The goal of your resume is simple: to show potential employers that you’re the right person for a job. And to be the right person, you’ve got to have the right hard skills.
Hard skills are the specific knowledge or abilities needed to do a job, says Muse career coach Jennifer Smith, founder of Flourish Careers. Hard skills can include your knowledge of specific tools, platforms, or computer programs as well as your ability to perform certain tasks and your familiarity with processes needed to do your job. For example, a designer might need to know how to use Photoshop and design infographics; a financial analyst may be expected to know how to use Microsoft Excel as well as analyze, visualize, and present data; and a music teacher might need to know how to play piano and be familiar with certain teaching methods.
Hard skills are often contrasted with soft skills, which are the qualities and abilities that speak to how a person will do their job and relate to others in their workplace, such as strong work ethic, dependability, empathy, creativity, and communication with coworkers and clients. Hard skills are generally easier to measure and quantify the results of than soft skills, Smith says. (Read more about the differences between hard and soft skills here.)
So how do you know which hard skills are the most important for the job you want? And how do you show them off on a resume?
- What Hard Skills Should You Put on Your Resume?
- How Do You Put Hard Skills on a Resume?
- Example Hard Skills for Your Resume
What Hard Skills Should You Put on Your Resume?
The ultimate source of truth when you’re applying for a position is always the job description. This is because which hard skills you should list on your resume always depends on the specific job. For example, all software engineering jobs likely expect that you know how to code, but a specific job might require that you can use Python and that you be familiar with the Waterfall methodology. You should tailor your resume for each job application and emphasize the relevant experiences and abilities for that position.
“Generally speaking, when analyzing a job description, you will have a sense of what technical skills or domain knowledge is required or preferred in the role,” says Muse career coach Emily Liou, founder of Cultivitae, which helps professionals discover and land their dream jobs. As you read through the job posting, you should highlight any technologies, tasks, or methodologies you come across. They often appear as “required” or “preferred” skills, qualifications, or experience, but you should also note any hard skills you’d need to perform the job duties or responsibilities listed.
If you want additional ideas, you can also talk with or research the Linkedin profiles of people who have done the job you want and see which hard skills they mention, Smith says. This is especially valuable if you can find people who have held the position you want at the company you want to work for.
Once you have the list of hard skills a company is looking for when hiring for a given job, note which ones you have: These are the hard skills that you should highlight on your resume. But be honest with yourself. If you can’t talk about how you’ve used a skill and/or how you learned it, you probably shouldn’t list it.
How Do You Put Hard Skills on a Resume?
Once you know which hard skills you want to put on your resume, you need to think about how you’re going to include them.
Putting your hard skills in a skills section will ensure they’re easily seen by anyone reading your resume. You might place your skills section at the bottom of the page, or you might put it before your work experience depending on your situation. If you’re an entry-level candidate or you’re transitioning careers, for example, leading with your skills might make it more clear how you’re qualified for the job in question. And in some fields—like product management—skills sections are more often placed at the top of the page.
What your skills section looks like and how much resume space it takes up may also depend on your resume format. Most people use a chronological format in which you simply list your skills in your skills section without explanation, though you might consider dividing your skills into categories like “design” or “writing” to make them easier to read.
Here’s an example of how a skills section might look for someone applying for an in-house accounting and payroll position:
Accounting Skills: Budget analysis, cash flow analysis, tax preparation, payroll management, invoice processing
Technical Skills: ADP Workforce Now, QuickBooks, Oracle ERP, Salesforce, Microsoft Excel (VLOOKUP, pivot tables, formulas)
Language Skills: Native Spanish speaker (written and verbal)
But your skills section is just the first step. It tells employers at a glance that you have the hard skills needed for a job, but they still want to see how you’ve used them. This primarily means working your hard skills into the bullet points that describe your past experiences—previous jobs, volunteer positions, activities, projects, and more—and highlighting the outcomes, Smith says. You should also quantify the use and results of your skills by incorporating numbers whenever possible.
For example, if you wanted to show your experience with SEO and related hard skills, you might write a bullet point like this:
- Updated up to 5 old articles a month per SEO best practices using Google Analytics, Search Console, and SEMrush, resulting in an average UV increase of 100% monthly and approximately 50% of updated articles appearing in the top 5 results for targeted keywords.
Additionally, you should be sure to include any certifications you have that reflect relevant hard skills. You might also list related certificates or online courses and, particularly if you’re early in your career, you could work your hard skills into your education section. If a certain hard skill is emphasized in the job description or valuable to an employer, you might consider including it in a resume summary or headline as well, Smith says.
As you add hard skills to your resume, keep in mind that it will likely need to pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is a program that scans and organizes applications. These systems also make it possible to search large batches of resumes for keywords, and “recruiters will type in specific hard skills to find the best qualified matches,” Liou says. So be sure to phrase your hard skills the same way the job description does—don’t just say you’ve managed social media for a company if they’re looking for someone who’s run a Twitter account, for example.
