When you are making your case for a new job, it is your blend of resume skills that will show a hiring manager whether you are qualified for the role. Hard and soft skills are easy to define and can be demonstrated with a carefully chosen accomplishment. Stating that you possess a special skill is not enough - you should show that you can put it to good use.
These resume skills might be listed in a specific section, described within your work experience, or even subtly implied in the summary, and they are an essential ingredient in your job search story. They are the foundation of your achievements. Learning new skills goes in tandem with advancing your career - without new tools at your disposal, you won;t be able to reach the heights.
The thing is, once you have listed a skill in your resume you have to be able to back it up with the career story that lies behind it. Resume skills are the strengths, talents, traits and wisdom that you have acquired throughout your education and career. The skills are your badges of honour, but it is the achievements that those skills support that are the hero content of any job search. If you can see that the job description requires a certain skill, you should not be shy about shouting about it on your resume. Don't be subtle.
This guide will cover how to go about showcasing your resume skills to the best effect, including:
- Why skills are your job search currency
- The difference between hard skills and soft skills
- How do you list special skills on a resume?
- Tips to match your skills to the job requirements
- How to convey your level of proficiency
- Top ten skills for ten common job functions
- Top ten skills for ten common professions
Should I include every skill on my resume? It is of utmost importance that your resume is easy to read, so if you leave out some of your more obscure skills, you will still have the chance to mention them during an interview. You never quite know what the hiring manager is looking for, so describing a particularly specific skill when you are not sure whether it is required is a little risky. Make sure that the key skills for the role are all included. Then you can sprinkle some of the minor skill fairy dust. Less is more when you come to writing a resume - ensure that you are remembered for what truly matters.
Why special skills are your job search currency
When you sit down to consider your next career move, you could do a lot worse than sitting down and listing all the things that you are good at. Then have a think about how these special skills have contributed to your achievements and you will be able to sense how you will go about convincing your next boss to give you a job.
Your resume skills are your job search currency because they show a hiring manager whether you have what it takes to do a job. If you can share examples of your special skills in action, they are the ultimate objective measure of your ability. But what counts as a special talent or skill? Well, put simply, any ability that helps you to do your job better than anyone else. It took you a while to learn and even longer to master - while in the process you have added huge value to your employer.
The difference between hard and soft skills
Hard (or technical) resume skills are all the practical, industry-specific tools and know-how needed for a job. Hard skills are quantifiable and usually learned in school, on the job, or training. Hard resume skills can usually be tested and are sometimes verified during the hiring process. There are often degrees of mastery of hard skills, so share them in the context of your achievements to indicate your level of proficiency.
A modern trend we see across the millions of resumes created with Resume.io is that more job seekers use hard skills to optimize the keywords on their resume. This strategy is an especially important step for candidates applying to larger companies who are likely to use Applicant Tracking Software (an ATS) to automatically filter and score resumes based on a list of keywords in the job description.
Soft resume skills are usually aspects of your personality, work style, or effectiveness that are harder to measure or quantify. Soft skills are especially important for positions of leadership or positions where you are interacting with customers. When you have two candidates of similar backgrounds and professional qualities, it is often the soft skills that can be the deciding factor in who is hired.
Once hiring managers assess your hard skills to know you can get the job done, they look to your soft skills to know if you can get the job done well. For many modern offices and creative start-ups, a company culture fit could be the edge over someone with the same hard skills. Soft skills speak louder in some situations. Whether you will get on with your colleagues is an essential question - for any type of business.
Many recent studies have demonstrated the importance of soft skills in today’s job market. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92 percent of hiring managers agree that strong soft skills are increasingly important. A study reported by SHRM, an organization for HR professionals, found that almost half of executives thought a lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap in the U.S. workforce. Few managers have the ability to coach soft skills - much of an employee's soft skillset is picked up passively from those around them. If you are a curious person, it is likely that you have strong soft skills.
Profession-specific examples of hard and soft skills
Hard skills ( Doctor): Surgery, Post-Operative Care, Emergency Medicine, Diagnosis.
Soft skills (Doctor): Team Management, Leadership, Compassion, Empathy.
Hard skills (Sales Rep): Salesforce, Sales Development, Lead Qualification, Pipeline Management.
Soft skills ( Sales Rep):Communication, Decision-Making, Focus, Integrity, Influencing.
Hard skills (Waitress): Aloha POS, Customer Service, Inventory Management, Bartending, and Food Prep.
Soft skills ( Waitress): Positive Attitude, Reliable, Communication, Hard Working, and Responsible.
Key rules for including resume skills
How do you describe skills on a resume? There is much more to describing your skills on your resume than a few afterthoughts in the skills section. Rare skills may need some explanation, certain skills may crop up over and over again and how do you ensure that your very top skills are most visible?
