How to Choose Appropriate Skills for your Resume:
1. List all the skills you know you have.
Create a master list of all the skills you know you have acquired through your life, both hard and soft skills. Think about the things you learned and excelled at in school, the activities you did after school (such as sports, arts, and clubs), and the experience you have gained at the various jobs you have done.
Other ways to identify your skills include:
- Considering any awards and achievements you have received and the skills you used to gain them.
- Asking former colleagues and mentors for help.
- Reaching out to professionals in the field for advice.
2. Read through the job description and visit the company website.
For example, a job description for an administration clerk requires "attending to all queries in a timely and effective manner." From this, a candidate can deduce that time management and communication skills are essential requirements for the job. Another job description for a motor technician requires successful candidates to "prepare all reports and forms required in conjunction with work assignments," meaning that the candidate should have administrative skills as well as attention to detail.
For information on the company's culture, and thus the soft skills you would need, check out their website. You can also search for a careers page, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms. You will then be able to include the most relevant soft skills tailored to the specific company.
For example, on LinkedIn, a tech company states that they are "a diverse collective of thinkers and doers." Therefore, if applying to this company, candidates will want to emphasize not only technical skills, but also soft skills such as creative thinking and teamwork. A financial services company on LinkedIn states that their vision is to "satisfy their customers' financial needs and help them succeed financially." Candidates applying to this company will want to emphasize soft skills such as customer service, active listening, and attention to detail.
Make a list of the required skills and compare it to your master list. This step is important because it is important to show how good you will be at the specific job that you are applying for.
3. Tailor your skills list to the company or position.
By comparing your master list to the list of skills gleaned from the job description, you can add all the skills that match to your resume. If the job description lists skills that you think you have but forgot to add to your master list, go ahead and add them to your resume, but remember to be honest. You will definitely be asked to elaborate on your skills in your interview.
You do not want to list skills that you are currently learning or one day hope to have. Recruiters expect you to be able to deliver on any skill you list in your skills section.
4. List your key skills in a separate section.
There are different ways to format your skills list, but you will want to have a separate section for it so that recruiters can see it straight away. This section, generally referred to as "Additional Skills," can be used to list all the relevant abilities that can't easily be seen in your Work History/Professional Experience section.
Remember to list your most important qualifications here and be specific and precise. It can also be helpful to divide your skills into categories, usually "hard skills" and "soft skills."
Also, try not to use more than 10 skills. The goal of a resume is to be concise and you will usually only have 1-2 pages to detail all your qualifications, experience, and skills. The recruiter is usually also strapped for time, so they will be more likely to really notice a short, precise list of relevant skills.
Be specific when listing your skills. Rather than just listing a general proficiency, such as "expert computer skills," try to be specific with your wording, such as "experienced with Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Powerpoint."
Why It's Important to Include a Skills Section on Your Resume:
Skills are the natural talents you have as well as the expertise you have developed that will help you to do a job or perform a task. With the right skill set on your resume, you can put yourself ahead of the candidate pool and grab the attention of the employer.
There is an endless list of skills that you can put on your resume and knowing which ones to list will reinforce your ability to get the job you are applying for.
Possibly the most important reason to list a skills section on your resume is the fact that most companies these days use applicant tracking software. This software goes through the thousands of resumes a company can receive and looks for keywords relevant to the job. If a company does not use an ATS, there is still a good chance that the hiring manager will simply skim through the skills section to look for the right skill set.
Leveraging your top skills through your skills section will help you to attract more job interviews. There are two main types of job skills that hiring managers look for, hard skills and soft skills. Listing both types will show that you are a well-rounded, balanced candidate.
Where to Put the Skills Section:
There is no simple right or wrong answer on where to put your skills section, simply because it differs by industry, company, and job. However, there are different options that you can consider.
- Additional Skills Section: Usually placed toward the bottom of the resume and appropriate for jobs that value past experience the most, with a Professional Experience section towards the top of the resume.
- Key Skills Section: Listed at the top of the resume to showcase your abilities and appropriate if you are lacking work experience.
- Technical/Computer Skills Section: When applying for a technical position that requires a very specific skillset, this section will be placed at the top of the resume, just below the Resume Profile.
You can also make use of a resume builder.
- Bulleted lists: Simple but effective and easy to read.
- Brief descriptions of proficiency levels: Shows the recruiter how advanced your skills are by using the competencies proficiency scale.
- Skills summary: Usually used with functional resumes for candidates with little to no work experience to highlight their most important skills. Includes examples of achievements that illustrate those skills.
When writing your skills list, you can sort them by relevance to the job post, i.e. start with your skills that are most relevant to the job you are applying for and end your list with the skills that are least relevant. Do not include skills that have no relevance at all to the position.
