If you’re ready to apply for a new job, strengthening your resume by highlighting your experiences and relevant skills will increase your chances of catching a potential employer’s attention. According to a CNBC report, more than 75% of companies now use skills-based hiring to fill open positions. About half (55%) also utilize role-specific skills tests to vet candidates.
A resume’s “skills section” matters because it enables you to present your qualifications in a clear, concise manner. In other words, it’s a vital tool in marketing yourself effectively during a job search.
The key to choosing the best skills for your resume is focusing on the job description you’re interviewing for and thinking about what’s most valuable to the employer you’re hoping to be hired by. For instance, your desired employer may be looking for strong interpersonal skills (also called “people skills”), analytical or technical skills, or specific software or analysis skills related to certain roles.
The skills section of a resume is important for several reasons:
- It clearly communicates your abilities up front.
- It helps with applicant tracking systems (ATS), which are automated systems many companies use to filter resumes before they conduct interviews.
- It differentiates you from other candidates since you can customize your resume to stand out.
- It showcases transferable skills that may not be evident from your job history or cover letter.
- It complements the rest of your resume, such as prior work experience, qualifications, or education.
In this article, learn how job candidates can assess their skills carefully and include the right ones on their resumes to show potential employers that they’re capable of contributing to a company and its mission.
- Resume skills are a combination of abilities, qualities, and experiences you can bring to a job.
- On average, a resume should include about ten skills that are most important to the job being applied for.
- Including a well-thought-out skills section on your resume boosts your odds of making it past initial screenings so you can further showcase your personality and knowledge during an interview.
- Your unique combination of skills differentiates you from other candidates. If you have versatile and highly sought-after skills, your skills section will give you a competitive edge.
- Within a skills section, a wide range of competencies can be included, such as communication, technical, industry-specific, or project management skills.
- When deciding which skills to include on your resume, carefully read the job posting to determine what the employer is looking for, then tailor your skills section to match those qualifications.
Types of Skills to Put on a Resume
“It can initially seem impossible to pack all your personality, work ethic, and background into a one-page resume. That’s where a strong skill-set comes in.”Sky Ariella, Career Expert
No two resumes should look identical since each job requires a unique mix of competencies. To be most effective, a skills section of a resume should convey how your prior experiences and accomplishments will enable you to be successful in your next role and beyond.
Skills on a resume can be divided into two main categories: hard skills and soft skills. Here’s more about each group of skills:
Hard skills are technical skills, knowledge, or training that you have acquired through any life experience, including in your career or education. These practical abilities are often related to mechanical, information technology, scientific, or mathematical tasks.
Typically, you learn hard skills in school, from books, or through on-the-job training. Examples include proficiency in programming languages such as coding, expertise in programs such as Excel, machine operation skills, or an understanding of specific engineering or design principles.
Hard skills can include:
- Computer Programming
- Graphic Design
- Writing and Editing
- Foreign Languages
- Mathematical Competency
- SEO/SEM Marketing
- Data Analysis
- Project Management
- Social Media Management
- Machine Operation
Soft skills are interpersonal or “people skills.” They speak to your ability to interact effectively with others and communicate well. These are non-technical skills that relate to how you work with others, including customers, clients, and colleagues. In one Zety survey of more than 200 employers, 92% of hiring managers surveyed said that “soft skills are as important, or more important, than hard skills . . . Interestingly, though they’re in high demand, these soft skills were also cited as being among those most often missing from candidates’ resumes.”
Pen Mar Human Services seconds that, noting, “While hard skills are a necessity for certain job opportunities, issues with soft skills are one of the main reasons hires don’t work out, and are therefore what most employers are looking for.”
Soft skills can include:
- Time Management
- Conflict Resolution
- Customer Service
Transferable vs. Industry-Specific Skills
Aside from skills being either hard or soft, they can also be broad or more specific.
Transferable skills are those you can use even when switching industries or applying for a role that doesn’t directly align with your previous work experience. It’s worth highlighting any transferable skills you may have on your resume because these are valuable in various contexts and situations. As Target Jobs puts it, “These are core skills that will make you effective at work, whatever job you do. They are transferable because you develop them over time and take them with you as your career develops.”
