The skills section isn’t the main feature of your resume, but it’s still a mighty tool. Aside from the main portion, which consists of your work experience and education, a list of skills is a small but important part of the overall picture.
A strong skills section usually contains about 10 skills (in a list or paragraph) that you’ve refined and that are relevant to the position. They show you have the abilities needed to succeed in a specific role, and are the perfect way to round off your resume or job application.
How do you decide which skills are more impressive to companies and potential clients? This post aims to shed light on the best skills to add to your professional resume.
List Skills Specific to the Job You Want
Aside from the skill section, your skills can be strategically peppered throughout your resume. The career objective, summary of qualifications, and job experience section are great opportunities to drop in a few supplementary skills.
The top ones, however — the ones you want to show off — should be saved for the separate skill section of your resume. Whether you choose to place this before or after your work experience, it’s important to select skills that relate to the position you’re applying for.
The more closely your skills match the ones written in the job requirements, the better your chances are of being contacted. For example, when applying for a web designer role, skills like UX, HTML, CSS, and graphic design software experience are likely to catch the reader’s eye. For an accounting position, on the other hand, knowing how to work with Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, and tax accounting software will be more relevant.
Using job post keywords not only helps to craft a more direct resume — it may also get you closer to an interview. A lot of employers use an automated applicant tracking system (ATS) to scan submitted resumes and show companies the resumes that best match the relevant keywords. The more words you can include without keyword stuffing, the more likely it is that your resume will pass the initial selection process.
How to Select Your Best Skills for Resumes
So you’re not sure exactly what skills should go into your resume or your initial list runs too short or too long. A good way to figure out what to include is to look at your previous achievements or ask other professionals.
Consider Your Past Experience
Have you received any awards in the past or do you tend to get recognized in a certain area? It’s likely that your stronger skills and abilities are what brought you those accolades. These are not only good to highlight, they may also tie in to your list of achievements if you include one on your resume.
Consult With Your Colleagues and Peers
It’s not always easy for someone to identify their own strengths. Reaching out to a third party — a colleague, teammate, or even a close friend — can help you discern which of your skills stand out.
Ask Other Professionals in the Industry.
If you know anyone in a similar industry, you can ask them what skills are most needed in the job you want. You can also inquire about what’s in demand or beneficial to the field, and align these with what you include in your skills section.
Types of Skills to Add to Your Resume
Skill sets can be divided into hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are ones that can be quantified and often proven with a degree or certificate. These are generally teachable, technical skills, like coding, foreign language proficiency, or software usage.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are more subjective and harder to prove or quantify. They’re often referred to as people skills or interpersonal skills, as they usually relate to how you interact with others.
Soft skills can include emotional intelligence, problem-solving, work ethic, or similar skills. While these are important, simply noting these skills doesn’t say much. In your cover letter and interview, it’s best to share specific examples of when you demonstrated these skills.
Certain hard skills are definitely necessary to succeed in a position. However, many employers are starting to look for candidates who are strong in soft skills as well. This is because it’s generally easier for someone to be trained in a hard skill (using a specific software, for instance) as opposed to a soft skill (such as perseverance or leadership skills).
Another means of classifying skills for resumes is whether they are job-specific or transferable. Similar to hard skills, job-specific skills allow an individual to excel in a specific position. They are usually attained through some form of education, a training program, or on-the-job experience.
For example, a teacher would need organizational and lesson planning skills, an executive assistant would need certain filing and computer skills, and a human resources associate would need to know how to onboard employees and use specific payroll systems.
Transferable skills are similar to soft skills. Although they may also apply to a specific job posting, they can easily be transferred to any other position, as well. These include time management, decision-making, public speaking, and communication skills.
How to Add Your Skills to Your Resume
Once you’ve whittled down your skills to a nice, concise list, it’s time to place them on your resume. There are three ways to do this:
In a Separate Resume Skills Section
This is most commonly seen in a chronological resume format and is a good way to support your work experience. Create a section — either at the beginning or end of your resume — that highlights your most impressive skills. You can either bullet point the skills individually or further group them into broad skill sets.
The latter is useful in multidisciplinary positions or certain specializations, such as computer programming or creative fields, where one skill may be broken down into several subskills (e.g., coding can include Java, HTML, and CSS). In this case, grouping your skill sets is a way to organize them for recruiters or hiring managers to easily read. This method, however, would not be recommended for skills that are stand-alone and not related to the other listed skills.
Here is an example of how to present a bullet point list of skills for a chronological resume:
Problem-solving Skills • Business Development • Excellent Communication Abilities • Strategic Planning Skills • Interpersonal Skills • Ability to Work With a Cross-Functional Team • Proficiency in Adobe Suite • Conversational in Spanish and French
Use a Functional Resume Format
This format is usually recommended for those who are changing fields or have minimal work experience. A functional resume highlights a more robust skills section at the top of your resume (right under the contact details and resume objectives), and places professional experience in the section below. Here’s an example of how to include your skills in this format:
Marketing: Conceptualized and conducted marketing campaigns for an international market. Increased company’s annual sales volume by 25%. Organized the successful launch of major consumer-focused product lines.
Customer Service Skills: Fulfilled over 25 customer technical inquiries per day on average. Grew overall customer satisfaction rating from 85% to 90% in a three-month span. Streamlined product manuals to help with customer onboarding
Included in Other Sections
Even if you choose the aforementioned formats, it’s still good to weave some skills into other areas of your resume, specifically the work experience descriptions. This is a productive way to include other skills you may have cut from the specific skill section and will help make your resume more cohesive.
For example, a well-written work experience description using “qualitative research” and “data analysis” as skills would be something along these lines: “Successfully developed methods for qualitative research to aid in company data analysis and collection.”
Putting the Spotlight on Your Skills
Your skills — hard and soft, job-specific and general — help you stand out from the resume pack. Start by looking at the most important points of your work history. Then, you can consult with coworkers and peers and put together a complete skills list that you’re proud to highlight.