we will explore why your skills section is so critical to landing the role you want. We also outline the different types of skills, how to identify which you possess, and show you the most effective way to incorporate them into your resume.
What is a skills section, and why is it important?
Impressing a potential employer takes more than a standout academic and professional history. You must prove that you have the skill set to get the job done.
Companies look to hire people who can both perform the technical aspects of the job and bring new ways of thinking and problem-solving to the organization.
For this reason, crafting a well-balanced skills section is critical to showing a recruiter or hiring manager at a glance that you have the qualifications needed for the role.
Including the right skills also plays a crucial role in helping a resume get through an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS is software used by many employers to weed out unqualified candidates. It scans resumes, searching for keywords from the job ad. Those candidates who have the sought-after keywords will be considered for an interview. Those that don't will likely be eliminated from consideration. Your skills section is a repository of many of these keywords, making it a critical element of your resume.
Write a resume skills section in 7 simple steps
Preparation is just as important as the actual writing of your skills section. Here is a checklist of tasks to complete before and during the resume-writing process:
- Carefully read the job posting.
Once you have identified a job ad that looks like a good fit, write down the skills and qualifications listed as critical. Examine the list and identify which of these skills and qualifications you possess.
- Research the company.
Taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the company can help you identify its values and additional skills that might be appealing to hiring managers. Study the company's website, specifically the About Us section, and read any recent news about the company for a more holistic overview than what the job description might offer.
- Study the three types of skills.
To create a skills section that presents you as a well-rounded candidate, your skills section must be well-rounded, too. To accomplish that you'll need to understand the three different types of skills. Here is a quick tutorial:Hard skills are teachable abilities that are easy to quantify.Technical skills are industry and/or program-specific. They require either a certain level of education or certification.Soft skills are personality traits that are difficult to teach but that make you a great co-worker.
- Identify your hard and technical skills.
These are skills that can be defined and measured, such as fluency in a language or prowess with a particular piece of equipment. If you have programming expertise or excel at writing or crafting presentations, these are hard and technical skills you could place in your resume skills section. Refer to the job ad to be sure you have captured all of the required hard and technical skills that you possess as you make your list.
- Add your soft skills.
Soft skills are abilities like teamwork and strong communication that help you work well with others. While it's hard to measure this type of skill, soft skills are crucial to all roles, even those that seem very technical. Employers specifically seek out applicants with these skills because, unlike hard and technical skills, they are difficult to teach. To identify yours, ask close friends, family members, or your social groups about where you excel.
- List your most relevant skills first.
Now that you have identified your skill set and have cross-referenced the job ad, customize your list to the role. Rearrange your skills to place the most critical skills — those listed as required or desired in the job ad — up top. Then, if you have relevant skills that are not listed in the ad, add them to the bottom of your list. Eliminate any skills you might have on your list that do not relate directly to the job to which you are applying.
- Review job-specific resume examples.
Once you have a finished list of skills, review resume examples for the role you seek. Studying our resume examples, written by certified resume writers, will help ensure that your skills section includes the most sought-after skills for the job title you want. Use these resume examples as inspiration and to be certain that you have covered all your bases.
3 tips for writing your skills section
- Eliminate irrelevant skills. Your skills list should contain 10-12 critical skills, including as many as possible cited in the job ad. These are the skills employers want to see right away. Cull your list to eliminate anything that is not relevant to the role at hand. Nonessential skills will only distract a busy recruiter from getting to the meat of your skills section.
- Create special sections. If you are using a combination or functional resume format, you should also add separate sections that provide samples of your skills in action. A summary of qualifications is a great way to include accomplishments showing the use of a particular skill and the positive results accomplished.
- Perform an honesty check. Review your list of skills again. Ask yourself if you have embellished or lied about any of the skills on your final list. While it may be tempting to include a new in-demand skill or elevate your familiarity with a piece of technology to make yourself seem more appealing, be truthful. Background checks are a common part of the hiring process and most lies will eventually be exposed.
Skills section examples by experience level
Your skills section will change over the course of your career. As an entry-level applicant, it will likely be shorter and more general. As you progress professionally, you will begin to develop more and more specialized skills. Here are some examples of how your skills section might look at different stages of your career:
- Academic research
- Time management skills
- Leadership in sports and student government
- Strong communication
- Customer service
- Social media
- Highly effective communication
- Active listening skills
- Ability to work effectively with scientists of diverse backgrounds
- Attention to detail
- Analytical problem-solving
- Management of international teams
- Strategic Management Performance System certified
- Application development
- Project management
- Excellent presentation skills
- Strong ability to analyze and evaluate information
- Critical thinking
- Management training
- Creative problem-solving skills
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