Transferable skills are the skills you pick up throughout life that can be used in various jobs and industries; They’re also called “portable skills,” as they are not specific to one particular job or industry.
Examples of transferable skills include:
- Time Management
- Critical Thinking
On the other hand, industry-specific skills are relevant to a particular field or profession. They’re often technical skills that are required for certain roles or jobs within one type of industry. For example, a knowledge of photo editing software might be a key skill for a graphic design job.
Examples of industry-specific skills can include:
- Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Operating Specialized Machinery
- Digital Marketing
- Medical Procedures or Billing
- Legal Research
- Financial Analysis
- Architectural Design
- Data Analysis
- Fluency in a Foreign Language
Which skills do employers look for most? It all depends on the job they’re recruiting for. Research done by Newman Univerity found that, generally speaking, the top 5 skills employers look for include:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Professionalism and strong work ethic
- Oral and written communications skills
How to Determine Your Best Skills
When considering skills for your resume, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my strengths that are most relevant to this job?: The list of skills you include should be related to the job you’re applying for. Be sure to check the job description to determine which skills the employer is seeking.
- Am I being specific enough when describing my abilities? If you have a specific skill, be clear about what it is. For example, instead of saying “computer skills,” specify “proficient in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint.”
- How can I demonstrate my skills in action?: It’s more powerful to show how you’ve used a skill rather than simply stating that you have it. Try to incorporate a demonstration of your skills in your cover letter or elsewhere on your resume.
You can also identify your top skills using these methods:
- Analyze Job Postings: Look at job descriptions for positions you’re interested in. Identify common skills that are frequently mentioned. If these match your abilities, they’re likely important skills to include on your resume.
- Ask Others for Feedback: Consider feedback you’ve received in the past from peers, managers, professors, or mentors. Often, others can provide valuable insights into our strengths that we may overlook. Highlight your strengths on your resume, cover letter, and interview.
- Review Your Past Experiences: Reflect on your past experiences and identify instances where you’ve excelled. Consider your achievements and what skills enabled you to achieve them, such as teamwork or critical thinking.
- Assess Your Transferable Skills: Think about broad skills you’ve used in different contexts. These can be things like problem-solving, leadership, or communication, which can be applied in many types of roles and circumstances.
- Consider Technical Skills: If you’re applying for a role in a technical field, consider what relevant technical skills you possess. For example, these could include programming languages, proficiency with certain software, or operating specialized equipment.
- Take a Skills Assessment Test: Try the Gallup Strength Assessment or the UK Government Skills Assessment for insights about your potential strengths and qualifications.
Once you’ve identified your ten or so strongest skills, tailoring them to each job application is crucial. Review the job description and identify which of your skills are most relevant. Then, highlight these in your resume, using specific examples whenever possible.
For example, instead of saying “excellent team leader,” you could say, “led a team of five on a project that resulted in a 20% increase in efficiency.” This highlights that you’re an effective leader and provides a concrete example of the impact you made at a previous company.
12 Skills to Put on Your Resume
“Surveys make clear that employers want universal skills you can learn across academic disciplines and in any job where you are working with others. The trick is to communicate clearly that you have those skills.”Susan Adams
When writing the skills section on your resume, ideally aim to include a variety of hard skills, soft skills, transferable skills, and industry-specific skills. This combination shows range and the ability to work well in either a particular field or across various positions. Having a mix of different types of skills indicates to employers that you have the ability to succeed in the professional world, even when faced with challenges or change.
Consider adding these 12 skills to your resume, which are highly valued by employers:
1. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
Problem-solving is the ability to identify, analyze, and find solutions to problems. It’s related to critical thinking, which involves using creativity, reasoning, past experience, and available resources to solve issues.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers has found that critical thinking skills are the top priority for an employer to hire someone, especially if they don’t have much work experience and/or are a recent college graduate.
