Career Development

Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples

March 12, 2021

Key takeaways:

  • Technical skills, or hard skills, are the working knowledge of tools, processes or concepts you need to do a job well.
  • Technical skills are necessary for any job but can be learned easily through certification programs, school or on-the-job training.
  • Look at job postings to determine in-demand hard skills for your role or industry.

Each job you apply for has a set of required skills necessary to perform the role properly. Technical skills involve the knowledge and use of digital or physical tools. There is a wide range of technical skills, which may vary depending on the industry or role you pursue. In this article, we explain what technical skills are, why they are important, what skills employers look for and some common technical software skills.

What are technical skills?

Technical skills are hard skills that often require industry-specific training or knowledge gained either on the job or through educational courses. These skills commonly relate to mathematics, mechanics, information technology and computer science. There are also many other industries today that require strong technical skills to complete the role. For example, an administrative assistant may need to know how to use a scheduling program to schedule managers for meetings and upcoming events.

Other common examples of technical skills include:

  • Programming and coding languages
  • Software program experience
  • Technical writing
  • Operating systems
  • Project and task management tools

Why are technical skills important?

Since the job market can be competitive, knowing how to use different programs, tools and processes can help you stand out from other candidates. Many hiring managers may list requirements for the role in their job posting. If you review the skills and qualifications of the posting before creating your resume, you can list as many relevant skills as possible. This captures the attention of the hiring manager and may lead them to request an interview to learn more about your technical skills and how you would apply them to the role.

Hiring managers also look for applicants with relevant technical skills because this saves them time and money on providing you with training on basic technical skills. They can instead spend this time teaching you more complex technical skills or helping you enhance the skills you have.

What skills do employers look for?

Employers usually categorise technical skills on job posts as required or preferred. Required skills are what employers expect you to have when they hire you. For example, you may wish to apply for a graphic design position, which requires Adobe Photoshop and InDesign skills to know how to edit different images and graphics.

If a job posting lists preferred or desired skills, this means that having these skills would be beneficial, but they may still consider hiring you without them. Even if you do not have these technical skills, the employer could still consider your application and offer you on-the-job training. Having preferred or desired skills can make your application stand out from others who may lack these qualifications.

Examples of common technical skills

The technical skills hiring managers may require or prefer can vary depending on the job field you are applying to. You should research which technical skills are common in your chosen industry to understand what hiring managers may expect from you. Examples of common software skills, according to the industry, can include:

Programming and coding

Since many jobs involve the use of computers, it can be helpful for employees in various industries to know various programming languages and how to code. Some basic programming languages and coding programs that may be beneficial to learn are:

  • Python
  • C#
  • Java
  • C++
  • JavaScript
  • Perl
  • SQL
  • HTML
  • AJAX
  • PHP

Productivity and project management

Effectively managing and organising projects are strong skills you can use in a variety of careers. Knowing how to use different project management and productivity software can help you effectively sort through tasks and stay organised. Common project management and productivity skills include:

  • Planning budgets
  • Scheduling
  • Delegating tasks
  • Task management
  • Planning projects
  • Quality control
  • Quality assurance

Content management skills

Many marketing roles involve working with digital programs and outlets to get their promotional content out to current and potential customers and build awareness for their brand. Because of this, many companies may require their marketing employees to know how to use different tools that help push content out to their audience. Common content management tools and skills are:

  • Social media management tools
  • Automated marketing software
  • Search engine optimisation knowledge and tools
  • Social media platforms
  • Website analytics
  • Website creation tools
  • Content management systems

Ways to improve your technical skills

If you are changing your career or starting a new job, you should consider the technical skills required for the role. You may need to gain new skills or improve on your current skills. Review the job posting to learn what skills they require and prefer. Here are different ways you can develop new skills or enhance the ones you currently have:

  • Enrol in courses at an educational institution
  • Self-studying or online training
  • Learn from a skilled professional
  • On-the-job training

Enrol in courses at an educational institution

Many institutions offer programs to help you gain industry-specific skills. These courses may be available at local universities or trade colleges. Depending on the complexity of the skill or how much knowledge you want to gain, you may have to take more than one course. You may also be able to take the course online if the institution offers it.

Self-studying or online training

There may be books you can order online or electronic books you can download to teach yourself a certain subject and skill. You can also research skills within your specific industry online to find free training and other educational resources. Some online training programs may cost a small fee but can be an efficient tool to help you quickly and easily learn a new skill.

Learn from a skilled professional

Use your connections to try to locate someone who works in the field you are interested in. They can educate you on the skills you need to succeed in your role and provide on-the-job training to help you develop these technical skills. Ask if you can shadow them for a few days to learn the everyday tasks and skills they use for their position.

On-the-job training

If you are interviewing for a role and lack any preferred skills, tell the hiring manager that you are keen to learn them. This can allow you to gain additional direct training to help you gain new skills. Your eagerness to develop new skills may impress hiring managers and help you stand out as well.

How to include technical skills on your resume

When preparing your resume, include a section that highlights your skills. This is where you will highlight your technical skills. Review the job posting and note the required and preferred skills listed. If you have technical skills that align with what the posting asks for, you should include them in the skills section.

You can also include your technical skills on your resume by referencing them throughout the work history section. For example, you could describe your project management duties in a previous work position and how they contributed to your overall success in that role. This provides the hiring manager with a clear idea of how you can apply these skills to their position.

If you lack industry experience, consider what skills you currently have that are transferable to the job you are applying for. On your resume, include the skills you learned in your studies or during your previous role, if relevant. For example, if you learned how to operate Microsoft Excel at your university and are applying for a role that involves regularly researching and inputting data, list this as a technical skill on your resume.

How to include technical skills in cover letters

Your cover letter is a great opportunity to showcase your technical skills and knowledge. Keep your cover letter brief and relevant to the role and its job posting. Choose two or three technical skills to highlight in your cover letter, ensuring the skills you choose are directly related to the job you're applying for.

For each skill you want to include in your cover letter, take time to brainstorm the responsibilities and projects that demonstrate the skill and showcase your expertise in that area. Write one or two sentences for each technical skill.

How to highlight technical skills in an interview

A job interview is another great opportunity to showcase your technical skills and how your skills are a great match for the job for which you are applying. During the interview, make mention of how you've used your technical skills to get results in your previous positions. Be sure to provide examples that clearly demonstrate how you used the technical skill and how it impacted your overall success and performance. This ensures you aren't seen as bragging but rather are simply describing each skill you have to offer.


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