Everything you need to know about adding the right skills to your resume
Whether your resume has been through 19 revisions lately or you're just revisiting it for the first time in years, spending some time taking stock of your skills section can generate more interest in your candidacy and be the key to winning interviews.
However, there's a lot of conflicting information online and in books about maximizing the effectiveness of this section.
Do you simply list all of your key skills on the resume?
What are the right skills to put on a resume?
What order is best?
How will a jumble of technical qualifications help you stand out?
And what about those soft skills?
Let's tackle those questions one at a time and learn the 17 best skills to put on your resume – starting at the beginning.
Why is the resume skills section there in the first place?
The number one reason to spend a fair amount of time crafting your skills list is employability. Being employable means that you have the right skills – academic skills, applied knowledge, technology skills, vertical and lateral thinking abilities, and interpersonal skills – that employers value and are willing to pay you for.
When the hiring manager picks up your resume to determine whether you're a fit for the role they have open, one of the first things they'll look at is your skill level. Having the right skills on your resume is also important to ensure your CV pops up in recruiter searches.
There are three key reasons to include the skills section in your resume and to organize it well:
To list your skills and abilities in one place for easy reference and scanning
To highlight the match between your background and the job requirements for the position you're interested in
To get your well-crafted resume through keyword screening by applicant tracking systems
The right mix of resume skills will get you past the first hurdle and towards a conversation. Here's a blueprint for making the most out of your skills section:
Relevancy is critical
Including a jumble of skills on your resume, beefed up with some basics that pretty much everyone knows (like Microsoft Office, as an example) won't help you to stand out. In fact, listing out skills that are considered to be a common baseline can actually hurt your candidacy by making you look like you're scrambling to establish credibility.
PRO TIP: As a general rule, basic user-level proficiency with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and email applications is assumed to be a given. However, if you have advanced Excel skills (expert-level proficiency with macros and advanced analysis capabilities, for example), you should list those.
Rather than go back to basics, you'll want to focus only on skills that look good on a resume.
So how can you tell that a skill is relevant? That's easy! Read the job description.
Interpret the job description
As you dissect the job description to learn what will be required of you if you're hired for the position, pay special attention to the “requirements” and “qualifications” bullets, as that's where you'll find the majority of the keywords your resume will need. Again, the goal is to ensure that your resume speaks to that particular job so you can impress the hiring manager.
Let's say you're applying for a job as an Account Manager. You may see these bullets under the “requirements” part of the job description:
Build lasting relationships with new and existing clients
Maintain client records, including contract renewals
Develop sales plans to meet key performance indicators
Understand product offerings to meet customer needs and upsell when available
The keywords you need to focus on in each bullet are:
Client records and contract renewals
Sales plans and KPIs
Product offerings, customer needs, and upsell
The question you then need to ask yourself is, “Do I have the skills to back up these keywords?” If the answer is “Yes,” then these skills should appear on your resume.
This is called tailoring your resume and should be done with every job that you apply to. For example, if you are applying to be a Floor Manager at a store that sells musical instruments, your proficiency with inventory management and your ability to play guitar would both be relevant for the job.
The four main types of skills for your resume
As a human being, you have technical and interpersonal skills in a broad range of areas. You might be an expert whitewater rafter, or maybe you have advanced a World of Warcraft character all the way to level 80. Both of those accomplishments require dedication, practice, and technical proficiency, but they're probably not going to help you land a job.
The general recommendation on standout skills for a resume is to only list skills that will, directly or indirectly, help you to be more effective in your job.
To do this, you have to understand the different types of skills that employers look for.
1. Hard skills for a resume
These are learned abilities that you've picked up during your career, either through education, training, or experience. They can be honed over time. When you add hard skills to your resume, you'll want to include numbers – measurable accomplishments – as often as possible.
2. Soft skills for a resume
Soft skills are characteristics you possess that improve your ability to get along with others, solve problems, and communicate effectively. You'll find that hiring managers love soft skills.
No matter how technical your position is, it will require interacting with people, dealing with deadlines, and adapting to change. It's not as easy to quantify soft skills as it is hard skills, but employers still want you to prove that you possess these traits.
While most skills can be categorized as hard or soft skills, there are other types of skills, too!
