Having killer skills on your resume is essential. Modern resumes need to include the right talents to quickly prove to a hiring manager — and an applicant tracking system — that you’re worth contacting.
By skills, we mean the technical and interpersonal abilities you need to thrive as a candidate. You’re a talented and qualified applicant — the skills on your resume should prove this.
Want to learn more? Read on to see how to find the best skills to put on a resume in 2024. Here’s what we’ll cover:
The 19 best skills to put on your resume
Why are skills so important on my resume?
What hard skills should I use on my resume?
What soft skills should I use on my resume?
How should I organize my skills?
How do I stand out as a job applicant?
FAQs about skills on resumes
“Having the right combination of skills is key to passing the ATS scans,” says career expert Jennifer Johnson. “You need to showcase the skills that are most relevant to the job you are applying for. Deciding which skills to list is important; don’t list everything you’ve done, but rather what you’ve done that positions you for where you want to go.”
What to do before listing skills on your resume
Ready to get started? Here’s what you should do first.
Identify your key skills
Before you put skills on your resume, you need to know what they are. Make a list of your strongest skills. Ideally, these are workplace skills; however, don’t rule out personality traits, academic skills, or skills from volunteer work and side hustles.
Try mulling over these prompts:
What types of things do you do every day? What tools or talents help you perform those tasks?
What are you better at than most other people?
What skills have you used to make an impact in past jobs?
What hard skills do you most enjoy using at work?
What sort of traits do people compliment you on?
You can also try taking some free career assessments for inspiration.
Research common skills in your industry
This is vital for people who are trying to switch to a new career or anyone who hasn’t looked for a new job in a few years.
Consulting recent job descriptions on top job search sites, such as Indeed and LinkedIn, will mean you’ll be able to glean the very latest in sought-after skills in your industry.
Check out lists of in-demand skills. These lists are a good reference to see what is currently popular. However, don’t add different types of skills just because they’re trendy, and only include skills you actually possess. These lists can jog your memory or help you determine what skills to emphasize.
You can also reference resume examples that include education, work experience, and skills for your job title.
Answer the job description
Use the job description to figure out what the employer wants to see in terms of skills on resume submissions. Look for phrases such as “required skills,” “technical requirement,” and “must have experience with…” The words that follow are usually necessary qualifications and keywords.
Make sure all required skills appear on your resume at least once. Use the exact word or phrase in the job description. Mention your top skills multiple times, such as in the professional summary, skills section, and while describing work experience.
Consider both hard and soft skills
In the resume writing world, there are two types of skills — hard skills and soft skills. The main difference is that hard skills are objective and soft skills are subjective.
This difference is important.
“The best resumes contain a strong combination of both hard and soft skills,” says Jennifer. “The hiring manager needs to know that not only can you do the job well, but that your personality will be a good fit. You want to make it easy for the hiring manager to find your qualifications. Your resume should have a Core Competencies section where you can list your hard skills and tailor them for the specific job you are applying to. Then, you want to integrate soft skills throughout the Summary and Work Experience sections.”
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19 examples of essential skills for a resume
Let’s split up the 19 most important skills into hard and soft skills. If you have experience with any of these, you should definitely include them on your resume.
Knowledge of specific computer applications
Applicable certificates or degrees
Graphic design ability
Computer programming, web, or software development
Foreign language proficiency
Foreign language proficiency
Attention to detail
Hard skills to include on your resume
Hard skills don’t refer to difficult skills or areas of expertise; they’re the objective technical skills needed to do the job a company is hiring for. You should list relevant hard skills throughout your resume, such as in your professional summary, skills section, work experience, and education.
1. Knowledge of specific computer applications
You need computer skills on your resume. Hard skills include job-specific technical skills such as computer applications, software, and overall digital literacy. Even if you’re not applying for a job in IT, you should include the computer programs you’re familiar with if they’re relevant to the position.
Listing your exposure to virtual tools like Slack, Hootsuite, or Asana shows you’re tech-savvy. This has all kinds of good connotations, like being smart, adaptable, and up-to-date. Plus, if the company uses any of these tools, it won’t have to spend as much time training you, and that means saving money.
Select any computer-related strengths and place them in a resume skills section. If you’re short on program and software knowledge, consider adding other computer skills like your word-per-minute keyboarding speed.