Here’s how to showcase these skills:
- Explain how you’re a good analytical thinker and how you dissect problems to make logical decisions in a timely manner.
- Give an example of how you’ve been a problem-solver who turned challenges into opportunities.
- Mention how you’ve processed complex information to uncover solutions. For example, a data analyst might examine sales data to determine which products are most popular and why.
- Include that you have strong attention to detail, which helps to reduce errors and produce valuable, high-quality work. For instance, a proofreader carefully checks written content for grammatical errors, typos, and inconsistencies.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. An article published by Psychology Today explains, “Emotionally intelligent people are able to mobilize and utilize their emotions, and they are motivated to manage tasks and problem-solve obstacles. They are connected to who they are and what they value in life, which are foundational for prioritizing and reaching any objective or goal.”
To display that you have emotional intelligence:
- Mention specific strengths such as displays of maturity, compassion, understanding, and patience.
- Explain how you’ve empathized well with others in previous roles, such as by managing conflicts. For instance, a manager with high emotional intelligence can navigate a team disagreement effectively, understanding the perspectives of all parties and finding a solution that everyone can agree on.
- Give an example of a time when you built strong relationships within the workplace and how it benefitted the company.
Communication is the ability to exchange information and meaning between people by using language or behaviors. This category includes skills like written, verbal, and nonverbal communication, such as speaking and writing emails.
Being able to convey information clearly and succinctly is vital in almost any job, especially those such as customer service or client management. Executive coach Nozomi Morgan notes, “Workplace communication improves productivity. Employees who score highest in productivity continually receive effective communication ratings from their superiors.”
Highlight your communication skills in these ways:
- Explain how you’ve been successful in the past by communicating well with others, such as by corresponding with clients or presenting information.
- Mention any specific written communication skills you have, such as explaining complex concepts in simple terms and adapting your messages based on your audience. For instance, an effective customer service rep can clarify a technical issue to a non-technical customer.
- Include information about your active listening skills, such as your ability to absorb and follow directions.
- Showcase how you’ve provided constructive feedback and the benefits it led to, such as improved productivity among your team.
Leadership involves being able to motivate and inspire a team, delegate tasks, and take initiative. In a Talent Shortage Survey conducted by Manpower Group, employers reported difficulties in finding employees with transferable skills related to leadership, including reliability, self-discipline, resilience, and originality. Therefore, this is a strong skill to showcase to stand out.
Here are examples of how to display your leadership skills:
- Describe an instance when you were a strong leader that helped your company establish objectives, give directions, and then support others to complete their assigned tasks. For instance, as a project manager, you may have led a team to complete a project ahead of schedule and under budget by holding team members accountable.
- Mention your organizational skills and the ability to structure responsibilities efficiently.
- Include mentionings of your capacity to mentor others and give feedback when needed.
Adaptability includes resilience, resourcefulness, and the ability to learn new skills, take on new tasks, and thrive in new situations.
Adapting well to setbacks and pivots is particularly valuable in today’s rapidly changing work environments, such as in tech or politics. Charlotte Grainger for ZipJob explains, “Since businesses today need to be flexible, they need flexible employees to help them succeed. If you are eager to learn, quick to adapt, and dedicated to personal growth, you have that flexibility.”
To describe your ability to be adaptive:
- Discuss how you’ve navigated uncertainty and learned new skills which may have prevented losses or disruptions among your team. For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees swiftly transitioned to remote work, which helped companies stay on track.
- Give an example of a time you overcame a challenge and took the initiative to learn a new skill that served customers or your target audience.
- Mention how you’ve been resourceful and used available resources to your advantage.
Creativity is the ability to think outside the box and generate new ideas.
The ManPower Group survey mentioned above found that originality is highly sought-after by employers, yet companies often struggle to hire creative, reliable workers. Employers also value creativity as it relates to problem-solving. Research done by the Jerome Chamber of Commerce found, “The top skill that CEOs are looking for in skilled workers is creativity. 60% of CEOs polled cited creativity as the most important leadership quality.”
