sense of initiative, inquisitive, …
Knowing what your talents are and trying to point them out is the first step. But making them stand out takes some extra effort. Karl shares a few more tips:
1. Keep it relevant. The hard skill ‘expertise in analytical methods’ is less important when you apply for a job in communication, than for a job in accountancy or sales
2. Don’t exaggerate when listing your skills. Especially as a graduate, you can lose credibility when mentioning too many. In addition, your talents might lose some of their power
3. There is no better way to display your hard skills, than to describe your work experience
4. Make sure there is enough variety between hard skills and human skills on your CV.
Want to know more?
Read our tips to prepare your CV and motivation letter and apply to one of our latest jobs.