In general, you don’t need to include Microsoft Office on a resume. In this day and age, it’s expected that office workers know how to use word processors. However, if you’re heavily experienced in Excel, for example, you can mention this in the relevant experience section.
Example of using numbers to showcase skills in your experience section:
Implemented an inventory management system, using Microsoft Excel to track shipments and deliveries, saving an estimated three hours and $250 per week previously spent on redundant orders.
If you’re in a highly technical field like IT or engineering, you should have a specific technical skills section on your resume to list all proficiencies. Head over to our guide on including technical skills on your resume.
2. Applicable certificates or degrees
If you earned a certificate or degree, that hard skill has earned a place on your resume. Even if your degree is in a different field from the one you currently work in, this level of education shows that you’re hard-working and committed. You should put these types of hard skills in a section titled Education or Education & Certifications.
When the job posting description includes certifications or degrees as a requirement, be sure to include them on your resume. If you don’t meet these requirements, you may want to hold off applying for this type of job until you’ve earned them.
Notice that this item says “applicable.” There are cases when your education might not help your resume, such as in these examples:
An expired realtor’s license from 15 years ago is not going to help you become the next technical writer for toaster ovens. You can safely leave that out of your skills section.
Your high school diploma is implied if you hold an associate, bachelor, or other higher degree. Save the space for another skill.
Multiple certifications on similar topics might make your resume look cluttered. Pick your top three based on issuing entity, recency, or preference, and add the others to your LinkedIn page.
If you don’t have the training or experience an employer wants, you can always learn a new hard skill! Unlike soft skills, which are mostly innate, hard skills can be acquired and improved all the time.
Check out online skill-building sites. Many are free or a small fee per month, and you can gain skills or industry-recognized certifications.
3. Graphic design skills
Are you creative? Put those skills on your resume. Graphic design is one of the most in-demand skills. If you have experience with graphic design programs like Photoshop or InDesign, this will appeal to employers.
“Graphic design skills are important when competing in today’s market,” Jennifer says. “It is a unique skill that conveys both technical acumen and creativity. If I have two candidates that are equally qualified for the job, I’ll call the one with graphic design experience first.”
4. Computer programming, web, or software development
On top of the practical need for developers in nearly every business, programming skills demonstrate advanced problem-solving capabilities that can contribute to a well-rounded professional. Even if the position you’re applying for doesn’t specifically require programming skills, it can benefit you greatly to include it on your resume.
5. Foreign language proficiency
¿Hablas español? ¡Si!
Knowing and listing languages on your resume ranges from helpful to essential for client-facing roles. Being bilingual also displays intelligence. If you’re fluent or proficient in another language, you should shout about it on your resume!
You can include the level of proficiency in the final sentence of your resume summary, or you can list multiple foreign languages in a skills section. If knowing another language is a job requirement, be sure to list your skills prominently.
6. Project management
Most jobs have projects — fact. It’s the ability to apply methods, processes, and knowledge in order to achieve specific objectives, manage workflow, and complete assignments within the deadline. You don’t have to have the title of Project Manager to know about and succeed at project management.
If you’ve ever completed a project early, or been praised for going above and beyond within a project setting, include this in the Key Achievements section of your resume.
7. Writing skills
While it might not seem as important as back in the day, drafting well-constructed, error-free, and grammatically correct emails, messages, and letters will get you far in the workplace. Presenting a pitch for a contract that’s filled with mistakes, typos, and an inappropriate tone will certainly send the wrong message to clients at whatever level you are. Showcase your writing abilities to the recruiter through your cover letter and emails, as well as listing any projects where you had to complete a lot of writing tasks, i.e., in bid management roles.
Selling products or promoting services is not just for Sales Assistants and Marketers. If you’ve got the gift of the gab, and are great at marketing products to a wider audience, then include it on your resume as a desirable hard skill. It shows you understand the benefits of what your company is selling and can articulate that — a valuable asset to have in any role.
Being proficient at the administrative side of any position is a real asset and critically important within an organization. It provides essential services that support the daily operations and survival of a company, such as scheduling, planning, filing, dealing with correspondence, and often being the first point of contact for clients or customers.
Soft skills to include on your resume
Let’s switch gears and talk about skills that are less measurable and harder to quantify – soft skills.
Soft skills are often referred to as people skills, so hiring managers and HR professionals are always on the lookout for them. They can make or break your candidacy and are especially important when applying for highly nuanced, creative roles in marketing, advertising, or customer service.
