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Technical Skills: Definition, How To List On A Resume & How To Improve

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Are you struggling to include technical skills on your resume? You’re not alone in this. Many people have difficulty figuring out which skills to list.

Luckily, it’s not as challenging as it can seem. Here’s what you should know about technical skills.

What Are Technical Skills?

Technical skills are the range of specialized expertise and information you need to use specific tools, programs, or processes at work.

Every job requires some technical skills, even if it’s just using simple measuring tools, and employers usually check whether you have or can learn these skills as a core concern.

Some examples of technical skills include:

  • Social media skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Software development
  • Research skills
  • Project management skills
  • Writing skills
  • Medical coding
  • Graphic design

The best types of technical skills to include on a resume depend on your job. This is a broad category that includes a wide range of potential talents, so many technical skills also fall into several other skill categories. Technical skills are generally considered hard skills.

Non-technical skills are also known as soft skills and cover things like decision-making, communication, leadership, and the ability to work well in a team.

Most employers want to see a range of technical and non-technical skills in applicants, but this can vary somewhat depending on the position.

Why Are These Skills Important?

Technical skills are important because they relate to the primary focus of a job. If you don’t have the right technical skills, you can’t do the job.

On the other hand, if you’re excellent at the technical skills a position needs, then chances are you’ll excel in the role. It’s hard to overstate the value of these skills to employers.

Types of Technical Skills

There are many types of technical skills. Given enough space, we could talk about literally hundreds of them.

However, it helps to narrow down the skills to specific roles and industries, as that’s what employers will be looking for. The following sections are examples of this in action.

Project Manager Technical Skills

Project manager technical skills include cost management, familiarity with project management software, budgeting skills, risk management, and tracking progress from employees.

Most project managers require a mix of leadership and technical skills to understand how to bring a project to successful completion.

Engineering Technical Skills

Engineering technical skills include project design, quality control, troubleshooting, and programming.

Depending on the industry, companies may also look for familiarity with manufacturing processes, prototyping, robotics, accounting, government contracting, and environmental awareness.

Nursing Technical Skills

Nurses perform a wide range of caregiving services, often specializing in specific areas.

A typical nurse needs skills like checking vital signs, patient safety, caring for wounds, and using technology to check medical records or research guidelines for specific problems.

Accounting Technical Skills

Accounting technical skills focus on things like familiarity with accounting software, understanding spreadsheets, and the ability to report and explain financial statements. Some accountants also need additional computing or presentation skills.

Business Technical Skills

Business technical skills can include almost anything if you’re creative enough when describing it, but a few skills are valuable to almost every industry. These include things like corporate communications, data analysis, project management, and proficiency with any software the company uses.

Remember that business technical skills are not the same thing as business management skills. Management skills cover an entirely separate area, while regular business technical skills are usually for mid-ranked employees who serve as the layer between upper management and regular employees.

10 Most Common Technical Skills

Here are some of the most common technical skills that employers look for.

1. Productivity Software

Productivity software includes a wide range of software and platforms that help companies get work done faster. This category includes things like office software (especially from Microsoft or Google), but also collaboration and conferencing software like Zoom.

How to Develop Productivity Software Skills

Look for certifications or classes on common business software, and try to research popular software within your industry first. Employers tend to like seeing third-party certifications, and most software is easy enough to learn if you’re familiar with computers in the first place.

2. Marketing

Marketing skills include things like familiarity with Google Analytics, search engine optimization, and content management systems like HubSpot.

Employers also like familiarity with automated marketing tools, content creation, graphic design, and anything else that can help with advertising.

Offline advertising uses a different set of skills.

How to Develop Marketing Skills

Some people pursue college degrees in marketing, which is good for specialists. If you don’t want to go that far, you can take some side jobs as an independent contractor or take a few classes to get certified. Try to focus on the advertising techniques that are most relevant to your primary industry.

3. Design

Design skills focus on visual things like graphics and website design. Depending on the role, you may look for training in color theory, modeling, user experience research, or even prototyping products.

Online design is a completely different category from other design work, although some skills can transfer between them.

How to Develop Design Skills

The best way to get better at design is through experience. Artists can spend many years mastering the necessary skills, but the better your portfolio becomes, the easier it is to find work in this area.

4. Project Management

Project management includes things like planning, risk management, and budgeting. A good project manager knows enough about the topic to understand what others are doing, with a focus on achievable deadlines and keeping costs low.

How to Develop Project Management Skills

Many project managers pursue MBAs or certifications in specific management techniques like SCRUM and Agile.

However, there’s no substitute for experience, so creating opportunities to manage a project, even if it’s just something like a home improvement project, can make a big difference.

5. Healthcare

Technical skills in healthcare can include things like medical coding, billing, record-keeping, and an astounding range of industry certifications. Some jobs in healthcare focus entirely on paperwork and compliance, not treating patients, so the necessary skills can vary significantly.

How to Develop Healthcare Skills

Developing healthcare skills usually requires professional training from a certified school. Healthcare providers don’t play around with this, so look for reputable schools. Some employers can also suggest specific places for training.