1. Demonstrate an impressively rare skill set
One of the best ways to send a hiring manager to sleep is to include the same resume skills as every other candidate. When they read the words communication skills for the tenth time, they will mentally pigeon-hole you with all the rest of the average candidates.
If they think that you are average because you have included the same average skills as everyone else, it will be incredibly hard to shift that perception if you are lucky enough to be invited to an interview. This is the stage where you have to be self-critical. Are you really that exceptional?
2. Avoid excessive resume skill repetition
When you have multiple places to share your skills, it is easy to think that repetition is a powerful way of getting your message across. Believe me, it isn’t. Even if you use different words to describe the same resume skill, you need to realize that your resume real estate is far too valuable to be doing this.
In order to come across as a rounded professional, you should seek to highlight as many different skills as possible in the skills section, employment history and summary. By all means, repeat a couple of the really core resume skills, but variety is definitely your friend.
The more skills that a hiring manager can read on a resume, the more interesting the potential interview with you might prove. Try to use synonyms for the most common skills if you wish to repeat them for effect. Psychologically, using different words can give a sense of a broader skillset.
3. Ensure your top resume skills are the most visible
In the table below you can find the three places to list your resume skills. There are different ways to describe your skill set to a potential employer, but if there are skills that you want to shout about from the rooftops, you should absolutely put them (or describe them) in your summary or skills section.
You might think that a potential employer might read every detail of your work experience, but that may not be the case for many reasons. You can’t afford for critical skills to be lost in your general work experience, so put them at the top of your resume in the summary or in the specific skills section (where they are most visible but have the least context).
Three places to list your resume skills
Skills section. As a typical skills section contains 6-7 key skills, only the rarest and most impressive skills should get on your list. Mostly include your harder and technical skills here as your soft skills can come across in what you achieved in your work experience and in your summary. Suggested ratio of 2:1 in favour of hard skills.
Work experience. Sometimes your skills speak for themselves if you describe your accomplishments well enough. If you mention that you saved 15% on the annual equipment spend you won’t need to state the obvious and wax lyrical about your negotiation skills. Be smart in the language that you use and what lies behind it.
Summary. The summary section is the most important 3-4 lines on your resume and it should be dripping with your top skills, both described and implied. It is okay to repeat the rarer skills that are in your skill section – you need the hiring manager to read that far, after all. Don’t be afraid to bring out the big resume skill guns.
Tips to match your skills to job requirements
When adding resume skills, it helps to know your audience. As you apply to jobs, consider three sources to understand how your audience might react to the resume skills: the job description, the company, and the industry.
Read the job description to understand the important keywords and tone of voice. How does the job description talk about skills? Are there any required skills? Be sure to list and talk about skills on your resume in a similar way the job description uses. The job description may not always be written by the hiring manager, but they will certainly be aware of it and use it as a basis for the interview. Match your resume special skills to what is required.
Research the company to figure out the company culture. Does the company put an emphasis on innovation and learning? Does the company seem like it would have an appreciation for creative skills or like they might put a stronger emphasis on soft skills? Know what type of skills the company values overall and be sure to include those skills on your resume.
Understand the industry to align the skills on your resume with the expectations of your industry. Demonstrate your experience and industry knowledge by talking about the skills on your resume exactly the way an industry insider would expect.
How to answer: What are your top three skills? Well, to start with, you need to have an idea of your most suitable skills for each job in priority order. These are your trump cards in your job search sales pitch, so craft the narrative around them with care. If asked for a list of three, I would suggest to start with the best fit skill, then go down to number three and finish on number two. Any sales pitch cannot be full on all the time and in this way you can start off strong and finish nearly as strong. An interview is an exercise in retaining the interviewers attention, so you have to accept that there will be part of the interview that aren't "smash it out of the park" impressive. Just make sure that they aren't clumped together too much.
How to convey your level of skill proficiency
How do you list a skill level on a resume? Well, how long is a piece of string, and how can you compare it to all the other bits of string?
The difficult thing with a resume is that it is difficult to indicate that level of proficiency you have in a certain skill. If your ability with Excel is basic, you might think twice about including it in your skills section, but not including it might mean that the ATS rejects you before a hiring manager has even read a word.
One easy solution for this is including a skills section that has a graphical representation for the level of skill (with bars, stars or some other visual effect). This is quite basic, but it is effective and will allow you to include those must-have skills without having to overplay your experience. If you work in a technical profession, representing your skills graphically can be impactful.
It is true to say that your experiences will give an indication of your proficiency in certain skills, so don’t waste too much resume space in detailing exactly what level of skill you possess in a certain area. That will come at a later stage in the interview.
Soft skills are great, but is it compassionate skills that truly make a difference? Soft skills such as time management and attention to detail are important on an individual level, but for me it is the "compassionate" soft skills that make more of an impact. Skills such as active listening and empathy allow us to show compassion to others - that is what truly lies at the heart of a great team.
