Every job requires a particular set of skills. Feature the right talents in your resume skills section, and you’ll catch an employer’s eye. Feature the wrong ones, and your resume gets banished to the trash bin.
Highlight your best qualifications and fast-track your resume with hiring managers by following these tips and examples.
What an Effective Skills Section Looks Like
A perfect skills section highlights your areas of expertise, geared towards the particular job you’re interested in. Use a combination of specific industry skills along with more general soft skills to give the employer an idea of what you have to offer. See this example:
In this case, the applicant is an experienced plumber with a strong background in working with materials and tools. But since the job posting focuses on estimator responsibilities, the applicant emphasizes the hard skills he has that fulfill those requirements, including project bidding and estimates, residential plumbing expertise and HVAC knowledge.
The applicant also includes soft skills that would be useful for someone in this position to have, such as an eye for detail and the ability to troubleshoot problems. Notice also that he includes terms identical to the terms used in the job posting. This proves to the hiring manager that he’s taken time to read through the posting, and will also help his resume pass through applicant tracking systems (more on this below).
Now that you know what an effective skills section looks like, let’s break it down and show you how to create it from the ground up.
Top 5 Resume Skills Section Writing Tips
- List out all your skills
Before you tackle your resume, create a complete list of all your skills. Include both hard skills (knowledge you’ve gained from training, such as project management or proficiency with specific software) and soft skills (intangible qualities you have, such as multitasking, teamwork or conflict resolution). This will be your base list, which you will customize depending on each job you apply for.
- Match skills with the job description
Read the job description carefully to understand which skills the employer values. Now create a new skills list for the job, based on where your overall skills list matches the job requirements. When necessary, adapt the wording of your skills to fit the job description. For example, if you wrote “conflict resolution” on your original list and the job calls for “conflict mediation,” go with “conflict mediation.”
- Be concise
Keep each of your skills within a few words — you’ll have more room to elaborate upon them in your work experience and summary sections. Use bullet points so the employer can easily scan your skills. Most resumes will list up to ten bullets (you can include more in a functional resume — more on that below).
- Don’t forget your soft skills
Employers appreciate a well-rounded candidate who can bring intangible abilities to the table. Consider the industry and job description, and include soft skills that can be a boon to your job performance, such as communication, time management and adaptability.
- Consider transferable skills
Even if you’re a first-time job seeker or making a career change, you’ll have skills from previous jobs, volunteer opportunities or extracurricular activities that can be useful at the new job. Include them in your skills section.
What are Hard Skills and Soft Skills?
Why Should I List Both?
The key to capturing recruiters’ attention is having a balanced skill set. Hard skills, or the expertise you have in specific areas that you’ve gained through training, are a major requirement for most jobs. A nursing job in an intensive care unit requires knowledge of life-saving techniques and knowledge of ICU procedures, for example.
But even the most qualified job seeker needs soft skills — intangible abilities you have that can make a positive impact on the job. How important are they? A recent study shows that 93 percent of employers believe that soft skills are either an “essential” or “very important” factor in hiring decisions.
To be an ideal candidate, incorporate both hard skills and soft skills into your resume. Below are some of the most in-demand skills in each category — use them in your resume when appropriate.
How Your Skills Section Fits the 3 Resume Formats
Each of the three resume formats — chronological, functional and combination — features the skills section in different ways. Follow our guidelines below for choosing the best format for your resume, and organizing your skills within that format.
The chronological format is a good choice for job seekers who have years of experience, as it focuses mainly on your work history. The skills section in this format typically goes after the work history section, and can be presented in a straightforward fashion, as in this software developer example.
The functional format is good for those with gaps in work experience or first-time job seekers. The focus is on relevant and transferable skills, as opposed to professional work experience, so your skills section will be front and center. Organize your skills section with major categories that are relevant to the job, as in our example.
As the name suggests, this format is a combination of chronological and functional formats. If you’re a professional in the middle of changing careers, or are a recent graduate with pertinent internship and academic experiences, this format can accommodate both your relevant work experiences and skills.
As you craft your professional portfolio, feel free to reference our easy-to-use, customizable Resume Builder for guidance and inspiration. Let the builder do the work of writing your skills statement section with:
- Pre-written skills examples written by career professionals
- Employer-tested resume templates you can personalize for each job application.
- Quick hiring: job applicants get hired 33 percent faster when they use our builder