Your resume is an opportunity to show potential employers that you’re the right person for the job. With all the skills you've gained over your career, it makes perfect sense to prioritize the most essential ones. Now, you might be curious: What are the key skills to put on a resume, and how can you present them in a way that boosts your chances of landing the job? Here’s everything you need to know.
First things first. Before we jump into what skills to highlight on your resume, let’s quickly cover why highlighting your skills on a resume is important to begin with.
“When a hiring manager is looking for a new employee, they are looking for that employee to possess certain skills,” says career counselor Leora Opstelten. “If a candidate does not demonstrate those skills via their resume, they would not appear suited for the position.”
In order to prove that you’re the right person for the job, your resume needs to emphasize both hard skills and soft skills.
“Highlighting both hard skills and soft skills on your resume is critical for presenting a well-rounded and comprehensive picture of your qualifications,” says Amanda Augustine, certified professional career coach, resume writer, and career expert for interview-coaching service TopInterview.
Why? Because “both hard and soft skills are essential for an employee to execute his or her job effectively—whatever that job is,” says Opstelten. “An effective employee does not exist without both the hard skills—the expertise to do their job—and the soft skills, to operate in a larger, cooperative work environment.”
Unfamiliar with the concept of hard skills vs. soft skills? Let’s break down the differences between the two.
“Hard skills refer to specific, teachable abilities or knowledge that can be easily measured and quantified,” says Augustine. “These skills are typically job-specific, meaning that the hard skills you highlight on your resume will heavily depend upon the job and industry you’re targeting for your job search.”
Additionally, “hard skills are often technical in nature and can be demonstrated through tests, certifications, or practical tasks,” says Augustine. For example, let’s say you’re applying for an accountant role. In that case, your hard skills might include accounting, math, and proficiency in industry-specific software. On the other hand, if you’re applying for a content marketing role, you might highlight your skills in copywriting, SEO research, and marketing analytics.
In contrast, “soft skills refer to a set of interpersonal, social, and communication abilities that are less tangible and more difficult to quantify than hard skills,” says Augustine. “Unlike hard skills, which are job-specific and can be measured through tests or certifications, soft skills are more about personal qualities and behaviors.”
Because it’s easier to train someone on hard skills vs. soft skills, these skills can often be more important in a job search.
“Although businesses appear willing to upskill (or reskill) employees to fill the technical skill gaps at their organizations, their hiring efforts often focus on finding candidates who can bring the right combination of soft skills to a role,” says Augustine. “After all, it’s much easier to train someone to use a new computer program than it is to teach them to become more empathetic in the workplace.”
For example, whether you’re applying for the accounting role or the content marketing job (or any other position, for that matter), skills like empathy, effective listening, and being able to collaborate with coworkers are going to help you perform better—and are going to be skills potential employers are looking for.
The skills you include on your resume will naturally depend on your personal experience and skill set. However, consider highlighting some key hard and soft skills, such as:
If you’re applying for an entry-level role, you may want to include basic computer skills on your resume—for example, proficiency with Microsoft Office. This becomes especially valuable when you lack an extensive work history or a diverse skill set.
On the flip side, if you're eyeing a more advanced, senior, or technical position, you can skip the basics and focus on advanced computer skills. For instance, highlight proficiency in coding languages.
Depending on the job you’re applying for, you may need to showcase your skills with a specific software or product—for example, a content marketer should include their skills with SEO tools like Clearscope and Semrush.
Speaking multiple languages is a hard skill that can set you apart from the competition. Therefore, if you're fluent in two, three, or even more languages, you’ll want to include that on your resume.
If you're eyeing a design role or any position involving the creation of visual assets, make sure to feature your design skills on your resume (for example, experience with logo design, animation, or creating marketing assets).
Most jobs (even if they’re not specifically writing jobs!) require some level of writing (for example, drafting emails to customers or writing meeting notes)—so any writing skills or experience can be helpful to highlight on your resume.
Applying for a marketing role? It’s important to include hard marketing skills on your resume—for example, Instagram Ads experience or a marketing analytics background. Your resume will thank you, and so will potential employers.
Does the job you’re applying for include working with a specific kind of machinery? If so, you’ll want to include any relevant machine skills (for example, experience with lab equipment or computer parts and repair) on your resume.
Communication skills are a must-have for virtually every role on the planet. Whether you're working on a team project, presenting to clients, or navigating office dynamics, showcasing these skills on your resume is a great way to stand out.
