The standard format of a resume normally includes the following headings: “Personal Information”, “Work Experience”, “Educational Attainment” and “Hobbies and Interests”. If you don’t have a section dedicated to skills for a resume, you will have difficulty selling your value proposition to the Hiring Manager. A “Skills” section would definitely push your resume further than “Hobbies and Interests”.
Your skills are a summary of what you can do for the potential employer if you were offered the job right now. For most job seekers, this section presents a challenge because they are not sure what to put on a resume in the skills and abilities sections.
Before we discuss what should be included in your list of skills for your resume, let us differentiate two very important types of skills that employers always look for: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?
Hard skills are your quantifiable abilities. These are skills that can be acquired through formal learning, seminars, certification programs, specialized courses, apprenticeships and in-house training.
If you were applying for a job as a Legal Assistant, you should have the following hard skills:
- Legal Transcription
- Legal Research
- Foreign Language
- MS Office
- Phone Handling
- Office Administration
Soft skills refer to your attributes; the behavioral qualities that best define your personality and approach to work. Unlike hard skills, this type of skill is hard to quantify. However, some companies use psychological tests, group work, and online programs to measure and verify soft skills.
Going back to our example, as a Legal Assistant, the list of desired soft skills would most likely include the following:
- Pressure Player
- Excellent Communicator
- Results Oriented
Which type of skill should you emphasize on your resume?
There are some quarters that believe soft skills are more important because hard skills can be taught or learned. A person’s set of soft skills is a product of his work and life experiences.
The best approach would be to find out the nature of the job. If you are required to deal with people on a daily basis as in customer service work, then it may be advisable to tilt the balance more toward soft skills. But if the job is highly technical in nature, such as that of a Cyber Security Specialist, the Hiring Manager may place a higher premium on the candidate’s hard skills.
How to Decide What to Put for Skills on a Resume
Over the years, you have acquired a multitude of skills from your experiences at school, work and your own volition. But diversity may not always work to your favor. Some skills may be relevant while others are not. The question which has most job applicants stumped is “What skills should I put in my resume?”
1. Identify and List Down Your Various Skills
The first step is to identify your various hard and soft skills and list them down on a piece of paper or on a spreadsheet. Next, grade your proficiency level in each hard skill.
You have to be very honest in your assessment because your skill ranking will help you determine the types of jobs you should apply for. Once you’ve graded your proficiency level, arrange the hard skills from highest to lowest.
As mentioned earlier, assessing soft skills is much more difficult. It will take more introspection and deeper evaluation to determine which soft skills you can confidently call your own.
Try to recall challenging experiences from your past and pinpoint the key attributes which helped you resolve or overcome the situations. Similar to hard skills, arrange these soft skills according to your level of confidence in having them.
Keep in mind the Hiring Manager may ask you to take behavioral profiling tests. You have to be honest when assessing your soft skills.
2. Review the Job Post and Look for Clues
When HR departments compose job posts, it always includes a summary of skills that are needed for the job. If you are interested in applying for a specific job, review the post carefully and take note of the list of skill requirements.
Find out if any of the skills identified on the job post are on your personal list. The skills that appear on both lists should be placed front and center in your resume. Remember that the company may be using Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS which identifies keywords to prequalify candidates for the job.
What happens if you don’t possess any of the required skills? First of all, don’t panic! It’s not the end of your application. Recall your previous experiences at work and think of incidents or situations whereby you displayed similar skills.
For example the job requires a candidate with at least 2 years experience in project management and you don’t have this qualification in your work history. However, you did volunteer work for a local organization and was asked to manage a 3 month campaign to raise $15,000 for a children’s charity foundation.
It may not have been for 2 years but if you could show that you were successful in accomplishing the campaign goal, the Hiring Manager at the very least, would take note of your potential. This is why it is very important to include details in your resume.
3. Customize Your Skills to Fit the Position
Hiring managers and recruiters do not spend a lot of time going through a resume. Studies have shown that on average, they may only scan your resume for no more than 6 seconds. In that short amount of time, they are actively looking for keywords and specific skill sets that are integral to the job position.
When writing your resume, you should always customize your skills to fit the position. As discussed in the preceding section, reviewing the job post and identifying skill requirements is a good place to start. But you should look for other definitive reference points.
For example, visit the company’s website. Review their “About Us” page and see if your soft skills or attributes are aligned with the company’s core values. Go over their “Latest News” page and take note of the company’s current developments.
Are they launching a new product, system or innovation? Are they involved in a number of socio-civic projects? How involved is the company in developing its own people?
You should also check their social media pages and take note if they are frequently citing specific hard and soft skills that are sought after by the company. Ask yourself if you have any of these hard and soft skills.
In other words, try to learn as much as you can about the company. Try to internalize company culture and build an understanding on who they are and what they represent.
Valuable Tips on How to Beef Up Your Top Skills for a Resume
According to statistics, every job post attracts an average of 118 applicants. Of these 118 applicants, 23% or 27 candidates will be invited for an interview. Chances are most of these applicants have indicated similar skills listed in their resume.
