The skills section is the most pivotal part of any resume. The problem is, most resumes are only one page long, so it’s important to list the right set of skills on your resume. You need to know the difference between hard and soft skills, and the best way to present all this information so you have the best shot at landing the job you want.
If you haven’t listed relevant skills using the right keywords, your resume might never get seen by a hiring manager because it won’t get past the ATS (applicant tracking systems) that most employers rely on to weed out resumes. Even if a company isn’t using an ATS, whoever reads your resume will quickly scan it for specific skills. For these reasons, it’s critical to get the skills section of your resume right. Here’s everything you need to know.
The Difference Between Hard Skills and Soft Skills
Hard skills are specific, measurable kinds of technical knowledge that are directly related to particular software, machinery, or work process.
Knowing how to operate a bulldozer or an X-Ray machine is a hard skill. So is proficiency with video editing software such as Final Cut Pro, or being able to translate from Korean into English.
Soft skills are more like personality traits or characteristics that have general value across all kinds of career paths. Examples include leadership, creativity, strategic thinking, attention to detail, communication, teamwork, people skills and problem-solving.
Most employers will be looking for someone with the right mix of hard and soft skills. When you write your resume, think about the way the soft skills you list can support your hard skills.
For example, if you want a job as a website programmer, and you list HTML as a hard skill you could list attention to detail and problem-solving as soft skills, which in this case would enhance the value of your expertise in HTML.
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12 Skills That Are Relevant to Almost Any Job
It goes without saying that there are many specific industries that will require certification and licensing for particular skills. There’s no point in applying for a job as a pilot if you aren’t licensed to fly planes. But there are also several universal skills that almost any hiring manager will value and you can mention a few regardless of whether a specific job description calls for them. For example, being a good communicator, having sharp attention to detail, being great at time-management, or being self-motivated are skills that will generally be helpful in any job. These skills are also transferrable from one industry to another. Other skills, such as computer skills, leadership and management, have value in most industries, but as always, check the job listing carefully to see whether each skill you list is relevant.
Communication skills are important in every industry at every job level. Being a good communicator means you are able to listen and understand and then articulate your ideas and feelings in a clear and professional manner.
Teamwork is essential to success in almost every human endeavor. This skill requires empathy, awareness, the ability to set and respect boundaries, as well as a collaborative spirit.
While problem-solving skills may require certain kinds of technical knowledge that’s specific to a particular industry, in general being a problem solver is more about your state of mind. It suggests you have the clarity, curiosity and patience to correctly identify an issue and come up with an appropriate solution. That’s a quality that’s valuable in almost all careers.
Time management skills involve being able to prioritize your responsibilities and meet deadlines.This requires goal setting, realistic assessments of work flow, and the ability to plan ahead.
Attention to Detail
Think about how many jobs in which noticing details is important: from research, to law enforcement, to medicine, to computer science, noticing the little things is a big deal. Oddly, there is no college degree in being detail-oriented, and you can’t get a certificate in it. And yet being able to focus on the smallest details is a skill that may not only help you get the job of your dreams, it will usually also contribute to your long term success.
Emotional intelligence is different than just being a brainiac. You might have memorized a million facts and still not have this super-important quality. It is the ability to be aware of your own emotions and as well as how others are feeling, and then using this awareness to adapt and behave in appropriate ways. The importance of emotional Intelligence at work cannot be overstated, as it will make you more successful in almost any endeavor. That’s because emotional intelligence correlates with good self-control and the ability to get along well with other people.
Interpersonal skills are closely related to emotional intelligence. Being good with people is important in almost every industry, whether you interact with customers or co-workers, interpersonal skills are valuable. These skills include being a good communicator, having empathy and conflict resolution. Having interpersonal skills will help you get along better with your bosses, your colleagues, and anyone with whom your job requires you to interact.
“I want to spend all my energy having to worry about whether my employee is doing his job,” said no employer ever. Finding a self-motivated employee is every hiring manager’s dream. If you have the ability to inspire yourself, to be productive without someone leaning over your shoulder, to take the incentive and solve problems before you’re even asked to, you are self-motivated. And that is definitely an attribute your resume should mention.
To some degree, leadership is an innate characteristic, but it’s also a learnable skill that can be improved with training and experience. Being able to inspire, organize and delegate work to a team is an extremely valuable skill. Leadership is especially crucial in management roles, but if you have good leadership skills, chances are you will be successful in whatever career you choose.
Computing and technology
There are very few careers left today in which having basic computer literacy isn’t a requirement. Even if you work on a farm or in a woodshop, some aspect of your day will inevitably involve the ability to use digital technology. In many jobs, having basic knowledge of common software such as spreadsheets, email management, and word processing are prerequisites. More specific expertise, such as coding and programming will be required for certain career paths, and in those cases you may need technical certification.
You might never have worked in a retail environment and still be a natural when it comes to customer service skills. For example, are you good at active listening? Problem solving? These and other interpersonal skills such as having a high degree of empathy, and being able to read both verbal and nonverbal cues, are all essential traits that will help you succeed in addressing the needs of customers and giving people a positive experience.
It is a strange fact of modern work life that often if you are good at something--say designing automotive parts--you will eventually be promoted into a job managing other people who perform that job. But managerial skills are different from designing car parts. Whatever field you work in, being a good manager requires a specific set of qualities: being empathetic, organized, and a good communicator (in addition to having a clear understanding of the specific work you’re managing. A successful manager is decisive, good at planning and overseeing projects, able to delegate and motivate a team.
The Best Way to Format the Skills Section of Your Resume
Now that you know the most important skills to consider, the question is, how to best present this information on your resume?
If you need help formatting your resume, we’ve got you covered.
The skills section of your resume should be formatted so it stands out and is easy to read at a glance. You can list up to 10 skills, and if you wish, you can go into detail about your proficiency beneath each skill.
It’s one thing to claim you have certain skills. Now you need to go the extra step and prove it. How?
In the employment section of your resume, you should refer back to the skills listed in your skills section, to show how you effectively applied them in a work setting.
For example if your skills section lists “social media marketing and media planning” as a skill, then under your employment history where you describe your experience working at an advertising agency, you would write something like this:
“Oversaw social media marketing and advertising with a budget of $400,000 per year.”
This way you have listed a relevant skill and then connected it directly to your work history.
The bottom line is: make sure whatever skills you list are relevant to the job you want.
This is the most important thing to remember. If you’re applying for a job as a security guard, it might be worth mentioning that you’re a black belt in karate. If you’re interested in a career as a graphic designer? Chop that one out.
Read each job listing carefully, taking note of the language they use to describe what they’re looking for and customize each resume you submit. Use the exact same words to describe your skills (as long as you really have them!)
For example, let’s say the job listing says:
“Small advertising agency seeks an office manager. Must be proficient with Excel, able to multitask, have great people skills and have excellent attention to detail. This is a fast-paced environment and as a start-up we rely on every member of our team to be self-motivated. Above all, we are looking for a problem solver.”
If you were applying for this job, the skills section of resume should include the following skills:
- Proficient in: Word, Indesign and Excel
- Multi-tasking problem-solver
- Attentive to detail
What you would not mention when applying for this job is that you are a master of Japanese kabuki theater. Again, the goal is to directly match the skills you have with what the job requires.
After highlighting your skills in a separate section, and then reinforcing those skills by showing how you applied them in the employment section of your resume, there’s still one more thing you can do. Consider adding a short paragraph at the top of your resume, called a resume profile, that explains why you are an ideal candidate for the job you want. Use this section to repeat and reinforce the most relevant skills the job requires.