Problem-solving shows an ability to approach difficult situations and work through them. This is something that nearly every employer wants in an employee. To showcase problem-solving, you can use the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, Result. This is a common interview technique, but can also be an excellent way to demonstrate your impact on your resume.
Example of using the STAR method to show problem-solving skills:
Solved inventory management deficit by redesigning inventory control system, quality controls, network integration, and training; on-time order fulfillment improved by 45%, profits increased by 23%, and canceled orders decreased by 82%.
Unlike hard skills, you shouldn’t list soft skills in a skills section unless you’re new to the job market and lack other useful skills. Instead, match your soft skills with examples or descriptive adjectives, and include them in the work experience section.
When we’re talking about good skills to put on a resume, this one is a must-have because effective communication skills are listed in virtually every job description.
“Think about how you communicate and how it advances your professional success,” suggests Jennifer. “For example, don’t just list “negotiation” as a skill. Add an adjective/descriptor that demonstrates how you negotiate. Say something like “Persuasive Negotiator” or “Strategic Negotiator,” then show how you are that. The right adjective can set you apart as an achiever rather than a doer.”
Example of showing communication on your resume:
Reduced price of green coffee by $1.29 per pound (-36%) by leveraging negotiation and interpersonal skills.
3. Time management
Time management is essential for any applicant with multiple tasks to manage. It comes down to a matter of organization and proving you can be effective with competing priorities. Include this skill with specific examples in the work experience section. This skill is often related to other organizational skills you should include on your resume, such as the ability to meet deadlines, collaborate with a team, and delegate assignments.
The word “teamwork” has become a bit of a cliché on resumes, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s how you present it that matters. Show off teamwork skills by mentioning a shared achievement in your work experience, or include an example of teamwork prowess in the summary. It’s an especially vital skill when it comes to remote work, where gelling as a team might prove to be more tricky when you’re never in the same room.
Are you applying for a supervisory position? Don’t forget to include leadership on your resume. Leadership skills on a resume demonstrate professional flexibility and growth potential, which are beneficial regardless of the position. Think of a good example in which you’ve applied solid decision-making and leadership skills, and add it in.
6. Critical thinking
Thinking logically and thoughtfully is the grounding of critical thinking. Having an employer who can think through an issue and then determine the next best steps is invaluable. If you can prove that you can come up with new and improved ways of working, get it all down on your job search documents.
Being able to change tack at the last minute, or think on your feet when obstacles are suddenly flung into your path, is going to help your boss and, ultimately, the company you work for. Again, don’t list this in the skills section, but weave it into your work experience with an example.
You can use the phrase “change management” in the skills section as an alternative.
Often underestimated, being organized is a key asset to have in the workplace.
Example of showing organization on your resume:
Showcased organizational qualities to arrange customer deliveries that complied with order deadlines.
9. Emotional intelligence
Increasingly sought after as a skill, emotional intelligence (EQ) might even be taking over as being more important than IQ! It’s all about being able to handle your emotions and those of others while remaining rational and on an even keel, even when everything around you is falling apart.
10. Attention to detail
Following instructions, diving into the details, and paying close attention will be required in most roles, as it can often lead to identifying and addressing problems before they escalate. Having the ability to carry out tasks with precision and accuracy will add value to any resume.
“Most hiring managers today are more selective than ever because they understand how the right culture and work atmosphere can impact productivity and employee retention rates,” Jennifer says. “They don’t want to just know that you can do the job — they want to know you’ll fit in with their organization. A solid combination of soft and hard skills should help land you the interview.”
Why are skills so important on my resume?
Three words — applicant tracking systems.
Nearly all companies use Applicant Tracking Systems to filter through resumes. They scan through resumes looking for specific keywords, such as certain skills necessary for the job.
The ATS scan summarizes your skills based on the keywords you place on your resume. If the skills section of your resume doesn’t match the job description, your resume may be rejected before it ever reaches a human.
How to make your skills jump out in the ATS scan
“Your skills section should be front and center, easy for both the hiring manager and the ATS program to scan quickly,” says Jennifer.
To find the exact words they’re looking for, refer to the job description. The better the skills on your resume match the keywords, the better your chances are of passing the ATS scan and reaching the hiring manager’s hands.
It’s good practice to order your skills strategically and group related skills together. You don’t have to label different categories. Simply grouping your related skills together will make them easier to sort through. While this won’t matter with an ATS scan, it will help the hiring manager so keep it visually balanced and intuitive.