How can your resume skill set stand out from the rest of the competition? Here are 3 valuable tips you can use to beef up your top skills for a resume:
1. Choose Only Relevant Skills
As we pointed out in the previous section, you have to review the job post and note down the skills identified by the company as relevant and integral for the position.
For example, if you are applying for the position of Web Developer, the following skill set would be relevant:
- Certified expert in 5 programming languages: Java Script, Python, C++, PHP and CSS.
- Designed, programmed and managed over 350 websites in the last 5 years.
- 52% of websites built were of the e-commerce variety.
- Integrated SEO and digital marketing with web design services; 92% of clients who availed of program increased annual sales revenues by an average of 81%.
- Analytical; carefully reviews each stage of the web development process.
- Meticulous; subjects websites to numerous testing methods before declaring it fit for turnover.
- Results- Oriented; stays onboard with the client for at least 3 months from turnover of website to make sure it is running smoothly with no technical issues.
If you won the “Capcom Streetfighter” competition 5 years in a row or set the world record in eating chicken wings in 1 hour, it would be best to leave these skills out of your resume.
2. Quantify Your Skills
As you can see from our example skills for resume above, the applicant quantified his skills by including figures. Quantifying your skill set adds more substance to your overall value proposition.
A candidate who can quantify his or her skills with data has a big advantage over someone who just writes
Don’t just pull out numbers from thin air. The figures that you will use must be truthful and can be validated. If you get invited for an interview, you should bring charts, data and other empirical data to show you did not present manufactured figures.
When it comes to quantifying soft skills, since this is rather subjective, present situations which best call these attributes into play.
3. Use Bullet Points
Your best job skills for a resume would not be able to maximize their full power if you don’t take a strategic approach in presenting them to the Hiring Manager.
Always keep in mind that hiring managers do not spend a lot of time perusing a resume. They have a system of scanning its contents whereby they can easily identify the applicant’s strong points.
Thus when writing down your job skills take the time to strategize and figure out the best way to organize them in your resume. Hiring managers appreciate the use of bullet points because it makes it easier to read through your list of qualifications.
Here are 4 valuable tips to keep in mind when using bullet points to organize your work skills for a resume:
- Make sure all the skills you plan to list down are related to the job requirement.
- Start out with your strongest skill; the one that the job posting identifies as a prerequisite for the position.
- Arrange your skills in order of importance and relevance.
- Always include figures and numbers that validate your accomplishments.
As you have read from our sample skills for a resume, the applicant started out with his certifications for different software development programs. Then he proceeded to itemize his achievements before indicating he expanded his services to include SEO and digital marketing. Finally, he concluded his resume skill set by summarizing the attributes that best describe his work ethic.
List of the Best Skills to Put on a Resume per Job Category:
You can find below a list of the best skills you can put on your resume depending on the type of job you are applying for. As we stated, you should always use the job post as the primary reference but the sample skills listed below are generally sought after in these occupations:
- License – Indicate if you are Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
- Computer Programs – QuickBooks, MS Excel, SAP, Oracle, BillQuick
- Specializations – Preparation of Financial Statements, Tax Audit, Bookkeeping, Payroll Preparation, Inventory Management, Accounts Management
- Achievements – Largest percentage of cost savings generated, size of company budget managed, size of company payroll
- Specialized Training – Office Administration, Business Transcription, Typing, Phone Handling, Time Keeping
- Computer Programs – MS Office, Asana, WebEx, QuickBooks
- Attributes – Organized, Meticulous, Trustworthy, Punctual, Dedicated
- Computer Programs – ZenDesk, LiveChat, Support Center, C-Desk, BlazeDesk, MS Office
- Competencies – Previous Customer Ratings and Reviews, Efficiency Rating, Complaint Resolution Time, Upsell Ranking, Percentage Ranking Among Customer Service Agents
- Attributes – Articulate, Impressionable, Results-Oriented, Excellent Communicator, Patient, Effective in Conflict Resolution
- Educational Attainment – Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing
- Certifications – Digital Marketing, SEO, Social Media Marketing, Web Management, Content Writing
- Achievements – Average Increase in Web Traffic, SEO Rankings of Clients, Size of Generated Leads, Percentage of Leads Conversion, Increase in Number of Indexed Pages
- Attributes – Client Oriented, Dedicated, Analytical, Creative Thinker
5. Office Clerk
- Computer Programs and Applications – MS Office, DropBox, SalesForce
- Competencies – 60wpm Typing Speed, 90%+ Transcription Accuracy, Content Writing, can operate basic office equipment, Filing and Documentation
- Attributes – Pleasant Disposition, Disciplined, Professional, Resourceful, Courteous, Earnest Learner
Your resume skills will differentiate you from the candidates applying for the same job. It is possible that nearly every applicant will share the same skills as you. Thus you should always take the time to plan and strategize your approach to presenting your resume skills before putting them to paper. How you present them could be the key that gets you inside the interview door.