Here’s how to include skills on your resume related to creativity:
- Explain a time you had to think outside of the box and come up with unique and innovative solutions to obstacles that you’ve encountered.
- Mention examples of innovations you’ve been involved in that have kept a previous business fresh and competitive. A graphic designer, for instance, might create an eye-catching logo that effectively encapsulates a brand’s identity and raises the value of its products.
Teamwork is the ability to collaborate effectively with others to work toward a common goal.
The Zety survey mentioned above found that teamwork was the number one skill employers looked for, followed by communication skills.
Here are tips for highlighting your teamwork skills:
- Explain how you’ve been a team player in past roles and how it helped you build strong relationships and a network.
- Give an example of a time you fostered a positive work environment. As a marketing team member, for example, you may have collaborated to launch a successful campaign, with each person contributing to a part of the process.
8. Strong Work Ethic
Having a strong work ethic involves being self-motivated, efficient, and taking responsibility for your work, all while remaining professional.
One Employer Career Competencies survey found that nearly all employers who were surveyed rated “Professionalism/Work Ethic” as 100% essential. However, they believed less than half of employees exhibited these behaviors.
To show employers that you have a strong work ethic, try this:
- Give an example of a responsibility you had in a previous role that shows commitment and dedication to doing your job well, such as taking on a new project or leading a major company initiative.
- Show you’re self-motivated by explaining your drive to take charge and assume responsibility for tasks or problems without being asked or micromanaged.
- Showcase how you’ve been reliable, diligent, and disciplined. For example, as a salesperson, you may have worked extra hours and made extra calls to meet sales targets.
9. Time Management
Time management is the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively. Displaying good time management skills involves balancing workloads and productivity effectively, setting realistic goals, and meeting deadlines.
Here’s how you can include time management skills on your resume:
- Explain how you can juggle multiple tasks without becoming overwhelmed.
- Give an example of a time you met a tight deadline and hit milestones in an efficient manner.
- Describe your capacity to complete various tasks as needed. As an administrative assistant, for instance, you might have scheduled meetings, managed emails, and handled paperwork, all within a busy workday.
10. Technology/Computer Proficiency
Technical and computer skills describe abilities that are specific to certain jobs, such as proficiency in a software, understanding of a certain machinery, or knowledge of a specific programming language. These skills can range from expertise in Microsoft Office Suite to Photoshop to software relevant to your industry, like Salesforce or QuickBooks.
Here are tips for mentioning your tech and computer skills:
- List any specific software or programs you’re familiar with, especially those specific to a certain industry or role, such as knowledge of programming languages like Python, Java, or HTML for jobs in the tech sector.
- Discuss your machine operation skills, which is the ability to operate industrial machinery, vehicles, or tools related to your trade.
- Mention any training or courses you’ve completed that have furthered your knowledge.
11. Data Analysis
Data can involve statistical analysis, data mining, or data presentation. Karin Kelley, marketing writer, says, “Data Analysis is essential as it helps businesses understand their customers better, improves sales, improves customer targeting, reduces costs, and allows for the creation of better problem-solving strategies.”
Here’s how to discuss data analysis skills within your skills section:
- Include programs that you’re proficient in, such as SEO and Google Analytics software that can improve a website’s ranking and track the performance of online campaigns.
- Mention any financial analysis skills you have and how you’ve used them to help your team make decisions about budgeting, spending, marketing, and other initiatives.
12. Foreign Language Proficiency
Fluency or proficiency in one or more foreign languages can be advantageous, particularly for roles that require communication with diverse clients.
According to Education First, “Being able to speak, explain, and negotiate in another language makes you more employable, increases your confidence, and can lead to a higher salary.” Some of the best careers for bilingual individuals include writing, journalism, customer service, translation, hospitality, and human resources.
You can mention your foreign language skills in these ways:
- List all languages you speak, including details about how fluent you are.
- Give an example of how you’ve interacted with clients or customers in different languages and how this benefited your company or team.
- Mention your comfort level with conversating in various languages and how you can use these skills to build relationships, such as by fulfilling customer service requests.
Do you plan to work remotely? Then you should highlight certain skills.
