Acquiring hard skills for your resume

Career Opportunities

For a long time, hard skills were a mystery to me. Should I list my knowledge of ISO Standards under certificates or skills? Do basic Excel skills or Adobe Suite proficiency count?

Here’s the deal: Hard skills are specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured, such as programming, data analysis, or foreign language proficiency. These skills are typically acquired through formal education, training programs, or specific work experience. They are essential for performing a job and are often listed in the job descriptions or qualifications sections of job postings.

Pro Tip: These skills are your keywords. So, if you’re applying this summer for a position as a Junior Analyst or Entry-Level Consultant, they will likely expect to see some hard skills on your CV. Which ones? Stay tuned to find out.

Contrasting Hard Skills and Soft Skills

The primary difference between hard skills and soft skills lies in their nature. While hard skills are about specific technical abilities, soft skills relate to interpersonal interactions and personality traits, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. Hard skills are often quantifiable and can be demonstrated via certifications or performances on tests, whereas soft skills are subjective and evaluated through observations and interactions.

Certificates vs. Hard Skills on a resume

When preparing a resume, it’s crucial to distinguish between certificates and hard skills. Certificates are formal recognitions of a completed course or program and should be listed under a dedicated “Certifications” section. In contrast, hard skills should be included in the “Skills” section or embedded within the job experience descriptions, showcasing how these skills were applied in practical settings.

Let’s talk about John, a recent graduate with a certificate in Digital Marketing from an online course. While he lists this certification under a “Certifications” section on his resume, he also highlights his hard skills in SEO and Google Analytics under the “Skills” section, while demonstrating how he applied these in his internship to increase his previous employer’s website traffic by 20% in his “Work Experience” field.

Acquiring Hard Skills at XAMK

XAMK offers a plethora of programs where students can acquire hard skills. For example, an IT-related degree will cover hard skills like programming in various languages (Java, Python), database management, and cybersecurity. An Engineering program might focus on skills such as CAD software, circuit design, or thermodynamics.

Here’s a practical tip: Always tailor your hard skills to fit the job you are applying for. If you’re eyeing a role in graphic design, hone your skills in Adobe Creative Suite and build a portfolio. If data science intrigues you, master Python or R and work on projects that can showcase your analytical prowess, such as analyzing large datasets to uncover market trends.

Some universally relevant hard skills include:

  • Data analysis (using software like Excel, SPSS, or R)
  • Project management (familiarity with tools like MS Project, Asana, or Trello)
  • Technical writing
  • Software proficiency (Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office)
  • Digital marketing (SEO, PPC advertising)

Specific Hard Skills for the sustainability field

As I am an environmental engineer alumni, cannot let you go without some field-related knowledge. In the realm of sustainability, hard skills are particularly specialized:

  • Reporting and Compliance Frameworks: Understanding of GRI Standards, GHG Protocol, ISO standards (such as ISO 14001 and ISO 50001), and compliance software like Enablon or Intelex.
  • Data Analysis Programs: Proficiency in using SPSS, SAS, R, or Python to analyze environmental data.
  • Sustainability Assessment Tools: Experience with LCA software like SimaPro or GaBi Software for environmental impact assessment.
  • GIS and Remote Sensing Tools: Skills in using ArcGIS or QGIS for spatial analysis, important for roles in environmental consulting and urban planning.
  • Renewable Energy Tools: Familiarity with energy simulation tools like RETScreen or HOMER Energy, crucial for projects in renewable energy sectors.

Understanding and developing these hard skills can significantly enhance a student’s employability and effectiveness in the sustainability field, aligning their capabilities with the technical demands of today’s job market. I wish you luck this summer!

Xamk is involved in Talent Boost work, aiming to advance employment and attachment of international talents to Finland. For more information, do not hesitate to contact talentboost(at)

Daria Chekalskaia,
Production Assistant of and Environmental Engineer