3. Transferable skills for a resume
In addition to hard and soft skills, you might consider whether you have any transferable skills. This becomes especially important if you're changing careers, as they allow you to provide tangible proof of your ability to adapt to new circumstances and use lateral or vertical thinking to apply knowledge about one thing to something else.
When you're leaning on transferable skills to sell your qualifications to the hiring manager, you must take the time to relay how those skills will benefit them and their new team. So, rather than saying that you have good time management skills, prove it by demonstrating what you do to manage time and how this has benefitted previous employers.
4. Adaptive skills for a resume
You can also show resiliency through skills in your resume if you're not changing careers. Let's face it, if there's one thing that's certain in life and work, it's that things change. If you're the type of person to leverage change as a learning opportunity, then you should definitely be highlighting your adaptability on your resume.
When you talk about adaptive skills on your resume, be sure to provide specific examples as they can be the powerhouse statements that win you an interview.
The 17 best skills to put on your resume
Now that we've defined what types of skills you can use on your resume, let's explore some specific examples of different skills you can include.
1. Computer skills and programming languages
When the job description wants you to prove that you possess programming skills, you can add “Proficiency in Python, Java, or HTML,” for example. This signals to employers that you can do everything from coding to automation and makes you a valuable candidate in the tech space.
Some roles that require an understanding of computer languages include:
2. Data analysis
Saying that you possess data analysis skills allows you to demonstrate that you can interpret raw data and draw actionable insights to fuel change. It's adaptable across industries and can be easily backed by quantifiable data.
Some roles that require an understanding of data analysis include:
3. Project management
You don't have to be a Certified Project Management Professional to include an ability to manage projects on your resume. If you're good at leading, organizing, and delivering successful outcomes, then you should add that you know how to manage projects.
Some roles that require an understanding of project management include:
Creativity is one of the most highly sought-after skill sets. Not only can you leverage it to create tangible marketing pieces that connect with target audiences, but it can also be used to solve problems and bring fresh perspectives to projects. Creativity also signals that you're adaptable to dynamic environments.
Some roles that require you to be creative include:
The world gets smaller every day, so being able to speak more than one language is a skill that you should definitely include on your resume. Adding multiple languages to your application makes you highly valuable in a globalized, connected working world.
Some roles that require you to be speak other languages include:
Every job everywhere requires employees to have good communication skills. But instead of simply saying that you are a good communicator, be prepared to demonstrate that you understand the value of everything from active listening to properly articulating complex concepts.
Some roles that require great communication include:
A lot of people will throw the word “teamwork” into the skills list on their resume without giving it much thought. However, given the vast amount of hybrid and remote working environments, teamwork is more important than ever. A happy team that works together reduces burnout and increases morale.
Some roles that require good teamwork include:
If you're applying for a role that will involve guiding others, then including leadership skills is a must. When you add leadership to your resume, you highlight that you're not afraid to take the initiative to make decisions that drive outcomes.
Some roles that require you to be a leader include:
9. Critical thinking
When you're known for making well-informed decisions by analyzing information and evaluating situations objectively, you possess critical thinking skills. You may see this pop up in job descriptions where the employer is seeking someone with high emotional intelligence. Basically, if you can navigate your way logically through problems, then critical thinking is probably something you should add to your resume.
Some roles that require critical thinking include:
10. Cultural competence
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become buzzwords in today's workforce. People want a voice and value having a psychologically safe place in which to get things done. This is even more true when you have people coming together from different cultures.
Some roles that require you to have cultural competence include:
11. Quality assurance
Quality assurance has implications across a number of fields, including software development and cybersecurity. There is an emphasis on quality assurance in roles that require you to maintain compliance with regulations or particular guidelines and best practices.
Some roles that require an understanding of quality assurance include:
12. Time management
Ranking right up there with creativity as far as top-rated skills go, being able to properly manage time is critical in today's workforce. It's not only something that's found in professional settings, but across industries and jobs worldwide. A simple search of job descriptions will reveal that the majority of them want people who can meet deadlines, at the minimum.
Some roles that require good time management include:
13. Conflict resolution
Being able to de-escalate situations with irate clients by demonstrating empathy and clearly defining options for a resolution means you're probably good at conflict management. However, conflict management isn't only demonstrated in client interactions. You may also be able to showcase conflict resolution skills if you've solved problems within team environments, too.