Toni Frana, FlexJobs career expert, points out, “Some great skills employers love to see on your resume if you are looking for remote work are: written and verbal communication, the ability to work independently, time and task management, organization, comfort with technology, and specific knowledge of remote communication tools like Zoom, Skype, Dropbox, and Google Suite.”
Tips for Making Your Skills Stand Out + How to Format Them
Skills listed on your resume can be formatted in specific ways to stand out and catch the reader’s eye.
- Get Past Automated Systems: Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter candidates’ resumes. Use relevant keywords to match the job description so your resume will pass through automated applicant tracking systems more easily.
- Include Different Types of Skills: Make sure to include both soft and hard skills, as well as transferable and industry-specific skills. Prioritize those that are most relevant to the job you’re applying for at the top.
- Number Your Skills: Create a numbered skills list to showcase how many relevant skills you have. Put your greatest strengths toward the top of the list.
- Mention Your Achievements: Tie your skills to specific achievements to demonstrate their impact. Include specific numbers or stats that explain your success in past roles. Remember to also back up your skills with concrete examples in your “work experience” section.
How to Format Your Skills Section
Where within the resume should your skills be listed? You can either use bullet points to list skills in a separate section or integrate your skills into your “work experience” section.
Some choose to include skills in a “career highlights” section, which offers an opportunity to highlight your most notable accomplishments and a summary of your qualifications, helping to grab the attention of hiring managers.
For the most impact, list skills in their own section and elaborate on them. Some experts recommend listing your technical (hard) skills before your interpersonal (soft) skills.
Separately from your skills section, be sure to include these sections on your resume, too:
- Work Experience: Include your job title, the company name, the dates you worked there, and bullet points highlighting your responsibilities and achievements.
- Education: List your highest degree first, including the degree name, your university, and your graduation date. You can also include relevant coursework, academic honors, or a high GPA (if it’s recent and strong).
- Certifications or Licenses: If you’ve earned any certifications or licenses relevant to the job, be sure to include them.
Here’s one way you can list your skills on your resume:
Summary of Key Skills:
- Team coordination and task delegation
- Explanation of benefits to all team members
- Quarterly reviews and feedback
- Verbal and written communication to assign projects and deadlines
- Planning of monthly company meetings
Examples of Skills in Action:
- Scheduled 10 monthly reviews with all team members to ensure key objectives were met.
- Greeted clients upon arrival at reception and accompanied them to the board room for meetings.
- Reordered supplies and stocked them throughout the office before they ran out.
- Interacted with 10+ vendors for company outings and client onsight meetings.
- Organized weekly staff meetings with 30 team members to discuss budget concerns.
- Organized conference rooms with needed materials and distributed summary notes when meetings concluded.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward to Get the Job
Standing out when applying for a job involves a combination of a well-prepared resume, personalized cover letters, a proactive approach, and in some cases, leveraging your network. Think of your resume as a marketing tool designed to get you an interview; your skills section is just one part of your resume. Overall, the skills you list should complement your work experience and education sections, providing a comprehensive picture of your qualifications.
Here are tips for landing a job using a well-crafted resume and other strategies:
- Always Tailor Your Resume: Be sure to customize your resume for each job you apply for. You also want to ensure your resume is professionally-written, meaning it’s concise and free of errors.
- Include a Cover Letter: Always include a cover letter unless the job posting specifically says not to. This is your opportunity to explain why you’re excited about the job and how your experience makes you the right fit. Make sure each cover letter is personalized to match the job description.
- Lean on Your Network: If you know someone at the company, consider asking them to refer you or provide a recommendation. Companies often prioritize referrals when they’re hiring.
- Pay Attention to Your Digital Presence: A strong online professional presence can make a difference in terms of your reputation and professionalism. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated and ensure any public aspects of other social media profiles are appropriate.
- Follow-Up After an Interview: Send a thank-you note after an interview. This is not only polite but also keeps you on the minds of the hiring managers.
Want to learn more about how to interview well and make a great impression? Check out this article:
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