With only a page or two to show potential employers what you’ve got, every section and every word on your resume is incredibly important. The “skills” section is no different. Despite its presence on nearly every resume, most people don’t spend as much time perfecting this section of their resume as they should. We’ll show you whats skills to put on a resume to ensure you stand out.
Very often, many of your skills are irrelevant to the position you’re applying for. Even more often, you omit skills that are relevant because you may not realize how applicable they truly are. Or, maybe you have skills that you’ve left out just because you haven’t thought about how they should be applied.
Let’s make sure you make the absolute most of the opportunity that your resume’s “skills” section can provide. We’ll go through the skills you need to list on your resume.
In summary, here are the 10 skills you should put on your resume:
We will go into more detail about how and why you should include these skills. But first, here are some essential things to keep in mind when putting together an effective list of skills.
Nearly all large companies and about half of medium-sized companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter through resumes. These systems scan through resumes quickly looking for keywords, among other things.
It summarizes what your skills are based on the keywords. If your skills don’t match the job description your resume may be rejected.
It even gives weight to your core skills. This was pulled from an ATS after scanning a resume:
Your resume’s skill section is an amazing opportunity to make use of many of the keywords the ATS is likely looking for.
Look through the job description. You should notice recurring themes and even direct mention of many skills that are required to be successful.
If any skill is directly mentioned, find a way to apply it to your past experience and put it on your resume.
Remember, the better your resume matches the keywords, the better your chance at getting past an ATS and securing that interview.
If you can’t immediately think of a way to relate your skillset to the skills mentioned in the job description, it’s totally okay to get creative.
There are some skills that will be absolutely necessary for any successful candidate. It’s important to make sure you include every single one of these in your resume’s “skills” section.
(We wrote more here on what skills and qualities employers look for)
When you encounter job descriptions that contain some skills that you may not be able to immediately relate with, what’s the best course of action?
First, if you’re seeing a ton of hard skills that you simply don’t have, it may be best to move on to the next position. We will go over this more in-depth later, but hard skills are skills like computer programming that either you have or you don’t. If a job requires specific, quantified skills to be successful and you don’t have them, it’s usually best to move on.
KEEP IN MIND, HOWEVER, that there are many skills, both soft and hard, that you can relate to in your resume even if you don’t have any direct experience with them.
For example, if you have a strong history with word processing and a job description requires experience with a specific processor that you haven’t used, you can use your experience to show the employer that you have no problem working with new word processors.
The big difference is that “hard” skills are objective and “soft” skills are subjective
The difference in skill category is important to keep in mind because while a creative resume writer can apply most past experiences to most “soft” skills, “hard” skills only come with specific experience and may very well disqualify many candidates from contention.
If you don’t have the “hard” skills necessary and can’t even relate any of the objective skills on your resume with those on the job description, it may make sense to move on to the next application.
However, “soft” skills are subjective and even if you can’t immediately think of a way to relate your experiences, it’s usually possible to get creative with your resume and make it work.
To give you a better idea of what qualifies as a “hard” skill and what qualifies as a “soft” skill, let’s go over a few examples.
For example, if you have specific experience with Microsoft Excel or a similar spreadsheet application, you definitely want to include this on your resume.
(You generally would not include Microsoft Office on a resume as this is a skill most employers expect everyone to have)
If you’ve used these or similar software in your work history, be sure to include them in your resume.
If you are particularly sound in an area – a very fast typist, for instance – it can be beneficial to include these details on your resume.
Quantify skills whenever possible. “60wpm typist” sounds a lot better than “fast typist”.
(We wrote a good post here on how to include technical skills on a resume)
Your accounting degree or experience with bookkeeping may be more applicable than you think. No matter what the job description says, always make sure to include things like this on your resume. Every company needs accounting so even if it’s not totally necessary for a specific position, companies recognize the value of having employees with knowledge of these things and flexible skill sets.
It goes without saying that if this kind of skill is specifically listed, you absolutely MUST include it on the resume. In fact, if you don’t, you won’t have much of a shot with your application.
In the modern world, graphic design is more important than it’s ever been. This is another tangible and measurable skill that you should be sure to include on your resume if you have it. Include it whether the skill is absolutely necessary for the position or not. Because, again, a ton of companies need it and it doesn’t hurt to have a flexible skillset.