6. Data Literacy

Data literacy is the ability to interpret and use data, especially as it relates to guiding company decisions. Big data is a resource for many businesses, but data literacy is what turns a bunch of entries in a database into actionable data.

How to Develop Data Literacy Skills

The best way to develop data literacy skills is by taking classes or certifications on the data systems your industry uses. You can also look for some crossover with marketing skills, as knowing what questions are relevant enough to ask is a key part of getting the full value from big data.

7. Technical Writing

Technical writing skills mainly cover discussing complex topics in ways that are easy for other people to understand. This can include things like writing messages to manufacturers or customers, creating press releases, or even writing manuals that others can follow.

How to Develop Technical Writing Skills

The best way to develop technical writing skills is to practice writing. Many people struggle with writing, so this is a surprisingly rare and valuable skill for companies. Automated writing tools are rarely enough to explain things as well as a subject expert.

8. Photography

Photography is more relevant in some jobs than others but can include things like taking pictures of products to add to online stores or searching for problems on a work site.

Most companies don’t hire dedicated photographers, but any experience here can help you stand out from the crowd and vary your workday a little more.

How to Develop Photography Skills

While you can follow classes and guides to understand how to take photographs, a lot of photography is about practicing and taking many shots to understand what works.

Many professional photographers will take hundreds or even thousands of pictures, then sift through them to find the best images.

9. Government Contracting

Many companies apply for government contracts as part of their regular operations. These can be lucrative, but they often come with additional rules or guidelines that companies have to follow.

Government contracting skills focus on helping demonstrate that a company understands and follows those roles.

How to Develop Government Contracting Skills

The best way to develop these skills is through experience. You may be able to develop government contracting skills by volunteering at nonprofits or otherwise getting personal experience. There’s also some crossover with legal skills, where paperwork and attention to detail are also relevant.

10. Point-of-Sale Software

Point-of-sale software allows for transactions almost anywhere. These are especially common in areas like retail and food service, but some companies also use them for ordering things on-site.

Some employees may use point-of-sale software to earn commissions or otherwise help customers.

How to Develop Point of Sale Software Skills

Point-of-sale software usually requires specific training. Some have external certification, but others are unique software for a specific company and are impossible to train on.

Familiarity with one usually makes it easier to learn another, though, so look for experience anywhere you can get it.

How to List Technical Skills on a Resume and Cover Letter

Here are some things you can do to list technical skills in different parts of a job application.

How to List Technical Skills On a Cover Letter

Listing technical skills goes well if you link it to specific timelines or certifications. For example, you can say “I have five years of experience with C++ programming and certification with Microsoft Azure”.

Try to discuss your technical skills relatively early in the cover letter to reassure the reader that you have the right skills for the position.

How to List Technical Skills On a Resume

The skills section of a resume is usually a separate list, highlighting the specific things you think are most relevant for the job.

Employers may list specific skills they’re looking for, so try to match what they put on the job listing and add (brief) details if relevant.

Tips for Highlighting Technical Skills in Writing

Here are some quick tips for showing off your technical skills while writing a cover letter or a resume.

1. Experience Matters

The more experience you have in an area, the better. Most companies evaluate experience through the number of years working with the subject or high-quality certifications and classes.

Depending on the role, you may also be able to get away with describing projects you’ve finished.

Keep things concise, but try to add information about your experience when you can. Skip the numbers if you only have two or three years of experience, though.

2. Consider Multiple Sections

Some jobs value soft skills (like communication) as much as harder technical skills. If you’re applying to a job like that, consider splitting your hard and soft skills into different categories. This should help you highlight your technical skills without overcrowding the space.

3. Pick the Most Relevant Skills

Focus on the technical skills that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for. You’ve only got so much space, especially on resumes, so don’t try to list every technical skill you have.

Instead, you can indirectly imply your familiarity with the skills in other parts of your resume. If you served as an accountant for a firm for five years, an employer will assume you know basic accounting.

How to Demonstrate Technical Skills in an Interview

In many cases, employers want you to demonstrate technical skills at some phase of the interview process. Depending on the job, this may include something like handling tools or equipment, writing sample code, or pretending to give a presentation.

How Do I Say I Have Good Technical Skills?

The best way to say you have good technical skills in an interview is by discussing your experience or training.

For example, you can bring up that you’ve been acquiring relevant certifications, or talk about how you used the skill in a previous job.

Tips for Highlighting Technical Skills

Here are some quick tips for highlighting skills in an interview.

1. Use Stories

Using stories is a great way to work in your skills. If possible, try to bring up a challenge you faced and how you used the technical skill to solve it. A simple problem-resolution format makes it easy for interviewers to understand.

Remember, most people find stories an easy way to understand a complex topic. Interviewers may not understand the technical details of your skills, but if you can describe the basic purpose of the skills, you can usually explain the topic.

Try to rehearse a few relevant stories. If you can recite them smoothly and confidently, that’s another point in your favor.

