ToC

No matter what job you’re applying for, you’ll need to demonstrate the right hard skills on your CV to get hired.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are specialised abilities needed for particular tasks or jobs. They’re usually measurable and are developed through education, training, and hands-on experience.

Hard skills, including technical skills, are essential for career success because they’re required to perform the tasks needed to do a job properly. Employers will be looking to see certain hard skills on your CV, so it’s important to list them clearly.

A blue-themed infographic with a hard skills definition in the header, and examples of hard skills in blocks with icons the body.

In demand hard skills by industry

Developing in-demand hard skills will help you stand out and boost your career.

To help give your application an edge, we’ve listed the most sought-after hard skills for each of the following industries:

1. Administration hard skills

Though soft skills like time management remain essential to administrative work, digital skills are becoming increasingly important too. In fact, embracing digital transformation will be key to a successful HR career.

The following hard skills will make you stand out if you’re pursuing a career in admin:

  1. Virtual meeting platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams)
  2. Data entry and analysis (Excel, Google Sheets)
  3. Project management software (Asana, Monday)
  4. Collaboration tools (Slack, Trello)
  5. Basic understanding of cybersecurity practices (e.g., two-factor authentication)
  6. Digital filing systems (SharePoint)
  7. Customer relationship management (CRM) software
  8. AI tools (Microsoft Power Automate, Tableau)

2. Business and finance hard skills

Accountants, investment managers, and other business and finance professionals need a range of hard skills to do their jobs properly.

The rising demand for green finance professionals makes sustainability, ESG, and carbon markets extremely valuable areas to specialise in that can help you accelerate your professional development.

Developing the following hard skills will make your business or finance CV really stand out:

  1. Green, sustainable, and responsible finance (sustainability and climate risk)
  2. Wealth management tools (Morningstar Direct or Empower)
  3. Big data & data analysis (e.g., Python for analysing financial data)
  4. FinTech skills (e.g., familiarity with digital payment technologies)
  5. Blockchain and cryptocurrency skills
  6. Bookkeeping software (QuickBooks, FreeAgent, and Xero)
  7. Financial modelling
  8. Risk management software (MATLAB)

3. Computing and tech hard skills

The tech sector is poised to start growing again in 2024. However, it’s also suffering from a worsening talent shortage, meaning that digital hard skills can be a valuable addition to your CV in any industry.

Here are some of the most important emerging hard skills in computing and tech:

  1. Programming languages (Python, JavaScript, and Swift)
  2. Cloud computing services (AWS, Google Cloud Platform)
  3. Cybersecurity measures (firewalls, penetration testing)
  4. Machine learning and artificial intelligence
  5. Network and information security
  6. Mobile and web development frameworks (Express.js, Django)
  7. DevOps tools (Docker, Kubernetes)
  8. Data visualisation tools (Tableau, Power BI)

4. Creative and media hard skills

The entertainment and media market is projected to grow into 2031, with increasing career opportunities for creatives who invest in relevant technical skills.

In addition to core skills, such as storytelling, specialised writing, and material knowledge, UK employers are looking for creative professionals with the following hard skills on their CVs:

  1. Digital content creation (Adobe Creative Suite)
  2. Video editing and production (Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere)
  3. Graphic design and web design (e.g., UX/UI principles)
  4. Social media management and analytics tools (Loomly, Hootsuite)
  5. SEO and SEM strategies
  6. Photography and videography techniques
  7. Animation software (Blender, Maya)
  8. Podcast production

5. Health care hard skills

Given the global shortage of health care workers, a wide range of medical jobs are in high demand. Many of the hard skills health care employers look for are developed as part of your training.