Some roles that require conflict resolution skills include:
14. Sales and upselling
Sales is all about employing active listening to ascertain customers' needs, to sell the right product or service at the right time. Whether you're connecting with target audiences to get them to buy something through a digital marketing campaign or you're trying to sell someone a product, meeting client needs is critical to demonstrating that you're good at sales and upselling.
Some roles that require you to be able to sell and upsell include:
15. Data entry
As you progress in your career, showcasing that you're good at data entry will become less and less important, however, there are still some roles that value candidates who can quickly and accurately input data into a system.
Some roles that require data entry include:
Being tech–savvy means that you're always on the cutting edge and consistently keep up with emerging technologies. It helps you to deliver innovative solutions that help your company remain competitive in the ever-changing IT landscape.
Some roles that require candidates to be tech-savvy include:
17. Continuous learning
Today's employers value job seekers and employees who are fastidiously committed to ongoing education and skill development. Most even provide some sort of knowledge bank or in-house professional development courses to allow you to engage in continuous learning.
Some roles that value a commitment to continuous learning include:
How to add skills to your resume
Keep your skills specific and clear
A common pitfall when it comes to resume skills is to list broad categories of abilities without going into sufficient detail. The problem with that approach is that it won't get your resume found in keyword searches, because they are looking for specific proficiency statements.
So, instead of writing “familiarity with accounting software,” list “Quickbooks, Quicken, Sage, and Xero.”
Use numbers and descriptive words where appropriate –
How many projects have you managed using Teamwork Projects?
How many people have you trained to use Salesforce?
A few well-placed quantifiers can position you as a serious candidate with supported qualifications.
Organize your skills list
When creating a long list of skills for a resume, consider how you organize everything. Ordering your skills strategically will make your resume easier to read and call the right attention to the right skills in the right place.
This is especially true considering that our brains look for patterns. A well-organized skill section on your resume will improve the aesthetics and help the hiring manager to skim through it to find just what they're looking for.
PRO TIP: There isn't a hiring manager alive who is reading your resume. They're scanning through it in just a few seconds. This makes keeping things organized all the more important.
Another organizing tip is to list the most important skills for the job first. Specifics will vary by industry, but think through the critical technical skills that will drive your effectiveness and success in the role and put them at the top.
When you're starting to group your skills list together, deciding which is most important depends on the job description. While most employers want employees who are good communicators and can solve problems, you have to take the industry and employer preferences into consideration.
Job relevance: This goes back to tearing the job description apart to find the relevant keywords
Industry trends: Stay on top of things that may be changing in your industry and highlight any new skills that come into demand
Employer preferences: Take some time to research the company and learn what they do, why they do it, and for whom – this will help you to get a feel for their company culture, so you'll know which soft skills will impress them the most
The best place to put skills on your resume
The placement of the resume skills section itself on the page is up to you. Many people prefer to have it positioned near the top of their resume, but it works at the bottom too.
PRO TIP: If you have a lot of skills to list, consider breaking them up (for example, technical skills at the top and additional skills at the bottom).
No matter where you place the skills section, the layout is critical in catching the eye of hiring managers and showcasing your qualifications in a way that helps you to stand out from the crowd.
At the top of your resume
Technically speaking, your skills list shouldn't be at the top. The first things on your resume should be your contact information, headline, and summary paragraph. So, when we say “at the top of your resume,” we mean beneath the summary paragraph.
When you put your skills list at the top of your resume, you call immediate attention to some key selling points. It's an effective technique if you have a strong set of skills that directly align with the job requirements.
Here's what a skills list at the top of your resume would look like:
FIRST NAME, LAST NAME
City, ST 12345 • LinkedIn URL • email@example.com • 111-222-3333
Operations Management | Project Management | Sales Management | Business Analysis
Innovative and ambitious executive-level management professional offering extensive experience and an accomplishments-driven career in sales, marketing and operations, and key account management. Leverages an entrepreneurial spirit to orchestrate tactical business plans that challenge the status quo, allowing for reformation of process. Intuitive business acumen and skilled strategist who uses the most up-to-date business practices to create, implement, and oversee business continuity. Naturally assumes leadership roles to oversee and achieve organizational success.
