Why hard skills matter

Hard skills matter more than you might think in your job search. If you don’t have the hard skills required by potential employers, your job search will suffer.

What is a hard skill?

A hard skill is one that can be learned. For example, a hard skill for a technical writer is Madcap Flare or Adobe FrameMaker. Not to be confused with a soft skill, which is more like behaviors, such as persuasion or collaboration.

Why hard skills matter

When you apply for a job, many employers first filter applicants by hard skills. In fact, most companies have an application tracking system (ATS) that does just that, without any human intervention at all. If your skillset doesn’t match those in the job posting, it’s the equivalent of your resume going straight to the trash.

Even if a company doesn’t use an ATS or prefers to involve a human along the way (perhaps even meeting a hiring manager at a career fair), one of the first professional evaluations to occur is a review of your hard skills. If you have what they need, your chances of getting that job just increased.

How do you know if your resume was thrown away?

You won’t hear back from the employer. While some companies do send a courtesy email indicating that they aren’t pursing your candidacy, if you don’t even make it past the hard skills filter, you probably won’t hear back at all.

The job matching conundrum

In my discussions with hiring mangers at job fairs, I always ask them what skills they desire the most. Ironically, they nearly always list soft skills. Such as, being a hard worker or attention to detail.  Hard skills have rarely made the list.

Let’s imagine a world without an ATS for a moment. So, still think you’d get the job? Well, the reality is, even if you do get an interview, you will be compared to other candidates with similar desired soft skills. Who will get the offer? Most likely, the person with the closest hard skills match.

How do I get hard skills?

If you are in a role now that allows you to investigate new technologies, get on it! Educate yourself, watch YouTube videos, talk to other people who use the product. Spearhead an initiative to implement the latest and greatest. Never miss an opportunity to learn something new.

If you are a job seeker, also educate yourself. Look for volunteer opportunities that use specific products that you need on your resume. Be selective and create a win-win situation for you and the organization. Join an industry-specific group to increase your exposure to product experts. And, of course, make sure to emphasize your willingness to learn and how quick you’ll be to potential employers.


While most employers have told me they seek specific soft skills, the entry to barrier will be your hard skills. Without the hard skills employers need, your job search will struggle. Make the most of your career by staying on top of industry trends and taking advantage of any opportunity to add a new product to your hard skillset.


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