2. Emphasize Learning

Learning is an important aspect of technical skills. Most jobs don’t require the same skills, so detailing your willingness to learn new things can reinforce the skills you already have. Employers particularly like it if you pursue education on your own time, and some of them have programs to specifically encourage this.

3. Tie Profits In

Companies love profits, so tying that to your technical skills can work well. For example, you can discuss how your skills helped a project come in under budget or let your former employer acquire a contract they wouldn’t otherwise have gotten.

If possible, try to link any mention of profits to things that you know the company you’re interviewing with does. For example, talking about how you’re great at getting government contracts doesn’t matter much if your employer never works with the government.

Interview Questions Related to Technical Skills That You Might See

Here are some other questions about technical skills you might hear while in an interview.

“Do You Want to Tell Us Anything Else About You?”

Companies use this question to try and figure out more about the way you think. Some applicants have skills or talents they want to discuss but can’t because earlier questions aren’t relevant, so this is an all-purpose question that allows that.

You can also use this question as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the company and anything you might be able to portray as a benefit for them.

For example, if travel is a common part of the job, you can mention your interest in that and some technical skills you’ve learned for doing well on trips.

Why Technical Skills Are Relevant to this Question

This is a great time to bring up technical skills if you don’t think you had a good chance to explain them earlier. If you have any relevant skills, try expressing your confidence with the skill and, if relevant, tell a story about it.

Talking about technical skills is especially relevant if you expect any kind of cross-skill work in the position you are applying for.

“Tell Me About a Time You Failed”

Failure is relatively common, and companies want to know how you get past it. Specifically, they’re trying to understand your thought processes. If you give up when encountering failure, that’s bad.

However, if you discuss identifying the problem, finding ways to stop it from happening again, and learning new skills related to it, that can be quite attractive.

Don’t lie about your failures or act like you’ve never had a problem. Good interviewers know that’s a lie and probably won’t believe you if you try that.

Instead, honestly admitting to a failure but focusing on a positive resolution for it makes you appear more mature, intelligent, and responsible.

Why Technical Skills Are Relevant to this Question

Technical skills often relate to failure. For example, not having the right skills to understand a potential problem can be a significant handicap.

Employers also like it if you can identify the exact problem and what skill would resolve it, as this indicates you have a lot of experience in the area.

“Where Do You See Yourself In 10 Years?”

This question is tricky because it requires guessing what an employer wants. Most companies want people with ambition and drive, but not so much that the employees will be a poor investment to hire.

Plans can change, too, so the accuracy of your answer is less important than what you can convince the interviewer of.

Why Technical Skills Are Relevant to this Question

You can use technical skills as an explanation for motivation. For example, if you want to become a senior accountant, you can talk about how you want to acquire specific new skills in the role. Interviewers will see this as motivation to do well in your job, which is a mark in your favor.

Tips for Improving Technical Skills

Here are some quick tips for improving your technical skills. Remember, learning is often a lifelong process, so you don’t need to stop improving just because you got a degree or landed your first job.

1. Take Classes

You can learn many technical skills through classes, whether at a community college, a continuing education center, or through a range of online certifications. Classes are a fast, effective way to develop your skills and stand out from your peers.

2. Practice

Skill comes with experience. Basic certification is beneficial, but the more you use your skills, the better you’ll get at them. Try to find opportunities to practice different skills and keep them fresh in your mind.

3. Accept Failure When Learning

Nobody starts as the master of a skill, although learning new skills is easier when you already know related ones. This fact is why programmers can pick up new programming languages so quickly. Most people are terrible when they start, so remember that being bad is the first step toward being good.

Additional Skills to Be Aware Of

Here are some other skills to be aware of. Remember, technical skills cover a wide range of skills, so it can be helpful to focus on specific areas when applying to different companies.

  • Detail-Oriented Skills: Detail-oriented skills cover things like exact wording or precision when manufacturing. Detail is extraordinarily vital to some roles, so experience here can make a significant difference in your ability to get hired for those jobs.
  • Executive Functioning Skills: Executive functioning skills are mainly soft skills but cover things like planning and the ability to follow multiple-step directions. Many technical skills also require executive functioning skills to reach their full potential.
  • Analytical Skills: Analytical skills cover the ability to acquire and understand the information you see. Proper analysis can help you identify problems or even figure out what technical skills you should try developing next.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Problem-solving skills include a range of techniques and strategies you can use to overcome issues. These pair well with analytical skills, but most technical skills have some element of problem-solving to them.
  • Cognitive Skills: Cognitive skills are basic skills for basic reasoning, reading, learning, and remembering. Effective use of cognitive skills can make it significantly easier to learn new technical skills. Some people have difficulty with cognitive skills, so learning to work around any limits can also help.

Wrapping Up

Technical skills are a core element of jobs, so they’re also a central element of resumes and cover letters. The most important things to understand here are that you should change what skills you mention to reflect the company you’re applying for.

Also, look for verifiable credentials to help prove your experience to employers.

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