When it comes to your resume, you may think you just need to catalog your experience, education, and achievements and call it a day. Don’t! While your experience is an important component of a well-crafted resume, your resume should also feature the skills you’ve mastered over the years—the ones that will enable you to do your job and do it well.
So, what are some important resume skills to include? What should you NOT include? And how do you describe your skills?
Read on to find out.
What are the key skills to list on a resume?
The specific skills you include on your resume will vary depending on your background, knowledge, and area of expertise. In general, they will fall within one of the following groups:
• Hard skills
Technical skills that are often necessary for doing your job are known as hard skills. You may have received special training or taken classes to learn these skills and have likely spent time practicing and honing them. For example, a graphic designer would need certain technical skills to perform her work, and a lab technician would need to understand how to use lab equipment.
• Soft skills
Soft skills encompass knowledge that may not be quantifiable or “learned” but can be extremely useful and relevant in the workplace. While they can be difficult to define, they are the skills that often concern your personality and the way you approach your work rather than technical know-how. Examples of soft skills include critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving.
• Affiliations, awards, achievements, licenses, and certifications
While not “skills,” per se, memberships with relevant associations, awards, achievements, and certifications are proof of the skills you do have. For example, if you are affiliated with professional societies, you are probably required you to take courses and seminars to keep your membership active, so you are demonstrating that you are staying abreast of the latest practices and trends in your field. Licenses and certifications, likewise, show that you have obtained a mastery of skills in your profession. Awards demonstrate that you not only have certain skills but excel at them.
Hard skills vs. soft skills
Hard skills and soft skills are both important when it comes to your resume and work. Hard skills, as we discussed briefly, encompass the technical knowledge that is specifically relevant to your work. Usually, they are not transferable across a wide range of industries, although there may be some professions that require the same or similar technical skills. Meanwhile, soft skills are also known as transferable skills, because you can apply them to nearly every job and industry. For instance, a graphic designer might need to know how to use Adobe Illustrator, but an accountant doesn’t. However, both types of professionals should have strong communication and critical-thinking skills—soft skills that enable them to perform their work well.
What are the top 10 skills employers want?
Employers want to see a range of skills in candidates. Here are some important types to feature on your resume:
1. Rare skills that are relevant to your job
Rare skills that will help you perform your work are important to include on your resume. For instance, a physician who knows Mandarin and works in an area with a large population of Chinese immigrants will be that much more marketable, since she will be able to communicate with patients her colleagues might not.
2. Technical skills that are necessary for your job
These are the hard skills that many people need in order to do their jobs. The technical skills you need will vary based on your field. For example, a computer programmer would need to know programming languages such as Java.
3. Certifications or others skills that will help you do your job better
If you are a teacher who is certified in CPR, you’re a more marketable job candidate than an equally-qualified teacher who isn’t, because you’ll be well-equipped in the case of an emergency. While this skill may not be essential to your work—although some states and school districts do require CPR training for teachers—it is certainly useful and relevant. Other certifications and skills that help you do your job well are important to list on your resume.
4. Technology skills
Are you adept at data analytics? Do you know HTML? Technology skills like these are often useful across many different fields and belong on your resume. However, be careful of adding skills that are expected or common; a potential employer will assume, for instance, that you know how to use Microsoft Office.
5. Communication skills
Employers want strong communicators—and not just in communications positions. Including your strongest communication skills on your resume can help you stand out as a candidate.
Be specific. Perhaps you create especially compelling presentations. Include “presentation skills,” and include examples or links if they’re available.
6. Critical thinking skills
Your ability to innovate and tackle issues in unique ways can be very useful to an employer. Again, when including these skills on your resume, you should use examples if possible. Perhaps you came up with a creative solution to a complex problem or were particularly resourceful at work.
7. Leadership skills
Leadership is an important skill to have, but make sure you’re specific about your leadership qualities and characteristics because it can also be an overused resume buzzword. Perhaps you’re a mentor either formally or informally to a junior member of your team. If so, include mentorship as a skill and explain why.