Example Hard Skills for Your Resume
Here are some examples of hard skills divided into categories. Note that many skills could fit into more than one category and that this is far from an exhaustive list. But it should help you get started thinking about what types of hard skills employers might be looking for. Just make sure they’re relevant for the job you want before including them on your resume. (For an even more extensive list of example skills by role, read this.)
Data and Analytical Skills
Data and analytical skills might be the core of your ability to do your job if you're in a field like research, data science, or financial analysis. Or they might be how you quantify and evaluate your success and plan for the future if you work in marketing, sales, or any other field where processing information is important.
Some examples are:
- Business Analysis
- Customer Analysis
- Data Analysis
- Data Engineering
- Data Mining
- Data Reporting
- Data Presentation
- Data Visualization
- Financial Analysis
- Market Analysis
- Statistical Tests
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis
- Web Analytics
Hard Communication Skills
Communication skills might be the first thing you think of when naming soft skills. But communication skills can be hard skills when they’re very specific tasks and/or require a knowledge base to do them, Liou says. The ability to speak another language is also considered a hard skill, and it’s one of the few skills you might consider listing no matter what job you apply for.
Some examples are:
- Academic Writing
- Blog Writing
- Content Writing
- Editing and Proofreading
- Grant Writing
- Press Release Writing
- Proposal Writing
- Research and Reporting
- Technical Report Writing
These skills describe the tasks you know how to do to fulfill the responsibilities, or perform the function, of your job. Every job requires functional skills, but which functional skills you need vary widely.
Some examples are:
- A/B Testing
- Account Management
- Classroom Management
- Conversion Rate Optimization
- Creating Slide Decks
- Database Administration
- Driving a Type or Class of Vehicle
- IV Insertion
- Lead Generation
- Market Research
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Social Media Management
- Tax Preparation
- User Experience (UX) Research
- Website Design
Methodologies are set processes for completing tasks, or a series of tasks, within a job. If a job description mentions that the organization uses a certain methodology, framework, strategy, style, or other set standards or principles to accomplish tasks, it’s worth noting when you have experience in it, even if it’s not one of the job requirements.
Some examples are:
- Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
- Design Sprint
- Inbound Marketing
- Inquiry-Based Learning
- Kinesthetic Learning
- Six Sigma
- Style Guides such as AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago, Merriam-Webster, or USGPO (United States Government Publishing Office)
Programming skills—including coding languages—help you build new pieces of technology. They’re a must for anyone in software or web development and related fields, but can also be useful in jobs where you work with tech. For example, if you use a content management system (CMS), knowing HTML might be useful.
Some examples are:
- ADA Accessible Development
- API Development
- Application Development
- Application Scaling
- Database Administration
- Version Control
This category encompasses the programs and applications you have experience using to accomplish tasks or any part of your job (including communicating with colleagues). Listing software that the company mentions in the job description or is widely used in your field is most helpful. But you can also list software that’s similar to what’s mentioned to show that you have a basis from which you could learn the new program. For example, if a company uses Trello as a project management software and you have experience with Airtable, you can include Airtable on your resume. You can also list programs that are especially helpful for a given environment. For instance, knowing how to use Zoom would be appealing to employers with fully or partially remote workforces.
If a program has a wide variety of uses, you should consider including the tasks you can do within it rather than just the name of the tool itself. For example, if a job listing includes building pivot tables in Excel as a job duty, simply writing “Microsoft Excel” on your resume doesn’t tell a recruiter that you can build a pivot table since you may have used the program for a range of other tasks.
Some examples are:
- Accounting Software (such as Sage 50 Accounting or QuickBooks)
- Adobe Creative Cloud (After Effects, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop): You can include related tasks such as video or photo editing, website building, or graphic or web design.
- CMSs (such as WordPress, Drupal, or Squarespace): You can include what tasks you’ve done such as uploading content, building new pages, and troubleshooting issues.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software (such as Salesforce, HubSpot, or NetSuite)
- Data Software (such as Looker, QlikView, or Tableau): You can include what tasks you’ve done such as data visualization or analysis.
- Google Analytics or Search Console
- Google Workspace (Docs, Drive, Forms, Meet, Sheets, Slides): You can include what you’ve done with these applications such as data analysis and visualization using Sheets or coordinating and running meetings through Calendar and Meet.
- Learning Management Systems (such as Blackboard, Canvas, or Google Classroom)
- Microsoft365 (Excel, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Teams, Word): You can include functions within these programs such as creating pivot tables, macros, and formulas or using VLOOKUP in Excel or creating slide decks in PowerPoint.
- Project Management and Collaboration Software (such as Airtable, Asana, Jira, or Trello)
- Social Media Platforms (such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok, or Twitter): You can include related tasks like ad placement, scheduling, creating Stories, or managing livestreams.
Whatever field or industry you’re in, hard skills are key to landing your next gig. They show employers that you can actually do the job they’re hiring for. So showcasing the right ones in the right way on your resume is a must.