Yet another skill that can be applicable across nearly every industry. On top of the practical need for developers in nearly every business, programming skills demonstrate advanced problem-solving skills that can contribute to a well-rounded professional. Again, 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.
Knowing many languages can help in nearly every industry and is even essential for some customer service or client-facing jobs. It also demonstrates intelligence. Include languages on your resume no matter what. Make sure to make them more prominently or higher on your skills list if they’re essential to the position.
The skills we covered above are some of the common ones that can give you a leg up in most modern job openings. For the rest of your skills, use your best judgment. If you’re skilled in using heavy machinery but are applying for a sales position, including that will just waste space on your resume. If you’re applying to an online business and you’re skilled in SEO, it’s essential to include it on your resume.
In general, the skills directly applicable should be readily apparent and should be listed first in your resume’s skill section. From there, don’t be afraid to include things that are only somewhat applicable or things that you’re passionate about and that have helped advance you professionally.
To summarize, hard skills refer to knowledge or ability in specific areas. They can be proven through demonstration of ability and can, therefore, be easily quantified. Usually, hard skills are the more important skills to include on your resume because they are directly applicable to specific positions and are generally essential to those positions.
Soft skills are a bit more vague and open to interpretation. But they are very valuable and should definitely be included on your resume. Look through the job description and see if any soft skills are mentioned. If they are, find a way to apply them to your experience and include them on your resume. This will help you match the ATS keywords and stand out to your potential employee.
Here are a few examples:
Problem-solving skills show an ability to approach difficult situations and work through them. This is something that nearly every employer wants in an ideal employee and so it’s essential to include it on your resume. Think back to your previous experience and how you’ve applied these skills, you may need an example for your interview.
This is a must-have for nearly every resume. You will have a hard time finding a job description that does not include communication as a necessary skill. Whether written or verbal communication, these skills are central to evolving as a professional and necessary to effectively growing within a company. No matter what your work history, you should find a way to include this on your resume.
We wrote a good post here on the right way to include communication skills on a resume.
Organization is the key here. When you need to get a lot done in a little bit of time, how do you manage that?
This is another skill that has utility in nearly any professional position. Include it on your resume for any application, if possible.
You won’t be working with a team in every position but experience working with a team shows that you are an effective communicator and are probably beneficially cooperative.
Applying for a manager position? Don’t forget to include leadership skills on your resume. Leadership skills on a resume can also demonstrate professional flexibility and growth potential, which is beneficial regardless of the position. It’s not essential, but if you can think of a good example in which you’ve applied leadership skills, put it on your resume.
Soft skills are not quantifiable so you can apply them anywhere as long as you have examples from your work history to demonstrate the skills. Read the job description carefully. The applicant tracking system is looking for keywords and often these keywords are the required skills listed in the description. Carefully and thoughtfully include each one you possibly can on your resume.
Now that we understand some of the more common skills required in job listings and how we can apply them to our work experience, let’s go over how we can organize these skills and place them on a resume in a clean and easy-to-read list. We’ll also cover where on your resume you should include your “skills” section. (hint: it depends on the position)
Your resume’s skills section shouldn’t be full of randomly stated skills without any particular order. You want your list of skills to be in some kind of organized order.
It could also be a list of core competencies that would pretty much look the same.
Group related skills together. For example, first list all your computer-related skills and then list your language-related skills.
No need to list them separately or label different categories; just organize the single list to make it easier to sort through.
You can immediately see how much easier it is to read through and process a well-organized list as opposed to reading through a randomly ordered list.
Most standard resume formats include a skill section at or near the bottom of the resume. This isn’t always the best place to put it. In fact, there are specific jobs in which it’s important to put a skill section at or near the top of the resume.
(We wrote a good post here on skills not to include on a resume)
There are some industries, like engineering or IT, where there are basic skills that are absolutely necessary for any successful applicant. In these cases, it’s best to move your skill section to the top of the resume.
In fact, it may be appropriate to include a more prominent “core competencies” section at the top of your resume with detailed descriptions of certain skills if they are absolutely central to success in the desired position.
The skill section can be the most important section on your resume if you put it together correctly. Not only is it a great chance to match your resume’s keywords to those required by the ATS, but it’s also a great way to demonstrate your worth to your potential employers.
Remember, if you can quantify or demonstrate the skills you’ve included on your resume, that’s much more effective than just stating that you have them. Good luck and remember: be specific!