The Competencies Proficiency Scale:
You are just starting to learn the skill and have not practiced it through experience.
You have applied the skill in practice but still occasionally require assistance.
You no longer need help with the skill and can teach it to beginners.
You are an authority on the skill and have consistently proved to be excellent in its practice. You can also help others when they go to you with questions.
5. Boost your skills in the Work Experience section.
The work experience section of your resume should be achievement-oriented to showcase how you have used your skills to produce satisfactory results at your previous jobs. This section reinforces your experience and proves that you can use your skills in a real-life work situation.
To create a great achievement-oriented work experience section, you can use the Problem, Action, Result method:
- Problem: Identify an issue at your previous job.
- Action: Show how you used a skill to resolve the problem.
- Result: Highlight the positive result of your action.
Once you have this drafted, you can then create a single achievement-oriented bullet point to highlight your chosen skill. You can also add numbers, percentages, or other bits of data to quantify your skills. For example, you could say that you implemented a new project management software that increased the efficiency of your team by 15%. This highlights your project management skills.
6. Highlight the most relevant skills in your Resume Profile.
The resume profile is a short paragraph at the top of your resume that gives an overview of your career and explains why you are a good candidate for the position you are applying for. You can write this either as a resume summary (if you are an experienced candidate) or as a resume objective (if you are an entry-level candidate).
However you choose to write your resume profile, remember to include 2 to 3 of the most relevant skills that the employer will expect.
7. Research the most in-demand skills for your industry.
If you are still struggling with what to put in your skills section, or perhaps don't have any of the skills listed in the specific job description, research the top skills required for your industry. You can add any of these skills that match your master list.
It can also be a great idea to add some of these top industry-specific skills to your resume profile.
Examples of Top Skills to Include in Your Resume:
Type of Skill
Data analysis, web analytics, SEO/SEM marketing, WordPress, email and SMS marketing, web scraping, data visualization and pattern-finding through critical thinking, project management, social media marketing and paid social media advertisements, marketing theory, brand management, creativity, copywriting, storytelling, sales, CMS tools.
Software tools, infographics, HTML & CSS, photo editing, typography, storyboarding, ad design, color sense and theory, visual communication of targeting and marketing, logo creation, digital printing, creativity, attention to detail, active listening.
Technical skills (basic)
Microsoft Office Pack, filing and paper management, data entry, basic bookkeeping, research and data analysis, basic user interface communication, technical writing, cloud networking, file sharing.
Web development skills
Database languages, programming languages, statistical software, data mapping, entry relationship diagrams, wireframes, Big Data tools, Microsoft Visio, Agile Business Analysis, machine learning, system context diagrams, business process modeling, technical and non-technical communication.
Customer relationship management, cold-calling, negotiation, public speaking, lead generation, closing, sales techniques, product knowledge, effective communication and sociability, empathy, social media and digital communication, teamwork, time management.
Non-verbal or written communication, active listening, clarity and concision, verbal communication, constructive criticism, interpersonal communication, public speaking.
Decision-making, time management, delegation, planning.
Ability to teach or mentor others, flexibility, giving feedback, responsibility, risk-taking, team building, time management, commitment.
Management techniques, emotional intelligence, dealing with work-related stress, motivation, task delegation, technological savviness, team leadership and communication, business development, strategic management, negotiation, project planning, proposal writing, problem-solving, innovation, charisma.
Presentation, typing or word processing, email management, data analytics, systems administration, fluency in coding languages, spreadsheets.
Teamwork, empathy, patience, trustworthiness.
Problem-solving, handling criticism, adaptability, resilience.
Active listening skills
Asking questions, note-taking, organization, punctuality, verbal and non-verbal communication.
Customer service skills
Active listening, empathy, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, reliability.
Communication, empathy, flexibility, leadership, patience.
Attention to detail, collaboration, communication, patience, research.
Time management skills
Task delegation, focus, goal setting, organization, prioritization.
Ambition, creativity, empathy, leadership, teamwork.
What If You Don't Have the Required Skills?
If the core competencies of doing a job require a particular set of skills that you do not have, be honest with yourself as well as the recruiter. This is the moment to really consider if you are capable of doing the job. However, if your skillset might match those of the job description, you can get creative with your resume.
Use examples from your past work experiences to demonstrate your capability to do the job but ensure that any growth you need to achieve can be done alongside performing the core components of the job.
This does not mean you should lie and say you have the skills when you don't. If you are asked to an interview, the interviewer will ask you about your skills.
For more guidelines on how to write your skills section, have a look at our guide to writing a resume.