However, a growing need for digital literacy and certain core health care skills means that the following hard skills can significantly boost your CV’s appeal to employers:

  1. Clinical skills (patient assessment, clinical diagnosis)
  2. Medical coding and billing software (AthenaHealth)
  3. Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems
  4. Telehealth software (Cliniko)
  5. Up-to-date knowledge of healthcare regulations (e.g., transition from European Union CE marking to UKCA mark)
  6. Pharmaceutical expertise
  7. Laboratory information systems (LIS)

6. Engineering hard skills

Sustainable practices and advances in technology are motivating demand growth behind some of the most popular engineering hard skills. Knowledge in the following areas will look great on any engineering CV:

  1. CAD and CAM software proficiency (SolidWorks)
  2. Project management tools (Microsoft Project)
  3. Updated knowledge of manufacturing processes (Lean Engineering)
  4. Sustainable design and energy efficiency
  5. Robotics and automation (e.g., familiarity with ROS or Cobots)
  6. Material science
  7. Understanding of IOT and smart infrastructure
  8. Finite element analysis (FEA) software
  9. Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions

7. Manufacturing hard skills

Manufacturing skills are in high demand as labour shortages continue, with thousands of hard-to-fill vacancies remaining open. Manufacturing professionals with knowledge of tech-oriented hard skills such as robotics and 3D printing are in highly sought.

These manufacturing hard skills are particularly likely to capture employer interest:

  1. Operational knowledge of manufacturing machinery and tools
  2. Lean manufacturing principles
  3. Quality control and safety standards
  4. Supply chain management software
  5. 3D printing and CAD design
  6. Robotics and PLC programming
  7. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
  8. Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software

8. Retail hard skills

While customer service skills remain key to most retail jobs, a shift towards online shopping and contactless payments has increased the value of relevant hard skills, such as those listed below:

  1. E-commerce platforms (Shopify, Adobe Commerce)
  2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems
  3. Inventory management software (Sortly)
  4. Digital marketing and social media
  5. Visual merchandising
  6. Data analysis for sales trends
  7. Point of sale (POS) systems
  8. Customer analytics

9. Science and research hard skills

Science and research are crucial fields for keeping pace with technological advancement and innovation. If you’re interested in forging the future, these hard skills will strengthen your science or research CV:

  1. Statistical analysis and software (R, SPSS)
  2. Laboratory techniques and safety protocols
  3. Scientific writing and grant writing
  4. Data visualisation tools
  5. Research methodology and ethics
  6. Biotechnology techniques
  7. Bioinformatics tools

10. Travel and tourism hard skills

There’s strong demand for professionals who can blend traditional hospitality skills with new technology. In particular, these skills make for a strong tourism CV:

  1. Booking and reservation systems (Amadeus, Sabre)
  2. Customer service skills
  3. Sustainable travel practices
  4. Digital marketing and social media for tourism
  5. Language skills
  6. Cultural awareness and sensitivity
  7. Travel management software (Concur)

Examples of hard skills for students

If you’re still in school, here’s a list of hard skills you’ve likely developed during the course of your studies:

  1. Research skills (methodologies, techniques, databases)
  2. Data analysis (statistical tools and software, interpreting and presenting data, spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets)
  3. Writing (essay and report writing, thesis writing)
  4. Presentation software (PowerPoint, Google Slides)
  5. Programming languages (Python, Java, C++)
  6. Digital literacy (digital tools and platforms like Google Workspace, Microsoft Office Suite, etc.)
  7. Project management tools (Trello, Asana)
  8. Graphic design (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Canva)
  9. Foreign language proficiency
  10. Social media literacy

3 ways to highlight your hard skills for employers 

Providing specific, measurable examples of your hard skills will help you convince the employer that you can do the job well. Here are three ways to highlight your skills at different stages of the application process.

1. Emphasise your hard skills on your CV

When you’re listing your hard skills on your CV, prioritise the ones the employer is looking for.

Start by checking the job advert to see what the employer is specifically looking for. For example, the hard skills requested in this job advert are underlined in green:

A job advert for a senior software engineer role with hard skills underlined in green.
Employers often list hard skills under headers like ‘Key responsibilities’.

Recruiters go through CVs quickly, so add your hard skills to all of your CV sections to make sure they’re noticed. Add your hard skills to your CV’s:

Or if you’re not sure what skills to include for your specific situation, using an online CV builder is an easy fix.

Builders let you:

  • pick your favourite design
  • select from pre-written hard skills customised to the job you’re looking for
  • automatically format and optimise your CV format

2. Promote your hard skills in your cover letter

Including key hard skills on your cover letter will allow you to outline their value to the employer and explain why you’d be a great candidate for the job in question.

