Resume Skills

Learn how to best present your skills in your resume, and give your career the kick-start it needs.
Skills

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:
Job Posting: HVAC/Plumbing Estimator
Job Posting: HVAC/Plumbing Estimator
Duties and Responsibilities:
  • Preparing and managing bids for multifamily residential projects (typically 100-500 units).
  • Take-offs and estimation of equipment, labor and materials.
  • Experience in obtaining and evaluating material, equipment and subcontractor quotes.
  • Writing proposals/bids.
  • Managing multiple bids simultaneously and evaluating changes throughout the bid process.
  • Pre-construction experience a huge plus.
Job Applicant Resume: Skills Section
Job Applicant Resume: Skills Section
Hard Skills:
  • Residential plumbing design
  • Equipment, labor and materials estimates
  • Project take-offs, estimation and bidding
  • Project design and pre-construction
  • Bid management
  • HVAC knowledge
Soft Skills:
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Attention to detail

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.

Top Hard Skills for Your Resume

Accounting and Finance

  • Accounting software
  • Business/industry knowledge
  • Corporate finance
  • Data analysis and management
  • Math knowledge

Construction

  • Construction best practices and safety protocols
  • Knowledge of tools and materials
  • OSHA compliance
  • Project coordination
  • Worksite management

Healthcare

  • Computer/tech skills
  • Knowledge of administrative policies
  • Patient care
  • Specialty-specific knowledge
  • Training and certifications

Marketing

  • Consumer research
  • Data science
  • Marketing tools (i.e., social media, SEO)
  • Project and campaign management
  • Sales leadership

Retail

  • Business knowledge
  • Information Technology
  • Knowledge of business
  • Merchandise control
  • Numeracy

Web development and design

  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Analytical skills
  • Marketing/Social media
  • Programming languages (i.e., HTML 5, MySQL)
  • SEO

Top Soft Skills for Your Resume

  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Active listening
  • Adaptability/flexibility
  • Collaboration/teamwork
  • Communication
  • Compassion
  • Conflict management
  • Coordination
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision-making
  • Detail-oriented
  • Entrepreneurial drive
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Judgment
  • Leadership
  • Persuasion
  • Problem-solving
  • Reliability
  • Self-motivated
  • Stress management
  • Strong work ethic

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.

Chronological

Chronological

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.

Functional

Functional

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.

Combination

Combination

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.

ATS Help for Your Resume Skills Section

When putting together your skills section, you should also prepare for applicant tracking systems (ATS). An ATS scans resumes for skills recruiters include in the job description. If applicants don’t include the right keywords in their resumes, they will be automatically rejected by the ATS.

It’s estimated that 66 percent of large companies and 35 percent of small organizations use this software, so odds are high that you’ll encounter it in your job search. To get your resume past ATS, follow these steps:

  • Use the right keywords from the job description.

    Use the right keywords from the job description.

    As we’ve already mentioned under our top 10 tips above, the surest way to get your resume ATS-ready is to use the same language from the job description when you list your own skills. Be as exact as you can: If the job stresses “decision-making,” you don’t want to write “decision making” on your resume.
  • Keep your resume layout simple.

    Keep your resume layout simple.

    Unusual fonts or design elements in your resume can affect ATS scans, and result in a rejection.
  • Remember that humans will read your resume.

    Remember that humans will read your resume.

    Stuffing your resume with keywords might get it past an ATS, but it won’t look good to the hiring manager who eventually reads your document. Be truthful when presenting your skills, and don’t overdo it on keywords.

For extra help creating an ATS-ready skills section, use our Resume Builder, which provides you with employer-approved templates and expert suggestions to help you create the perfect skills section.

What’s Next?

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

 

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