8. Teamwork skills
Teamwork is one of the most important interpersonal skills you can have in the work environment. It allows you to collaborate and work well with others, which is essential to furthering the mission of your company. If you list this as one of your resume skills, use some examples to illustrate how you’ve been a team player.
9. Awards and accomplishments
If you’ve received awards or been recognized for achievements in your field, you should certainly include them on your resume. They indicate that you’ve achieved a certain mastery of the necessary skills in your profession and perform them above and beyond what’s expected.
10. Memberships relevant to your job
A librarian who is a member of the American Library Association is demonstrating that she stays on top of trends and news in her profession. She probably also has up-to-date knowledge of best practices and ideas in librarianship. A professional who belongs to professional associations in the industry is involved in that profession and not only possesses important skills but wants to build more.
What skills should you leave off your resume?
There are some skills you definitely should not put on your resume. Here are the major categories of skills to omit:
• Skills you don't have
Many people exaggerate their accomplishments on their resume, and listing skills you don’t actually have is an extreme example. While many employers don’t expect candidates to have every single skill they list in their job ads, it’s better to be forthcoming about your level of knowledge than to say you know how to do something you don’t. If you do make up skills on your resume, it will become clear to the interviewer during the hiring process—or, worse yet, when you’ve been hired to perform work you can’t actually do.
• Skills you can't back up with examples, data, or demonstrations
The risk with listing soft skills is that they’re hard to quantify. However, if you can’t put a brief example in your resume skills section, think of some examples to describe in your interview. If you include conflict-resolution skills on your resume, for example, think about a time you’ve resolved a dispute in your office.
• Obsolete skills
Technical skills need to be up-to-date in order to be relevant in the workplace. Listing skills that don’t apply to the modern way of performing your work will make you look out-of-touch and unknowledgeable about your industry. There are many technology and software programs, for instance, that are no longer or rarely used.
• Skills every employee is expected to have
You may be adept at Excel, but so are most people. There are certain skills prospective employers will assume you have, and these aren’t appropriate resume skills because they’re not adding anything to your professional profile.
• Unrelated skills
If you know how to play a musical instrument, that’s great, but unless it’s useful for the job to which you’re applying—for example, a music teacher—it shouldn’t be part of your resume skills. Instead, include skills that are useful for the job you do or want to do. Make sure you revise your resume according to the job description of the position in question; some skills may be relevant to one position but not to another.
• Overused buzzwords
Some recruiting software and programs do look for certain skills on your resume, particularly specific skills and keywords that are helpful or necessary for the job in question (for example, SEO is a good one to including for a marketing position), there are some buzzwords that are so overused that they at best add nothing and at worst detract from your overall presentation. For example, saying that you’re “successful” is telling, not showing—your success should come through in your experience and achievements. Check out LinkedIn’sTop Ten Buzzwords We’re Using in the U.S., published annually, for some words to avoid.
How to write your skills on your resume
Many resumes include a skills section highlighting your most important hard skills and soft skills. However, adding the skill alone isn’t enough; you also need to demonstrate that your resume skill is one you perform effectively. You might include knowledge of certain technical programs in a list, if you can quantify that knowledge with other details, such as the length of time you’ve been using the program, that’s even better. If the skill isn’t highly recognizable, include a brief description. While not every skill needs an example or data to back up the claim, try to include some wherever possible and be specific about your knowledge.
Is social media one of your skills? Rather than just listing “social media” as a bullet point, include an example or achievement that illustrates your efforts, such as “grew Twitter following by 20% within two months.”
Do you know how to use Adobe InDesign? You might say, “7+ years of experience using InDesign to create print catalogs.”
Remember to highlight your most important resume skills in your cover letter as well.
Making your resume stand out
Including your relevant professional skills can help separate your resume from the rest of the pack. Want to learn more about how to push your resume to the top of the pile? Read 3 Underutilized Hacks That Will Make Your Resume Stand Out and How to Write a Resume.