What Is a Hard Skill?
Hard skills are specific and measurable abilities that an employee needs to do their job effectively. Learn more about hard skills.
Hard skills are specific, measurable abilities and knowledge that employees gain through education, training, and experience. They are typically job-specific and can be easily quantified and evaluated. Some examples of hard skills include programming, data analysis, accounting, graphic design, and language proficiency.
Hard skill vs. soft skill
Hard skills are tangible and quantifiable, whereas soft skills are personal attributes and qualities that are more qualitative. As such, hard skills are typically easier to measure using objective assessment methods, while soft skills may require more subjective testing or observation.
Both hard and soft skills are essential for employee success. The relative importance of each will depend on the specific job, industry, and organizational needs where the employee works.
Why are hard skills important?
Hard skills are important for a number of reasons:
They directly contribute to an employee’s ability to perform specific tasks associated with their job.
They ensure that employees are able to execute their duties efficiently and effectively.
They’re an important factor that employers consider during the hiring process.
The ability to demonstrate that they have the right hard skills to perform in a job can help candidates stand out from the crowd.
As employees acquire new hard skills or further develop the hard skills they have, they often become more valuable to their employers—this can be an important consideration during promotion and succession planning.
They can help employees adapt to changes in the workplace and in their industries—employees with adaptable hard skills are better positioned to move into new roles or pivot as new technologies and market disruptions emerge.
The most important hard skills for employees to possess will vary based on the industry they work in and their specific job roles. In many cases, employers will look for a combination of hard and soft skills when hiring and evaluating employees. The importance of each category may vary based on specific job requirements and the organization’s culture.
For example, a software developer who is an individual contributor at an organization would primarily be assessed based on their coding abilities. Soft skills like communication or leadership abilities might be less important in this role and, therefore, weighted less during an assessment.
How do employers assess hard skills?
Employers assess hard skills through various methods, including:
The resume and application. These documents typically contain a list of relevant education, certifications, training programs, and previous work experience.
Interviews. HR professionals, recruiters, and hiring managers may ask targeted questions during the interview process to assess applicants’ hard skills—asking about specific projects, achievements, or technical expertise.
Skill-based assessments. These assessments may include coding challenges, written tests, exercises, or simulations.
Technology can play an important role in hard skill assessment, allowing companies to collect and analyze data to provide insights into hard skills gaps and areas for improvement. They can aid in the identification of the need for reskilling or upskilling.