The format matters when including skills on your resume
You can set the information apart visually by adding a line or even a border, but avoid using a text box or table. Not all systems are capable of reading these features yet, and your skills section is too important to risk being overlooked.
Your skills section should be easy to read. You don’t want it to look cluttered, so be selective. Use bullet points to keep your skills lined up, or the vertical bar such as:
Supply Chain Management | Logistics Development | Procurement | Export Management | Inventory Control | Sales Management | Continuous Improvement | Vendor Engagement | Staff Training | Budget Control | Forecasting | CRM | Auditing | Multi-Lingual |
How do I stand out as a job applicant?
Quantify your skills whenever possible
Saying you are a “60 word per minute typist” has far more impact than being a “fast typist.”
“Measurables are incredibly valuable to your resume,” says Jennifer. “Anything with numbers, percentages, or dollar signs immediately draws the reader’s eye and gives tangible examples of how you made a difference.”
Make sure your resume has a clear message
The hiring manager should know exactly who you are as a professional and what your goals are. Having too much information can create confusion and cause them to lose interest.
“Don’t approach your resume with the mindset that you have to include everything you’ve ever done in your career,” Jennifer advises. “The hiring manager needs tangible proof that you’re qualified for the job they’re seeking to fill. For example, if you’re applying for a senior-level executive position, it’s not relevant that you worked as a Customer Service Associate in retail whilst in college. Eliminate experiences that are not applicable to your goal, and do not exceed a 2-page resume length.”
Tailor, tailor, tailor
You should think of your resume as a living, working document. Always read the job descriptions to understand what the hiring manager is looking for. Review your resume to make sure it aligns correctly.
Before you apply for any job, spend a few minutes tailoring your resume. When done correctly, it can be incredibly effective!
There are two reasons for this:
You’ll look like a great match to any recruiter or hiring manager reviewing your resume.
You’ll look like a great match to the ATS.
The hiring manager shouldn’t have to dig through your resume to see if you’re qualified. The best places to tailor your resume are in the title, subtitle (if applicable), the Summary, and Core Proficiencies sections.
“Hiring managers are inundated with resumes each time they open a job, allowing them to be picky when choosing candidates,” warns Jennifer. “That 10 minutes you spend tailoring your resume to the job description can make all the difference between getting a phone call for an interview as opposed to receiving a “thanks but no thanks” automated email response.”
Word of caution: if you don’t have a required hard skill or technical requirement, it’s probably best not to waste your time applying. These are generally the skills a successful candidate will need to perform the job well. If you see the same hard skills showing up in multiple job descriptions you want to apply for, try learning the skill. Look for online certifications to learn the basics.
FAQs about skills on resumes
What are good skills to put on a resume?
Use a combination of hard and soft skills such as:
Communication skills like public speaking, writing, written communication, and active listening.
Technical skills like IT skills, engineering skills, programming languages, web development, search engine optimization, and industry-specific technology.
Analytical skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and research.
Transferable skills if you’re changing careers, like leadership and time management.
Negotiation skills related to management, compromise, and adaptability.
How many skills should I put on a resume?
Putting skills on your resume is not a numbers game. Within your dedicated skills section, limit yourself to between 9 and 12 key talents. Use bullet points, text bars, or columns to keep this section organized and easy to read.
What should I call a skills section?
At ZipJob, we call it a Core Competencies or Core Proficiencies section. Under that heading, include your most impressive technical and hard skills. We don’t recommend using headings like Skills & Abilities or Special Skills.
Your skills should be included in a skills section and dotted throughout the other sections of your resume. These words and phrases are your most effective tools to pass an ATS scan. Remember to use keywords from the job description and incorporate numbers when you can. Be specific, and be honest.
Now that you know how to list skills on your resume, it’s time to give it a once over. At ZipJob, we have the resume writing resources that you need to get started. Choose one of our expert packages to give yourself the competitive edge now.
Elizabeth Openshaw, Professional CV Consultant and Writer
Elizabeth Openshaw is an Elite CV Consultant of 10 years based in Brighton, UK, with an English degree and an addiction to Wordle! She is a former Journalist of 17 years with the claim to fame that she interviewed three times Grand Slam winner and former World No.1 tennis player, Andy Murray, when he was just 14 years old. You can connect with her at Elizabeth Openshaw | LinkedIn.