Everything There’s To Know: Hard Skills Versus Soft Skills

Graduate jobs, Advice

August 24, 2021

Recruiters for popular internship programmes or graduate jobs at big companies sometimes have to go through hundreds and even thousands of applications from students looking to get a foot in the door. So as an international student how do you make yours stand out?


Luckily, the answer is simple: use your skills. The job market is more competitive than ever, so if you want your internship or graduate job application to stand out, you really need to clearly demonstrate you have the hard and soft skills necessary to add value to the company.


But what are hard and soft skills and which skills are employers looking for from international applicants? Here’s everything you need to know about hard and soft skills, including which skills are most in-demand for internationals right now.


What are Hard Skills?

Generally speaking, hard skills are skills that you’ve developed with the help of specific knowledge or training. A good way of figuring out whether something is a hard skill is by asking yourself: is this something I learnt how to do at school, in university or on the job? Have I achieved a goal or mastered this skill through practice? Could I prove my skills by taking an exam or test?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then chances are it’s a hard skill. Some good examples include:
Bus driving
Fluency in a foreign language
Editing and proofreading
Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Website development

What are soft skills?


While hard skills are all about what you can do at work, soft skills tend to be the personality traits and qualities that determine how you approach that work. The big one to look out for is interpersonal skills, which essentially means how you relate and communicate with the people around you.

Here are some examples of specific soft skills that you should include on your CV (but only if you can back it up with examples of when you demonstrated each skill!)
Time management

What’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills?


The big difference between hard and soft skills is that hard skills require technical knowledge of your trade or industry, while soft skills are built over many years through personal and professional experiences. Hard, job-specific skills will vary depending on your industry and specialisms, but for example if you’re a labourer, a relevant hard skill would be forklift driving.


On the other hand, though soft skills are a little more abstract in their definition, don’t be fooled, because they’re just as important. What ‘soft skills’ really means is skills that are trickier to define. Hard skills can be proved using tests, making them clear cut and obvious. Soft skills, meanwhile, are more abstract, meaning they’re both harder to learn and harder to prove.


Furthermore, some skills can be both hard and soft depending on how you use them. For example, the ability to communicate clearly in written form is a soft skill if you’re only using your skill to write emails to colleagues. But if you’re interviewing for a role as a copywriter, marketer or journalist, writing will be a core responsibility of your role, meaning it becomes a hard skill.


Why are hard and soft skills important?


Hard and soft skills go hand in hand when applying for jobs or internships, and are equally important in their own ways. And if a job applicant demonstrates all the soft skills necessary to be a good employee, employers tend to be more willing to teach the hard skills.


While recruiters are of course looking for someone with the relevant hard skills and knowledge to do the job, they also want to find an employee who has the necessary soft skills to integrate into their existing team and work well with others.


You should always try and slip in some examples of times you’ve demonstrated a range of hard and soft skills during any interview as it shows the hiring team that you’re a well-rounded applicant.


Top hard and soft skills for 2021


At the end of the day, potential employers are looking for candidates they trust can complete tasks AND work effectively with others and grow within the company.


You really can’t go wrong with a combination of hard and soft skills. Plus, with more companies than ever requiring employees to work from home at least some of the time, it’s a great time to show you have good initiative and can work independently.

Planning on updating your CV but not sure which skills to include? Here are some of the most desirable hard and soft skills for international students and graduates in the UK right now.
Critical thinking
Active listening
Knowledge of social media
Customer service
Presentation skills
Graphic design
UI/UX design

At Student Circus, we’re here to help international students secure their dream jobs in the UK. Find out more, including how we can help you, by clicking here.

Written by Talya Honebeek

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

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