Skills Section of Resume: Good Skills to List & Top Skills Employers Look For

Danika McClure
A young woman holds up her resume
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The purpose of a resume is to provide a bird’s-eye view of your abilities, previous job experience, accomplishments, and the skills you will be able to bring to a respective work environment. It provides employers with an important snapshot of you, your interests, and your experience. From viewing your resume, employers can get a basic idea of whether or not you might have the qualifications and qualities they’re looking for.

Your resume needs to clearly convey what you can contribute to a work environment for the employer. Thus, your resume should not only highlight your accomplishments, but should also show the benefit you have provided to previous work environments, and perhaps most importantly the skills you will bring to the table in your new work environment.

According to recent reports highlighted by Forbes, 118 people, on average apply for any given job. Of those, only 20 percent are offered an interview. Additionally, many companies use talent-management software or automated resume screening to take an initial look at their applicants’ resumes, and up to 50 percent of applications are weeded out by a computer before they ever reach a recruiter or talent scout.  Known as Applicant Tracking Systems, this kind of software pre-screens your resume looking for specific keywords that recruiters are looking for in their applicants.

Understanding this, it becomes even more important for you to focus on knowing your skills, building a resume that is clear, concise, and optimized for employment. Taking a more focused look at your resume is important, and can help you land your first job, no matter your level of experience.

Work Skills Employers Look For on Resumes

There are a number of qualities you may not think of as skills that could help enhance your resume, and therefore your chances of being hired. The trick here is knowing how to make the skills you possess relevant to the position you are applying for, and to list them in a way that is enticing to a particular employer. These skills generally fall into one of three categories.

Hard Skills

Hard skills

are quantifiable, teachable abilities that you learn either through on-the-job experience, through classes, college, or trade school. These can include technical skills, such as the ability to use a specific computer program, the ability to drive a vehicle, or the ability to speak another language. Degrees and technical certificate are also examples of hard skills.

If you’re applying for a job that requires a specific degree/certificate or a skill that you don’t currently have in your arsenal, that’s not necessarily a deal breaker. You may be able to convince your prospective employer that you’re worth investing in and that you can gain these skills on the job.

Soft Skills

Soft skills, on the other hand, are more subjective. Soft skills are interpersonal abilities, your communication skills, and how you relate to others. Those can include a number of things such as active listening, adaptability, conflict resolution, decision making, leadership, perseverance, problem solving, teamwork, and time management skills.

Soft skills are in high demand in today’s job market. As mentioned in a previous article, interpersonal skills are the number one skills gap in the United States. Regardless of your previous on-the-job experience, highlighting your soft skills can be enough to land you an interview, and in some cases, your first job.

Special Skills

Special skills can be a combination of soft and hard skills. If you have any unusual or unique abilities, such as the ability to communicate cross culturally, or if you’ve attended specific leadership training, or have completed continuing education that isn’t quantifiable with a degree or certificate, it may be worth mentioning in your resume. In many cases today, specialized technical skills may not be formally taught or certified by any school, but are nonetheless in great demand by employers. If you are proficient in highly specialized technology, web and internet applications, or other technical venues, that may be worth mentioning alongside your formal training and experience.

What Skills To Put on Your Resume

While it can be tempting to want to include all of your skills in your resume, it’s also important to understand that employers tend to skim resumes looking for very specific qualities and qualifications. Because of this, it’s may be necessary to tailor your resume to reflect the skills that each position you’re applying for requires.

“It’s fussy and time consuming, but the secret to job-hunting success is tailoring your resume to every single position you apply for,” Heather Barker, the director of human resources for the oil and gas company TGS, tells US News. Each employer looks for a unique combination of skills and experience, and you should do your best to align your resume with the profile of each company’s ideal candidate (while remaining honest, of course). To figure out this profile, read the job advertisement thoroughly.”

What Job Skills Does the Position Require?

When evaluating the job listing, you’ll generally find a list of skills that the employer requires or desires. Meeting the required skills is generally the most important, but possessing the additional skills may set you apart from similar applicants.

Be sure to read these job descriptions carefully so that you understand both the hard and soft skills that are required of applicants. When tailoring your resume for these positions, be sure to include any tangential skills that are related to the ones listed in the job description.

What Skills Do People in Similar Roles Have?

When researching the positions you’re applying for, it may be worthwhile to see what skills people in similar positions have. To do so, check out profiles on LinkedIn, or review job postings from other employers who have similar job listings.

Try to work those additional skills into your resume to make it more competitive.

List Universal and Transferable Skills

Some skills are deemed to be so universal that many don’t think to include them on their resume, but including them can help you stand out to employers. Skills such as basic computer skills, communication skills, the ability to learn and adapt quickly, organization, time management, and the ability to self-motivate are all skills that are universally desired by employers, and skills you can pick up at any job, volunteer position, or group project. If you’re a first time job hunter in particular, be sure to include skills like this on your resume and come to an interview prepared with examples of each of these skills.

How To List Skills on a Resume

Now that you’re aware of which skills are worth including on your resume, you may be wondering how to list them in a way that is most attractive to employers. Since not all resumes are the same, the answer to that really depends on the formatting of your resume.

The Skills Section of a Resume

The skills section of your resume is an obvious place to list your qualifications and skills. This section will also include your work history, education, and other standard sections of a resume.

List Skills Alongside Work History

Assuming you have previous work history, it may be worthwhile to list skills that you learned in each of your former positions as well as any transferable skills that will benefit your new employer. This will free up room in the aforementioned skills section, and will allow you to better relate your work history to this new position.

List Skills in Your Education History

Similar to work history, your education history will indicate a certain number of skills to employers. Here you can list any academic awards, classes and training you have completed, and the skills you’ve learned from completing these courses.

Always Aim for Readability

There are a number of ways that you can opt to listing your skills. Ultimately, however, it’s best to format your resume in a way that is easy to read, easily skimmable, and attractive to potential employers.

As mentioned earlier, hundreds of people are likely applying for the same position as you are. In fact, according to Glassdoor, the average recruiter or hiring manager spends a mere six seconds reading a resume.

Listing your skills is just one way that a potential employer can determine whether or not you have the qualifications necessary to perform the duties of the job.

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