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Guide to Basic Technical Skills

By The ZipRecruiter Editors

Technical skills, or "hard skills," are the practical abilities necessary to perform successfully in a job. Nearly every job requires the use of technical skills, which can include knowing how to work with specific software, experience with a process, or proficiency in a programming language.

Technical skills are gained through real-world experience and training. You may find that some technical skills are considered essential in your industry, while others that are more specialized can open up new opportunities for you and boost your earning potential.

Why Technical Skills Matter

Simply put, technical skills are how work gets done. A prospective employer wants to know if you have the technical skills to do the job. Job postings will typically list required qualifications, which include the technical skills the employer considers necessary for a role. The technical skills you possess, whether through experience, education, or both, determine the job opportunities available to you.

Technical Skills: Examples and Selected Definitions

Unlike soft skills, which tend to be applicable across a wide variety of roles, technical skills are specific to industries or job functions. For that reason, the technical skills most important to you depend on your career path. The below examples of technical skills have been sorted into career fields to reflect this.

Software Engineering

Software engineers build computer systems and applications. At tech companies, software engineers create the core product. A great deal of technical know-how is required to work in software engineering, including various coding languages. People pursuing these careers often have computer science degrees or experience from a coding bootcamp. Technical skills required for this career include:

  • Cloud computing

  • Code debugging: Knowledge of debugging tools and techniques is necessary for building stable software.

  • Code testing

  • Data algorithms: A strong understanding of data structures, such as arrays and linked lists, and algorithms, such as sorting and searching algorithms, is important for designing and implementing efficient software solutions.

  • Deployment

  • Operating systems

  • Version control

Programer: Coding Languages Proficiency Required

  • C++

  • Java

  • JavaScript: Used as client-side programming on 97% of websites, JavaScript is often labeled the most popular programming language in the world.

  • Python

  • Ruby on Rails

  • SQL: Structured Query Language is the standard programming language for managing data.

Marketing

Marketing professionals create interest in and demand for a product or service. They use a wide array of tactics to help their companies stand out among competitors, and each of these tactics is a technical skill in itself.

  • Brand strategy

  • Content management systems

  • Copywriting

  • Email marketing

  • Graphic design

  • Media planning: This is the process of selecting the combination and timing media outlets and platforms on which to place paid advertising.

  • Out-of-home advertising

  • Print marketing

  • Social media marketing

  • Search engine optimization: SEO is the process of creating and improving website content toward the goal of generating traffic from search engine results.

Sales

Sales representatives engage with potential customers to facilitate a purchase. There are a number of soft skills especially important in sales — persuasion, active listening, and adaptability, to name a few — but there are also frameworks, software, and techniques that the most successful sales professionals should be familiar with.

  • Buyer research

  • Call intelligence software

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software

  • Objection handling: This skill relates to how salespeople respond to concerns raised by prospective buyers.

  • Prospecting

  • Sales presentations/demonstrations

  • Social selling: This is the practice of building customer relationships via social media channels.

Finance

Careers in finance tend to require four-year or advanced degrees. A company's finances are high-stakes and high-risk, and seeking employees with formal education and certification helps mitigate that risk. Finance professionals should have technical expertise in accounting, economics, and statistics, along with other areas, depending on their career specializations.

  • Cash flow management

  • Financial modeling

  • Financial reporting

  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) compliance

  • Investing

  • Merger/acquisitions analysis

  • Tax Preparation

Product management

Product management is an ever-growing field. Product managers are responsible for setting and executing an end-to-end strategy for a product or product line. Their technical skills help them not only guide the product vision but collaborate cross-functionally to see it through.

Human Resources

Human Resources, or HR, professionals, manage various aspects of personnel within an organization. These responsibilities run the gamut of the employee lifecycle, from recruiting to benefits to offboarding.

  • Compensation and benefits

  • Corporate law

  • Employee relations

  • Employer brand

  • Human resources information software (HRIS): HRIS software, such as ADP, Workday, Paycor, and SAP SuccessFactors, is used by HR departments to facilitate functions including storing employee data, monitoring compliance with labor regulations, and managing benefits.

  • Learning and development

  • Payroll

  • Talent acquisition: While this term is sometimes used interchangeably with recruiting, leading HR industry organization SHRM defines it as dealing with "the strategies, tactics, and processes for identifying, recruiting and retaining the human resources a company needs."

  • Talent management systems (TMS)

Project managers

Project managers guide teams to complete projects, from scoping the work and setting goals to making decisions and debriefing the process. While project management is fairly specialized, people working in this field come with diverse education and experiences. Certifications are available to build and verify proficiency in project managing methodologies.

  • Cost management

  • Documentation: A project plan, project budget, and project schedule are just three of the documents project managers should be well-versed in producing. Each of these has its own format and best practices for what information should be included.

  • Meeting facilitation

  • Project scoping

  • Risk management

  • Task management

Methodologies

Each of these methodologies is a set of principles and best practices for project management. Preferred methodologies differ between different industries and company sizes; project managers should be deeply familiar with the ones they're most likely to encounter in their careers.