Top ten skills for 10 common job functions
Scroll to the right to view more job functions.
|education||administrative||medical||accounting & finance||business & management||hospitality & catering||sales||real estate||retail||engineering|
|Ability to Work in a Team||Customer Service||Ability to Work in a Team||Customer Service||Adaptability||Excellent Customer Service Skills||Customer Service||Communication Skills||Customer Service||Analytical Thinking Skills|
|Communication Skills||Multitasking Skills||Strong Communication Skills||Leadership||Microsoft Office||Communication Skills||Ability to Work in a Team||Project Management Skills||Fast Learner||Design Skills|
|Fast Learner||Excellent Communication Skills||Communication Skills||Communication Skills||Communication Skills||Ability to Work in a Team||Communication Skills||Microsoft Office||Ability to Work in a Team||Mechanical Engineering|
|Strong Organizational Skills||Microsoft Office||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Adaptability||Customer Service||Customer Service||Fast Learner||AutoCAD||Communication Skills||Project Management|
|Excellent Customer Service Skills||Fast Learner||Excellent Communication Skills||Ability to Multitask||Leadership||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Adobe Photoshop||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Microsoft Office|
|Customer Service||Communication Skills||Customer Service||Interpersonal Skills||Interpersonal Communication Skills||Fast Learner||Adaptability||Ability to Work in a Team||Adaptability||Creative Mindset|
|Adaptability||Ability to Work in a Team||Fast Learner||Microsoft Office||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Multitasking Skills||Ability to Multitask||Multitasking Skills||Ability to Multitask||Complex Problem Solving|
|Advanced Computer System Skills||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Adaptability||Ability to Work in a Team||Multitasking Skills||Adaptability||Effective Time Management||Customer Service||Effective Time Management||Creative Problem Solving|
|Ability to Work Under Pressure||Computer Skills||Leadership Skills||Management||Ability to Work in a Team||Ability to Multitask||Communication||Excellent Communication Skills||Communication||Ability to Work in a Team|
|Effective Time Management||Adaptability||Ability to Multitask||Time Management||Problem Solving Skills||Advanced Communication Skills||Computer Skills||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Computer Skills||Decision Making Skills|
Top ten skills for 10 common professions
Scroll to the right to see more job functions.
|teacher||customer service||registered nurse||accountant||internship||student||cna||college student||high school student||administrative assistant|
|Ability to Work in a Team||Customer Service||Patient Advocacy||Leadership||Teamwork Skills||Strong Organizational Skills||Communication Skills||Ability to Work in a Team||Strong Organizational Skills||Administrative Support Skills|
|Communication Skills||Ability to Work in a Team||Teamwork Skills||Interpersonal Skills||Motivated Attitude||Excellent Customer Service Skills||Ability to Work in a Team||Customer Service||Excellent Customer Service Skills||Scheduling Skills|
|Excellent Communication Skills||Communication Skills||Strong Interpersonal Communication Skills||Management||Ability to Work in a Team||Communication Skills||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Communication Skills||Advanced Computer System Skills||Microsoft Office|
|Adaptability||Fast Learner||Knowledgable in Medical Terminology and Procedures||Recruiting||Honesty and Integrity||Ability to Work in a Team||Customer Service||Fast Learner||Communication Skills||Customer Service|
|Classroom Management||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Trauma and ER Experience||Communication Skills||Fast Learner||Advanced Computer System Skills||Adaptability||Adaptability||Ability to Work in a Team||Editing and Proofreading Skills|
|Effective Time Management||Computer Skills||Effective Time Management||Microsoft Office||Communication Skills||Fast Learner||Fast Learner||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Fast Learner||Inventory Control Skills|
|Fast Learner||Ability to Multitask||Ability to Work in a Team||Microsoft Excel||Interpersonal Communication Skills||Customer Service||Ability to Multitask||Communication||Leadership Skills||Event Planning|
|Ability to Work Under Pressure||Adaptability||Ability to Work in a Team||Effective Time Management||Adaptability||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Communication||Microsoft Office||Adaptability||Dictation Skills|
|Computer Skills||Effective Time Management||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Ability to Work in a Team||Microsoft Office||Adaptability||Effective Time Management||Leadership||Friendly and Outgoing Attitude||Communication Skills|
|Curriculum and Instruction||Microsoft Office||Communication Skills||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Ability to Work Under Pressure||Effective Time Management||Leadership Skills||Computer Skills||Multitasking Skills||Effective Time Management|
When you read enough resumes for the same position, they can seem to blend into one another. Every hiring manager is on the lookout for a unicorn - a candidate who has it all, and then some. If you know that you are that rarest of candidates, it will be your unique skillset that will allow you to show it off.
- Make sure that you have a solid balance of soft and hard skills
- If you have a rare skill set, back it up with visible examples
- Make sure that your skills section is filled with skills to set you apart
- Don't repeat skills too much - the hiring manager will get the message the first time
- Double check the job description to see that you are not going beyond the requirements