It can be the most difficult section of your resume to fill out – the skills section. Maybe you have quite a few skills and you’re having trouble trimming down the list. Or perhaps you struggle to think of what skills you can list. With this guide, we would like to show you what skills to put on a resume, and you’ll have an easier time completing that skills section.
The Importance of Including the Right Skills on Your Resume
Before we answer what skills to put on a resume, let us see why this is important. The skills section of your resume is far from some filler section. Many companies with a large number of job applicants use tools that select applications whose resumes contained specific keywords. This cuts down on the number of applicants that the company’s hiring manager needs to sift through. If your resume has the required keywords, you have a shot at an interview. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
Your skills section is your chance to include the right keywords on your resume, ensuring that it gets selected for further consideration.
Having the right skills also helps you stand out to hiring managers. While hiring managers aren’t going to be as strict as a machine set to select only certain resumes, they are looking for specific qualifications on your resume. After all, they need to know that you can do the job effectively if they hire you.
Types of Skills
You can break skills down into two types: hard skills and soft skills. The difference between these two types of skills is that hard skills are fairly easy to quantify, whereas soft skills have more of a subjective component. For example, the ability to type 60 words per minute is a hard skill. It’s quantified, and it tells the hiring manager exactly how fast you’re able to type.
Hard skills can still be somewhat subjective. Let’s say you’re able to speak a foreign language. There’s quite a range in possible in speaking ability when someone learns another language, as you could have only a basic speaking ability, you could be conversational, or you could be completely fluent. It’s still considered a hard skill even though it has that subjective element.
Soft skills include traits that are difficult to quantify, such as leadership, communication, and patience.
Including the Right Skills
You should always tailor your resume towards the position, and that includes the skills section of it. When you’re considering which skills to include, think about what the position requires. If you’re applying for secretarial work, you’re likely going to need effective communication, typing, and knowledge of computer programs.
One easy way to find out what skills you should include is to use the job listing as your guide. Companies typically list what kind of qualifications they want in job applicants. They’re already telling you what skills they’re going to be looking for, so it makes sense to include those on your resume.
Keep in mind that hiring managers spend very little time with each individual resume. There’s simply not enough time in the day, so they skim through each resume and look for key details. Focusing on the right skills ensures that the hiring manager sees the skills that he wants.
This doesn’t mean you should list skills you don’t have just because they’re in the job description. If you don’t have certain skills that are required for a job, it’s better to not apply. Landing a job because you listed skills you don’t have on your resume will just waste your time and the company’s time.
Specificity is key when it comes to skills, and that’s one reason why hard skills tend to be much easier and better to include on your resume. Hiring managers want to know exactly what you can do, not what you think you can do. If you include your proficiency with Microsoft Word, or QuickBooks, or another program on your resume, then hiring managers know you can use that specific program.
Soft skills, in comparison, often don’t tell hiring managers much. Is it helpful for a hiring manager to read that you are “creative,” have a “strong work ethic,” or are “good at handling pressure?” That’s the problem with soft skills – they often read like generic lists of phrases that anyone can write about themselves.
Does this mean you should avoid soft skills entirely? Not at all. There is a way to include soft skills, and it’s by including specific examples when you demonstrated possessing said skills. Including “leadership” in your skills section tells a hiring manager that you think you’re a good leader. Writing that a previous company recognized your leadership by naming you manager of the month shows that you’ve demonstrated leadership during your employment history. You could also include statistics about how your team performed.
Think about the situations you’ve handled over the course of your career and what skills you’ve demonstrated. Saying you have communication skills doesn’t mean much, but you can back up that assertion by explaining that you were holding meetings and presenting information to 10 coworkers across three different time zones.
Where to Put the Skills Section
Traditionally, the skills section goes on the bottom of your resume. However, this is another situation where you are better off if you base your decision on the job that you’re applying for.
If skills are one of the most significant qualifications for the job, then you should put your skills section near the top of your resume, above your education and work experience. Let’s say that you’re applying for a job listing emphasizes the need for knowledge of several different programs. Since the listing prioritizes knowing those programs, you should prioritize it as well by including your proficiency with those programs in your skills section and putting your skills section at the top.
You can also research the company’s hiring practices and what it finds most important in job applicants. Some hiring managers care more about experience, others about education or skills. Look around to see what you can find about each specific company as you adjust your resume.
Another factor to consider is what your biggest selling points are on your resume, as you want those near the top so hiring managers notice them right away. If your skills are what stand out, put them on top. If the highlight of your resume is your master’s degree, list education at the top. Remember that you’re selling yourself here.
When deciding what skills to put on your resume, you can brainstorm skills yourself and use job listings to come up with the right skills for each application. You don’t need many skills on your resume. It’s better to have a few important skills that the company values, instead of a long list where those important skills end up buried and difficult to find.
Your skills section is a great opportunity to tell a company what you can do. That’s why you should avoid generalities, because they don’t impart any valuable information. List quantifiable skills or include examples of your skills in action for the best results.
If you need some inspiration about your skill section, you could take a look our modern resume templates with great skill section layout