How to write a resume skills section that gets noticed, with examples
The more sought-after skills you have the more attractive you will be to hiring managers. Variety helps, too, so you need to show that you have a strong mix of relevant soft and hard skills. But be honest — include only the skills you’re certain you have — and strategic — choose only the skills that pertain directly to the job.
Take the time to carefully and honestly consider your best qualities and technical knowledge in relation to the job. It can make all the difference when it comes to getting an interview.
Prepare your content:
Reflect on your career and your hard, soft, technical and transferable skills.
Read the job description closely and look for required and “optional” skills.
Write down your top skills that match the job description.
Make a list of skills you have that are relevant but not in the job description.
Organize your skills: Keep them all together or create separate sections for technical and soft skills.
how to determine your skills
Sometimes it’s difficult to assess the full range of our skill set. To make it easier:
List the job requirements and duties from the job ad.
Reflect on those required skills and try to remember times you’ve used them in past jobs, then write those down.
Edit your list: Narrow it down to your strongest skills and those that apply directly to the position.
After that, write them in a way that helps you stand out.
For example, if you’re applying for a job as a dental technician, and the requirements include “Take X-rays of patients” then you might want to show you are up-to-date on the latest imaging techniques, by writing “X-ray techniques, including digital radiography and use of intra-oral camera.”
If you’re applying for your first job
You might think you don’t have enough skills to get a job if you’ve never had one before. But that’s not true! You have a lot of admirable traits, called soft skills, that you can apply to a host of jobs, so focus on those. And if you have ever interned, have volunteer experience, or community and school projects under your belt then you probably picked up some useful technical skills along the way, too.
An entry-level dental assistant might write their skills section like this:
High emotional intelligence
Exceptional interpersonal skills
Meticulous attention to detail
National Entry Level Dental Assistant (NELDA) certified
The functional resume format is the perfect choice for entry-level job candidates because it highlights skills over job history.
If you’re changing careers
How do you get hiring managers to believe you can take on a new role without experience in a completely different field or industry? Two words: transferable skills. They are the qualities and abilities you have acquired over your lifetime that you can apply to just about any job.
For example, a retail cashier who wants to switch to a bank teller role can transfer the following soft and hard skills to their new job:
Verbal and written communication
Accurate money handling
Understanding business operations
If you’re applying for a different job within the same company
If you’re applying for a different job, then you’ll want to harness your transferable skills, even if you stay with your current company and even if the job is in a similar industry or field. The key is to show you have the skills it takes to perform the new job proficiently.
So a sales representative who wants to try for the new marketing coordinator role should add the following skills to their resume:
Verbal and written communication
The functional format works well for career changers because it emphasizes skills, but the combination format can benefit these job seekers, too, because it aligns skills with job history.
If you’ve been working for at least one year
If you have some experience in the field, then you want to make sure you match the skills you gained from other jobs to the one you’re applying for. Use keywords from the job description when possible and add other applicable skills you know you can use to excel at the new job.
An automotive technician has to show their technical acumen in order to be considered for a job, but those who include soft skills on their resumes are more marketable because employers know they can work with people as well as machines. Grouping skills by type can make them distinguishable at a glance.
The chronological resume format works well for most people with some experience who wish to keep the same title and industry.
If you’re applying for a managerial position
Whether or not you have formal supervisory experience, you need a strong arsenal of skills that show you excel at your chosen field as well as a host of soft skills that show you’ve got what it takes to work closely with people and lead teams and projects. Just be ready to explain how you applied those skills when you write about your work experience.
A strong management-focused skills section for someone with a job history in retail sales would include:
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Resume Skills Dos and Don’ts
How do you describe your skills level on a resume?
Rather than describe your skills levels on a resume, add only skills you can perform proficiently as long as they match the job. Hiring managers only want to know about those skills, and you can discuss them more in-depth if you get an interview.
What are some skills that are good to include if you have no work experience?
Employers want all job applicants to have a combination of soft skills and hard skills, so aim for a mix of both. You want to show that you have at least some knowledge of the tools needed for the job and the more skills you show (with honesty!), the better your chance of standing out from other applicants. Transferable skills like verbal and written communication, active listening, problem-solving, and multitasking are valued across multiple industries and job titles, so add them if you’ve got them!
How can I discover skills the company values?
The best way to discover skills the company values is to read the job description – your skills should match the position closely.
What skills are employers looking for in 2021?
Some of the most valued job skills in 2021 include:
Time management. The broad acceptance of remote work has made this a sought-after skill in 2021.
Collaboration skills are essential for most team-oriented jobs, and especially so during the age of virtual meetings.
Resilience. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that resilience is highly valued. Employers in 2021 want to know you can handle anything with aplomb.
Adaptability is an important skill for employers in 2021. Let hiring managers know you can accept change, learn new technology, and thrive in a post-pandemic world.
Emotional intelligence. Hiring managers in 2021 prefer employees who can acknowledge and stay in tune with their own and others’ emotions. A little compassion goes a long way during and after a worldwide pandemic.
How much space should the skills section take on a resume?
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