What Are Technical Job Skills?

Technical job skills, sometimes referred to as hard skills, are specific talents and expertise an individual possesses that help them perform a certain task or job. These skills differ from soft skills, which instead describe character and personality traits.

Technical skills are abilities an individual acquires through practice and learning, although a person may bring an inherent propensity for a certain skill. An individual who possesses a particular proficiency for coding, for instance, would have a sought-after technical skill as a job candidate at a software or technology company.

Key Takeaways

  • Technical skills are practical abilities that an employee possesses that help a firm achieve its functions.
  • These skills are obtained and honed through education, practice, and repetition, and may be either manual (e.g. sewing) or cognitive (e.g. accounting).
  • Unlike "soft skills," people can prove their technical competencies by taking an aptitude test or providing certification, a degree, an apprenticeship, or work experience.

Understanding Technical Job Skills

Technical job skills are ideal to list on the skill section of a resume because they shine a light on abilities and strengths. However, it is important to realize not all technical skills at an individual’s disposal should be listed. The list should be tailored to fit the job. This gives the individual a greater chance of getting hired.

New or prospective employees may be subject to an aptitude test to measure their proficiency at various technical skills and abilities. Aptitude tests assume that individuals have inherent strengths and weaknesses, and have a natural inclination toward success or failure in specific areas based on their innate characteristics. Note that an aptitude test does not test knowledge or intelligence; only a particular skill or propensity. Therefore, it is not a test for which a person can study.

Employees with technical job skills are referred to as skilled labor, and may be contrasted with unskilled labor.

Technical Skills vs. Soft Skills

On job applications, cover letters, resumes, and in-person during the interview process, employers seek out applicants with both hard and soft skills. Hard, or technical, skills are those abilities or skill sets that are teachable and can be quantified easily. Examples of hard skills include certificates or degrees in specific disciplines; mastery or fluidity in a foreign language; efficient operation of specific machinery; and the ability to generate computer programs.

Soft skills differ from hard skills in that they are subjective and can be incredibly difficult to quantify. Soft skills are inherent skills relating to an individual’s character or personality. These skills are sometimes referred to as “interpersonal skills” or “people skills.” Examples of soft skills include effective communication; working well with others; time management; the ability to be persuasive; flexibility; and patience.

What Employers Want

Technical job skills play a vital role in getting hired. Certain hard skills are necessary for a variety of jobs, and some positions require a specific set or combination of these skills. However, some of the more basic or intermediate types of technical skills are fairly easy for an employer to teach to a new employee. Soft skills, because they are essentially inherent, are extremely difficult to teach. In some cases, soft skills cannot be taught.

For this reason, employers constantly look for potential employees with a mix of technical and soft skills that will allow them to complete tasks in a fast and efficient way. Because customer service/satisfaction is one of the most important aspects for any company or organization, soft skills are often considered of greater value.

In-Demand Technical Job Skills

  • Programming and coding: Programming and coding skills are not just for developers. These skills are also relevant for IT staff, customer service teams, and project managers that need to support customers or coordinate projects. Any IT graduate will be more valuable to an employer from the outset if they know how to code.
  • Project Management: The ability to effectively marshal resources, people, and budgets is one of the best technical skills that you can have. Project managers work in virtually every industry, from construction to digital design. A qualified project manager can deliver projects more efficiently, use resources cost-effectively and deploy the right teams to complete work. A skilled project manager will save a company money, prompt the resolution of problems, and help anticipate future issues.
  • Data Analysis: Data analysis provides businesses with the vital information they need to retain market share and build their competitive advantage. It can be a complex task, but good data analysis can result in more effective sales and marketing operations, increased opportunities to generate revenue, and greater operational efficiency.
  • Information Security: Data breaches can have a devastating impact on a business, from loss of business to irreparable damage to a brand. As such, demand is increasing for technical security specialists.
  • Design: Designers need to master a number of technical skills, from software such as Photoshop to the tools they use to create wireframes. Technical skills such as a working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are also useful.
  • Content and SEO: Today's writing skills go much further than simply using a word processor to create a great piece of content. Writers also need to have serious digital skills. They need to understand content management systems, search engine optimization (SEO), and even know how to put together a website or blog.

Example of Technical Job Skills

Accounting is a profession that requires a fairly rigid set of technical skills. In addition to knowing the ins and outs of accounting practice and tax law, familiarity with industry-specific software, such as Great Plains, QuickBooks, Peachtree, SAP Software, and tax preparation software, is also often required these days.

Accountants need to know how to prepare and interpret financial statements and other accounting reports, develop efficient financial reporting mechanisms, and plan and implement accounting controls.

Note that some of the other skills accountants need might be categorized as soft skills. They must be prepared to communicate effectively with regulators, deal with external auditors, and stay updated on current issues and changes in industry regulations.