In the workplace, only 15 percent of workers are fired as a result of a lack of basic skills pertaining to their job knowledge, an article on employee expectations from the West Virginia University suggests. Most employees are fired instead due to a lack of people skills, professionalism or communication, also known as soft skills. Hard and soft skills, however, are both essential in the workplace. A solid set of each of these skills create workers who are effective, efficient, successful and primed for growth.

Understanding Hard Skills

Hard skills are the essential, required skills needed to perform a job. They include learned skills and training related to your career or profession. Hard skills are considered tangible skills because they're easily identified and measured with things like tests and exams. When writing a resume or applying for a job, it's essential that you convey hard skills to your prospective employer, such as schooling, degrees, training and certificates.

Understanding Soft Skills

Soft skills are essentially interpersonal or people skills. Although soft skills can be observed easily in people who are effective leaders and communicators, they're not as easily measured. Therefore, soft skills are considered intangible. However, whereas hard skills can't cross every job description or industry, soft skills are universal. As you move from job to job or industry to industry, soft skills are portable. They're the people skills needed to be successful when working with co-workers, customers and clients.


Examples of hard skills include technical, mechanical, administrative or accounting skills. These are the skills that require knowledge of computers, writing, speaking a second language or operating a machine. On the other hand, soft skills can be broken down into three categories: skills that allow you to interact well with co-workers and clients, such as networking, communication; skills that demonstrate work ethic and professionalism, like appropriate dress, enthusiasm and motivation; and critical thinking and problem solving skills. Other soft skills that employers value include self-esteem, self-control, time management, effective decision-making and efficient task prioritization.


Hard and soft skills both play different and important roles within your career. Hard skills are what will spark an employer's attention and get you an interview, while soft skills will help you advance once you're part of the company. One of the bigger mistakes an employee can make is neglecting his soft skills. Soft skills also help management separate potential leaders from other contributors in the company.