When it comes to your resume, you probably have a lot to show for yourself: your education, experience, certifications, and awards. If you are overlooking the crucial skills section, you’re doing yourself a disservice; skills can help demonstrate your mastery of the field and work you perform.
There are, of course, many different types of skills. Soft skills, such as critical thinking and communication, certainly belong on your resume, as do technical skills. In fact, many employers want to see technical skills for certain professions or lines of work; that’s how they know you have the qualifications necessary to do the job.
So, what are technicals skills? How do you present them on your resume? And how can they bolster your job candidacy?
What are technical skills?
Technical skills are a subset of hard skills—the type that can be learned and evaluated. Usually, they are related to technology and require specific knowledge of tasks like programming or operating equipment or machinery.
Many fields require some amount of technical know-how, not just those in STEM-related industries. For example, a marketer would probably need to know how to gather and interpret web analytics to evaluate the efficacy of campaigns.
Often, you will need some amount of training or education in order to become proficient in a technical skill.
What is considered a technical skill?
There are many categories and types of technical skills. Depending on your profession, you may be expected to know some over others. Here are some examples:
• Big Data
• Computer programming
• Web development
• Information technology
• Database management
• Network security
What technical skills to put on a resume
The technical skills you need and should put on your resume can vary considerably based on your industry and profession. The above list is a good starting point.
You probably already have plenty of technical skills, so think about how you’d respond if an interviewer were to ask you, “What are your top three technical skills?” Your response can help dictate what to include on your resume since these are the skills in which you’re most proficient.
Why should I include technical skills on my resume?
A skills section is a testament to both your experience, abilities, and willingness to learn—all of which are extremely important to hiring managers.
They can also give you a leg up in the hiring process, since you may have technical skills other candidates don’t. In other cases, these skills may be necessary for performing the work, so it’s important to be upfront and let the hiring manager know that you meet her requirements.
How to find technical skills in my industry
While it may be obvious which technical skills are necessary for performing your job in some cases—for instance, a programmer is probably well aware that she needs to be proficient in programming languages—it may be less apparent in some industries or positions. Here are some ways to find out what you need to know.
• Talk to mentors and peers
Mentors, colleagues, and other people in your industry can be great resources. Perhaps a coworker who performs similar work to yours is taking a course. Ask her about it and what she’s learning—it could be one you might want to take, too.
You might also tell your manager that you're looking to learn new skills to bolster your performance or help out with a specific project and ask what might be useful. More generally, you could talk to other mentors about the kinds of technical skills that are necessary for succeeding in the industry.
There’s no denying networking can be a challenge. But it can also be enormously helpful in terms of both finding a new position and developing your career.
Attending industry events allows you to meet new people who are in similar lines of work who can fill you in on goings-on of which you might not be aware. If improving your technical skill set is a goal, take the time to ask about new skills others are learning or using when you attend these events.
• Subscribe to industry publications
Industry publications are a great way to stay abreast of trends in your field. Subscribe to a handful of newsletters, magazines, or other publications to learn about the inner workings of the field in which you’re currently working or aspire to work.
• Take advantage of your company’s course offerings
Many companies offer courses to help their employees learn both soft skills and hard skills. If you receive alerts about them, make sure to read the list of what’s being offered and decide if anything interests you or seems like it might benefit your current or future work.
This is a great way of building your technical skills without having to invest your own money since many companies offer these courses to their employees for free.
Some companies will also subsidize outside courses if employees want to take them to improve their ability to perform their work, so check to see whether your employer has any programs or offerings in this vein.
How to prove technical skills
Unlike with soft skills, technical skills are tangible, meaning it’s not difficult to prove that you have them. However, since you can’t show a hiring manager that you, for instance, know how to code via a resume alone, you’ll need to showcase your technical skill set in other ways.
Many hiring managers may ask you to complete an assignment, project, or test as part of the interview process. This is one way to prove that you possess the technical skills you claim to have. But how do you initially grab the interviewer’s attention?
Certifications are one way to demonstrate your technical skills. If you’re certified in particular skills or areas, say so on your resume. For example, if you’re a project manager, you might list that you’re a certified ScrumMaster.
You might also list courses you’ve taken, such as a class in SEO. This not only demonstrates that you have certain skills but also that you’re eager to learn and broaden your horizon.
Make sure to include keywords in your resume and offer examples of times you used those skills in context. Identify and describe them in your cover letter as well. Since you may not need or use a particular technical skill in every job to which you apply, make sure to tailor your resume accordingly.
A word of caution: Don’t list technical skills you don’t actually have. It’s bound to come to light and at the very least will embarrass you, if not cost you your job.
Why technical skills matter
Technical skills are an essential part of your day-to-day work. Depending on your industry, you probably use a range of skills in your job. They’re also important for reaching your next step in your career.
Take some time to consider the skills you have and those you want to improve or learn. They can get you far.
For more tips on building your skills and featuring them on your resume, check out You Need to Add These Skills to Your Resume and 4 Types of Skills That Have No Business Being On Your Resume.