Business Development • Executive Leadership • Strategic Business Planning • Data Analysis • Team Training & Development • Policy & Procedure Development • Marketing & Territory Expansion • Procurement, Sourcing, & Negotiation • Relationship-Selling • Customer Relations
This resume example actually has two skills lists. One just beneath the title and then the regular one beneath the summary paragraph. It's an effective way to separate out the skills that are most important – the specialized abilities that you want to call immediate attention to. However, if you do it like this on your resume, the skills listed beneath the title should only be one to two lines max!
At the bottom of the resume
If you've reached a point in your career where your work history and career achievements outshine your skills, then it's a good idea to place the skills list at the bottom of your resume.
Here's what your skills could look like at the bottom of your resume:
[List your career history in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent and working backward about 10 years]
[List the degrees you've earned and the schools where you obtained your degrees. You can also mention any professional development classes you've taken and certifications or licenses you possess]
Project Management | Lean Management | Change Management | Operations Management | 3PL | Inventory Management | Inventory Control | Inventory Planning | Logistics Management | Distribution & Processing | Budgeting | Procurement | Purchase Orders
Team Leadership | Coaching | Persuasion | Creative Problem Solving | Negotiation
Epicor | PeopleSoft | XAL(Concorde) | HighStage | Deltek (Costpoint) | KBM | Syteline | Kinaxis | Glovia (Oracle-based) | Oracle | Adept | Workflow | Data Vault (Oracle-based) | Intralink
English | Spanish | French
Throughout your resume
Since your resume is more than a list of skills, you should know that your master list of abilities and the keywords you've culled from the job description aren't limited to being placed only in a skills list. You can – and should – include hard, soft, adaptive, and transferable skills throughout your entire resume.
After your contact information, the first thing that should appear on your resume is a headline. A lot of people will simply put a title, but if you take a moment to spruce it up and turn it into a headline, you'll be able to inject a few keywords on the top line of your resume.
For example, if you're applying for a role as a Real Estate Broker, here's the difference between a title and a headline:
Title: Real Estate Broker
Headline: Real Estate Broker with Expertise in Property Valuation and Team Management
Put yourself into the shoes of a hiring manager and ask yourself, which of those would give you more information about the job seeker? The headline not only indicates which role you want, but also includes two keywords – property valuation and team management.
As you move on to write your career summary, that appears just beneath the headline, you'll want to continue adding relevant skills from your career that are mirrored in the job description. Doing this will ensure that your resume presents a cohesive and powerful message that your experience and achievements will serve the new company well.
In sticking with the example of Real Estate Broker, perhaps you find that the new company wants you to coordinate marketing events and client activities, write weekly reports, and have a solid understanding of the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) platform for listing properties.
The keywords to include in your profile paragraph would be:
Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
Thus, your profile paragraph could look like this:
Veteran real estate professional with a strong background in orchestrating impactful marketing events for single and multi-family residences. Specializes in managing client activities that turn passive consumers into active clientele. Proficient in maximizing MLS to enhance property visibility and streamlining documentation and reporting processes. Known for creating a culture of excellence and client satisfaction by maintaining an open-door policy that encourages communication among team members.
As you can see, the profile paragraph isn't a long and drawn-out diatribe of things you've done in your career. Rather, it's a short paragraph that matches your skills to the job you're applying for.
Let's move on to the meat of your resume - the part the hiring manager is going to spend the most time on – your career history. You may be wondering how you can put future-facing keywords into the historical part of your resume, but all it takes is a bit of finesse.
For example, if you have a history of closing multi-million-dollar deals in high-end neighborhoods, you could work a few keywords into an achievement bullet like this:
- Closed 5 multi-million-dollar property sales per month by leveraging MLS for property exposure
While you could stop after you say how many multi-million-dollar deals you closed, because that's a great achievement statement, expanding the bullet to include a keyword makes your overall resume all the more compelling.
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Stand out from the crowd
When you master including the best skills in your resume, you reach a level of job search preparedness that propels your resume to the top of the pile. The whole idea is to make it easy for potential employers to see how you'll fit within the folds of their organization and team. That's where tailoring the skills on your resume comes in – wherever you include them.
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