  • Agile

  • Lean

  • Scrum

  • Waterfall

Logistics

Logisticians analyze and coordinate a company's supply chain, including production, inventory, and transportation. Logistics jobs are usually found at companies that deal with a high volume of physical goods.

  • Continuous improvement

  • Inventory management

  • Procurement

  • Quality control

  • Spreadsheet software (including more advanced functions like pivot tables and v-lookups)

  • Sustainability

  • Warehouse management systems

General Skills

There are some types of technical skills that are applicable across career fields and which you may wish to highlight in your job application. These include:

  • Productivity software, such as Slack, Trello, and Asana, which are commonly used to organize information and communication across an organization

  • Languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, and German, may be valuable to companies serving global markets

Listing Technical Skills on Your Résumé

Your résumé, cover letter, portfolio (if applicable), and job site profile are all opportunities to showcase your technical skills. On a résumé, technical skills are typically listed in the "Skills" section, as well as referenced in the "Experience" and "Summary" sections.

There are two main ways to generate a list of skills for your résumé:

  1. Open brainstorming, and

  2. Using job listings

In the first method, you'll attempt to think of and write down every skill you possess and then organize the list into categories for inclusion on your résumé.

In the second method, you'll read the descriptions in job listings for which you'd be interested in applying and identify any skills mentioned (explicitly or implicitly through the responsibilities listed) that you possess. As you apply for jobs, you might consider customizing your résumé to match the language of each job description. This does not mean listing skills you don't actually have; rather, it means optimizing your application to present the combination of skills that'll make the strongest impression on your prospective employer.

Writing Your Skills Section

There's no definitive "right" way to format the skills section of your résumé. Norms vary by industry, department, and career tenure. Even individual hiring managers will have their own preferences. That said, there are some rules of thumb that can help you give yourself your best chance at being noticed and landing an interview.

  1. Leave out the "givens." Some technical skills are so common among job applicants that they're not worth mentioning. For example, Microsoft Word will rarely be worth including. Save real estate for more unique or specialized (while still relevant) skills.

  2. Avoid repetition. Prioritize skills that aren't already mentioned in your summary or experience sections. You can make an exception for the core skills most central to the role, but you generally want to take the opportunity to provide additional information about your qualifications.

  3. Tell the truth, but don't minimize your skills. Again, you should be truthful about your technical skills. You don't want to start off a hiring process by lying, nor do you want to undermine it by underselling your abilities.

  4. Make sure it's readable. No matter what format you choose, it's important that your skills section be easy to read, even at a glance. Some tips to accomplish this include:

  5. Use bullet points. If you're including a long list (12 or more skills), consider breaking it up into categories separated by a line break or into bullet points. For example, a bullet point in the skills section of a marketing resume might read: "Digital Marketing: Email marketing, Pay-per-click ads, SEO, Social media marketing."

  6. Use proper punctuation. For longer lists, separate skills with a comma and capitalize the first letter in each skill. This makes your résumé more readable both to human eyes and to the automation in applicant tracking systems (ATS).

  7. Don't include unnecessary information. For most résumés, listing your level of proficiency for individual skills is neither necessary nor helpful.

Developing Your Technical Skills

  1. Books, articles, and podcasts. Lifelong learners know that there's a wealth of material out there to brush up on your technical skills or begin to explore new ones. Find industry publications, podcasts, and influencers to put into your regular rotation. If you have connections working in your desired field, consider asking them what they read to keep their technical skills up to date.

  2. Build your network. Join a professional organization or industry group, which often offers opportunities for networking and skill-building. You can find such groups via platforms like Meetup.com or join a virtual community on LinkedIn. Some professional organizations cost money to join, so research the benefits before making a commitment.

  3. Online courses. A quick Google search for online courses related to the skills you're interested in gaining will likely reveal hundreds of options. Some of the more reputable online learning providers are edX, Coursera, Skillshare, and Udacity. Many courses are free and can be completed on your own time.

  4. On-the-job learning. There may be opportunities to gain or expand your technical skills on the job. Find out what the learning and development benefits are in your role, and seek technical skills to help you take your career to the next level. You can also ask for additional responsibilities or projects that will challenge you and help you develop your skills.

Technical skills, or "hard skills," are foundational to success in any career path. Now that you understand what they are, have seen some examples, and know how to list them on a job application, your next step is to determine which technical skills will be most consequential to the next stage of your career. Whether that's attaining your first professional experience, seeking a new career opportunity, or switching to a new discipline, ZipRecruiter can support you on your job seeker journey.

The ZipRecruiter Editors

At ZipRecruiter, our mission is to connect employers and job seekers with their next great opportunity. On the ZipRecruiter blog, we use insider experience and data derived from our AI-driven jobs marketplace to provide advice and insights on topics such as the job search process, interviewing, and labor market trends. Start your job search or post a job today and connect with us on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn!

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