Choose a couple of skills that relate closely to the job you’re applying for and prepare specific examples showing how you’ve applied them in previous jobs. One or two examples is plenty — you don’t want your cover letter to be too long.

For example, if you want to highlight your knowledge of JavaScript, you could mention a specific project you executed using that language and then highlight the positive results the project achieved, like this:

During my previous role at TechUK, I led the development of a new internal tool using JavaScript. The tool was designed to automate data entry processes, significantly reducing manual workload. I implemented advanced JavaScript features to enhance the tool’s efficiency and user interface. As a result, we achieved a 20% reduction in data entry errors and saved the team approximately 20 hours of work per week. This project not only improved operational efficiency but also demonstrated my ability to leverage JavaScript to deliver tangible business outcomes.

This approach works best if you emphasise hard skills that closely relate to the employer’s needs, so consider what knowledge they are asking for before you start describing your skills in detail. A well-aligned cover letter will show an intimate understanding of the job, inspiring confidence in the employer.

3. Demonstrate them in the job interview

Interview questions like ‘Tell me about yourself‘ and ‘What are your biggest strengths?‘ are great opportunities to emphasise your top hard skills to employers.

Prepare a few detailed examples of how you’ve used key skills in previous roles. Relating these examples in the job interview will show the employer that you have practical experience backing up the contents of your CV.

For truly persuasive answers, use a storytelling approach, like the STAR method, that explains the specific actions you took and the benefits that those actions delivered to your previous employer.

Here’s an example answer to ‘What’s your biggest strength?’ that applies this formula effectively:

One of the biggest strengths I could bring to this role is my advanced knowledge of JavaScript, which I can leverage to deliver notable improvements to customer-facing applications like your own. In my last position, I used JavaScript to optimise backend code and implement better data caching strategies. In doing so, I managed to reduce the load time by 50%, significantly enhancing user satisfaction.

Frequently asked questions about hard skills

Here are answers to some more of the most common questions about hard skills:

1. What are 5 hard skills and soft skills?

Here are 5 examples of hard and soft skills:

Hard skillsSoft skills
  1. SQL database management
  2. AutoCAD
  3. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  4. Digital photography
  5. Technical writing
    1. Emotional intelligence
    2. Conflict resolution
    3. Creativity
    4. Leadership
    5. Attention to detail

      2. What are hard skills everyone should have?

      Here are hard skills everyone should have:

      • Computer skills
      • Internet research
      • Digital communication
      • Device setup and maintenance
      • Familiarity with AI technology (ChatGPT, communicating with AI customer service)

      The hard skills listed above are essential to living and working in the UK. For instance, no matter what job you work in, you should be able to operate a computer and find basic information on the internet.

      3. Which hard skill is best for the future?

      Any skill related to AI is best for the future. With the launch of practical AI applications like ChatGPT, more and more jobs are being impacted by automation.

      If you’re looking to future-proof your skill set, learn all you can about AI — such as what prompts to use, how to code AI programs, and how to work with AI hardware.

      4. How do you improve your hard skills?

      To improve your hard skills, start by identifying the skills you want to enhance and set clear, achievable goals for each.

      Then, sign up for online courses and workshops, and practise consistently. You can gain hands-on experience with real projects and seek feedback from your workmates or friends to find areas for improvement.

      In addition, it’s important to stay updated with industry developments (you can even follow a relevant work-related subreddit — examples include the UK policing subreddit, teaching subreddit, and Tesco subreddit), network with people in the same job, and tackle challenging tasks to refine your skills further.

      5. What hard skills do I have?

      The easiest hard skills to identify are the ones you hold qualifications for. For example, if you’re a mental health nurse, you may be Dialectical Behaviour Therapy–qualified. So that’s a hard skill you can list on your CV.

      Also think about any software or tools you use every day. For example, you might use a till if you’re a retail assistant, so you can list ‘point of sales systems’ on your CV. If you use QuickBooks frequently as an office manager, that’s something else you can add to your CV.

      Headshot of Corissa Peterson, standing in front of a bush and smiling slightly, with short brown hair.

      Corissa is a Career Counsellor and CV Expert at CV Genius, where she loves equipping others with the tools they need to pursue their dreams. She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Philosophy and a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer with the PARWCC.