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Describing Hard Skills On a Resume

Hard skills are those skills which are very easy to teach and measure, with well defined right and wrong answers. This includes mathematics, computer programming, basic engineering principles, legal knowledge, and many areas of accounting and finance. These are often very specific (to a particular industry, technology, or business activity) and highly measurable. For example, computer programming skills may be closely associated with a particular technology platform (Linux vs Windows).

Hard skills can be a bit tricky on a resume, requiring a delicate balancing act. Many jobs have specific required hard skills - often in the form of degrees, certifications, or experience working with specific technologies. For example, it will be difficult to get a senior finance post without a CPA or MBA credential. It would be unlikely to get an interview for a web developer position without experience using HTML and Javascript. So you absolutely need to "check the box".

The tricky part comes when you have to figure out what to do with all of the OTHER hard skills in your background. This is where many candidates get off track and lose their audience. Suppose, for example, you are applying for a web development job and have twenty years of diverse database experience in small manufacturing companies. For those who haven't seen a manufacturing IT resume, this frequently turns into a quarter page list of different software. Unfortunately, this often works against you - losing your audience or worse, making your skills sound dated. So what you need to do is very specific on the required hard skills and summarize the rest of your hard skills at a higher level. For example: Three years of web development and twenty years of broader development experience.

What Are Hard Skills?

Basically any skill that can be reduced to a testable body of knowledge, often with third party certification such as degrees and industry credentials.

Some common examples include:

Important - remember, in many cases, you are still just "checking the box". While your hard skills may qualify you for a job, you will frequently need to explain how your soft skills set you apart from the other qualified candidates. So be ready to explain how you're a great team player with a strong eye for detail and focus on quality (if that's what they want), in addition to being a certified mechanic for that particular piece of equipment.

Demonstrating Hard Skills On A Resume

This is one area where a simple list of credentials and experience works well. The tricky part is setting yourself apart from everyone who claims to have the same experience. You can do this in a couple of ways:

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