Being able to communicate is crucial, but it's equally, and sometimes more, important to listen. Make sure to provide examples of your listening skills. For instance, you might include situations where you had to listen to challenging feedback or acted as a sounding board for your team or direct reports when they were struggling to complete a project.
If you’re applying for any kind of leadership or managerial role, it’s important to showcase that you have the skills necessary to manage and/or lead people—for example, relationship-building and conflict resolution skills.
Most jobs require you to manage a variety of tasks, projects, and responsibilities—so it’s important to use your resume to show potential employers that you have the skills to stay organized.
All jobs require you to solve some sort of problem, whether that’s an EA managing a busy executive’s schedule or a marketing manager figuring out the best ways to stand out and grab their target demographic’s attention. Therefore, regardless of the job you're applying for, include your problem-solving skills on your resume, along with concrete examples of problems you’ve solved.
In today’s world of work, things can change quickly. As such, many employers want to hire people who can ''roll with the punches'' and adapt to changes. With that in mind, ensure to emphasize your adaptability on your resume, perhaps by including an example of when you successfully pivoted to another team.
No matter what you’re doing, at some point, you’re going to need to work with other people—which is why it’s important to highlight your skills around collaboration and effectively working on a team.
There are challenging aspects to every job. But most people want to hire employees that can face those challenges with a positive attitude—which is why optimism can also be a helpful skill to highlight.
Looking for more information on how you leverage the skills on your resume to get an actual job? Here are some tips:
Resumes come with limited space, making it challenging to list every skill you have. Instead, focus on selecting the right skills—the ones that will make you most appealing for the specific job you're applying for—and highlight them on your resume.
“Think of your resume as a marketing tool, carefully curated to support your current job goals—rather than a comprehensive transcript of your entire work history and education,” says Augustine. “Your goal is to highlight and elaborate on your relevant qualifications and downplay or omit information that is irrelevant to your current job search.”
For example, let’s say you’re applying for an executive assistant position. In that situation, you’d want to list any and all skills (hard and soft) that showcase your ability to be an effective EA—like calendar management skills and the ability to work well under pressure. “Irrelevant skills should be left off in the interest of space,” says Opstelten.
It’s also important to consider the level of the job you’re applying for. For example, if you’re new in your career and are applying for an entry-level role, you may not have as many hard skills as a more seasoned candidate—so you’ll want to highlight more of your soft skills.
On the flip side, if you’re applying for a highly technical mid-to-senior level role, it’s important to highlight your relevant hard skills to show you’re qualified and can actually do the job.
Hiring managers often get hundreds (even thousands!) of resumes for a single position. When they’re dealing with high volume, there’s no way they can read every resume that comes across their desk. At best, they’re going to skim your resume—so you want to make sure that your skills come across in that limited amount of time.
A great way to do that? Create a specific section on your resume that outlines your hard and soft skills; for example, you might put a “Skills” section on the top of your resume—and then include a bulleted list of all the skills you want to highlight for hiring managers and/or recruiters.
That way, when they skim your resume, they can immediately review your skills and see you have what it takes to effectively do the job—which can incentivize them to actually read through the entire document.
As mentioned, it’s important to succinctly list out your skills on your resume. However, that shouldn’t be the only way you highlight your skills. If you want to get the job, you can’t just tell the company you have the right skills for the job; you also have to show them.
“Include specific examples, figures, or case studies that illustrate your abilities in your resume’s Work History section,” says Augustine. “Begin each bullet point with the result of your efforts—and then describe the actions you took to achieve such a result.”
For example, if you’re applying for a data analytics role, you might include a bullet point that explores your experience training new hires on your company’s internal data analytics software—and how (with numbers, if possible!) that training increased overall team productivity.
Because hard skills are generally quantifiable, it can be easier to find concrete data that showcase those skills—but while it might be a bit harder to showcase your soft skills, it’s absolutely a must-do.
“Soft skills should be demonstrated in the bullet points,” says Opstelten. “No one is going to take your word that you have excellent communication skills unless you give them a reason via your experience.”
For example, if you want to showcase your problem-solving skills, you might “let employers know you’re equipped to handle whatever workplace situations or challenges may come your way by providing examples in your work history of how you’ve thought on your feet and brought creative solutions, rather than problems, to the table in recent years,” says Augustine.