A job posting often asks for specific skills or competencies, so you should try to match these skills on your resume as much as possible in your work experience. It can also be a good idea summarize some skills in a specific section, where you have complete freedom over how you format it and what to include.
Don’t go crazy – there are some best practices for your skills section. Often people will include a list of fairly general or irrelevant skills, or they’ll omit a skills section period. However, an effective skills section can make you stand out from other candidates.
How to I know what skills to include?
Any given person has hundreds of skills, and it can be difficult to choose the best skills to highlight. The first step is to review the job posting you’re interested in and make a list of skills explicitly listed and those included in the job responsibilities.
For example, it is very important for a Sales Manager to be skilled in client relations and revenue generation. For a developer, other competencies are more important, such as specific programming languages or communicating technical ideas.
Non-technical skills vs. technical skills
This is perhaps the most important distinction to make when creating a list of relevant skills. Non-technical skills can generally be defined as things you can’t measure – like interpersonal skills, communication, or flexibility. Technical skills are specific tools or strategies that you use in your job – like software, languages, industry techniques, or machinery.
While you can list non-technical skills in your resume, it’s much more impactful to give examples within your experience that illustrate these skills. For example, instead of just listing leadership, write about how you led 5 sales managers to achieve a record $1M in annual sales. Instead of adding organizational skills to a long list, write about how you organized and executed a networking event with over 500 attendees.
Technical skills should also be embedded in your work experience, but it’s generally a good idea to also list them explicitly in a skills section. We will review how to do that next.
How should I format a skills section?
It is common practice to use lists, columns, or boxes for your skills section. Depending on how many skills you want to showcase, you may choose to group them. For example, you may write Data Analytics as a skill then list out specific analytical tools that you have expertise in. Or, you may write Project Management and list certain techniques like Gantt charts.
Don’t forget that it should also be easy to identify where you used these skills in your experience!
What skills are employers looking for?
Many organizations try each year to determine the top skills employers look for. Obviously, some skills vary based on type of job or industry. However, we’ve included a list of some skills commonly cited by employers as most valuable:
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Communication (phone, email, in-person, reports)
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Analytical/quantitative skills
- Drive and initiative
- Intercultural competence
- Customer orientation
- Interpersonal skills
- Organizational skills
- Ability to work independently
- Digital literacy
- Industry-specific knowledge
You’ll notice that many of these are non-technical skills that should primarily be demonstrated throughout your work experiences. However, any digital, quantitative, or industry skills should be highlighted in your skills section as well.
If you work in a profession that prioritizes skills over specific education or work experience, you can go a step further with a functional resume format. This format is also a good option for candidates without work experience or with a significant gap in their resume, or for “gig” workers who have had many small jobs.
As a professional recruiter, I have over 10 years of experience helping candidates find work with businesses that match their skills, personalities and goals. Here on Resume Supply, I share some of the key things I have learned over my career to help job seekers with resumes, applications and interviews.