Did you know a human never reviews an estimated 75% of resumes? You have applicant tracking systems (ATS) to thank for that. These systems look for resumes with particular keywords and skills and reject those without them.
For the resumes that pass the ATS, most hiring managers won’t spend more than 30 seconds looking at them. Several studies suggest that your resume might only get a quick, few-second glance before landing in either the “yes” or “no” pile. So, it must quickly catch their attention if you want an interview.
A resume with carefully placed skills can help you pass through automated resume gatekeepers and busy hiring professionals.
Learning how to list skills on a resume effectively can mean the difference between landing that fantastic new job and facing a longer, more frustrating job search.
Why You Need to Include Skills on a Resume
Simply put, you won’t make it to the interview stage if you don’t include your skills on your resume.
As mentioned, both ATS and recruiters will only initially scan your resume. They look for keywords related to the skills they need from a potential employee. A strong resume helps distinguish you from other job candidates, especially in a competitive labor market.
So, if you want the job, you’ll have to show how your relevant skills will fit in a particular organization. It’s even better to show that you are learning new job skills, too.
What are Hard Skills?
There are two types of skills – hard and soft skills.
Hard skills equip you to perform the specific duties of your job. You acquire these through formal high school, college, or university education or on-the-job training and certification programs.
Computer, technical, analytic, math, and reading generally permeate the hard or “technical skills” required for a job. However, the specific hard skills required will vary by job and industry.
Examples of Hard Skills
Some industry-specific examples of hard skills include:
- Analysis of data, documents, and statistics
- Use of Microsoft Excel and accounting software such as Quickbooks
- Research and understanding of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and tax laws
- Calculate financial ratios such as earnings per share, debt-to-equity, and gross margin
- Analyze and forecast trends in companies, industries, and overall economic conditions
- Read, interpret, and analyze financial statements such as balance sheets, cash flow statements, and income statements
- Photo editing and design software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign
- Typography, sketching, and drawing
Information Security Analysts:
- Administration, programming, and management of cloud computing systems, operating systems, and networks
- Set-up of internet protocols
- Diagnosing computer hardware and software vulnerabilities
- Taking vital signs, such as blood pressure, pulse, and temperature
- Inserting catheters
- Changing dressings
- Dispensing appropriate medications and dosages
What are Soft Skills?
Very few employees work in isolation. You will interact with co-workers, supervisors, customers, and the general public, even if only a little. Because of this, most employers prioritize soft skills on par with or above hard skills.
Soft skills serve you beyond a specific job, which is why they’re also called “transferable skills.” That is, you need them to succeed as an employee in general.
Unlike hard skills, you don’t typically acquire soft skills through education or pre-employment training. Your soft skills depend on your personality characteristics and your behavior, thoughts, and emotions. They are learned and developed through living your life, including social interactions, practice, and practical experience.
Examples of Soft Skills
Common soft skills include:
Adaptability: Adjusting to new, unfamiliar, changing, and unexpected situations. You might encounter increasing workloads, new production or design methods and equipment, and emergencies.
Communication: This skill refers to speaking, writing, and conveying messages. These communications may include instructions by managers or supervisors and explanations of scientific or technical information to the public.
Decision-making: Skilled decision-makers can assess the benefits and costs of particular alternatives and make judgments. Many situations call for quick decisions.
Interpersonal: Within this soft skillset, you will find conflict resolution, empathy, compassion, selflessness, receiving constructive feedback, and more.
Leadership: Effective leaders establish and communicate goals and policies. Leadership skills include allocating human and physical resources, evaluating performance, and implementing improvements or changes. Within this category lie many other transferable skills, such as communication, organization, and time management.
Organization: Organizational skills encompass your ability to work efficiently and meet deadlines. It includes prioritizing tasks, delegating actions, decluttering your workspace, and arranging the necessary tools, supplies, equipment, and documents.
Employers also want workers adept at being open-minded, professional, dependable, inclusive, and sensitive to those of other cultures and races.
Choosing What Skills to Include on Your Resume
You likely have a lot of professional skills and abilities. But that doesn’t mean you should stuff them all into your resume.
Here are some tips on choosing what skills to include and which ones to leave off.
Avoid the Basics
Don’t list basic skills like emailing and using a telephone – unless they are mentioned explicitly in the job ad. You want to tailor your resume to the job and not overcrowd it with irrelevant details. Doing so only makes it harder for a recruiter to see the valuable job skills you possess.
Match the Job Ad
Chances are good that if an employer takes the time to include something in their job posting, they want to see these keywords on your resume. So, even if it seems obvious, add the key skills from the job ad to your resume where they naturally fit. Leaving them off means you won’t get “credit” for possessing these skills, which could hurt your chances.
Your ability to drive a commercial vehicle hauling oil is an impressive skill, but it won’t convince an employer to hire you for a cyber security position.
Remember that employers have little time to decipher resumes. It is in your best interest to make it as easy as possible for them to see how your skills match the job duties and requirements.
Because hiring managers don’t spend much time reading each resume, they could easily miss your top skills if you don’t prioritize them.
Think about what skills you are trying to emphasize, and make them pop. Don’t hesitate to reorder sections on your resume if necessary so that the important details are the first thing they’ll see.
The best way to make sure hiring managers notice your talents is by being as specific as possible.
Broad phrases such as “computer skills” and “math skills” are not helpful to employers as concrete examples of what you can do. Instead, include specific software programs you know or mathematical concepts you are familiar with. Doing so will give employers a much better idea of your capabilities.
- Accountants: Quickbooks, FreshBooks, enterprise resource planning software
- Financial analysts: Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, Capital IQ
- Mechanical engineers: computer-aided design (CAD) software, Mathcad, 3D printing software, Unigraphics NX
- Project managers: Microsoft Office Suite, SAP Analytics Cloud, Slack
- Administrative: Word processing, database, spreadsheets, presentation, and desktop publishing software, including Microsoft Office and Google Drive
Don’t Add Skills You Don’t Have
I regularly see people adding skills to their resume because they see them in the job posting, not because they actually possess those skills.
This approach may get you to the next step in the hiring process, but what do you do if you are offered the job? You are only setting yourself up to fail.
Similarly, don’t exaggerate your skills. For example, many jobs have “social media” in their title, but posting pictures on Instagram does not mean you are qualified for social media jobs.
Use Plenty of Examples
The bullet points under each job are the foundation of your resume. That’s why it’s so important to add plenty of details.
Don’t just list your tasks and how many hours you worked. Instead, mention that you were responsible for a weekly newsletter distributed to thousands of readers or led meetings in front of 50 people every day.
Make sure the hiring manager can visualize your daily responsibilities from your description.
Include Foreign Languages
As our world becomes more diverse, bilingual or multilingual skills are becoming more in demand.
If you are proficient in multiple languages, add it to your resume, but be careful not to over-embellish your skills. Taking a few high school Spanish classes is different from being fluent.
Don’t Mention Soft Skills in Isolation
Your resume should allude to your soft skills, but simply stating you have communication, leadership, or interpersonal skills doesn’t tell the employer specifics of your abilities. There are better and more effective ways to incorporate your soft skills, which we’ll cover next.
How to Include Your Soft Skills On Your Resume
Soft skills are transferable, so they could fit in every section of your resume if done correctly. However, you will add most of your soft skills to the experience section.
Use your job duties and accomplishments to illustrate concrete ways you have learned and demonstrated these skills. Here are some examples of how to do this:
Legal Administrative Assistant
- Maintained calendars for filing deadlines, court hearings, depositions, and appointments for personal injury attorneys
- Scheduled appointments and meetings for 25 lawyers
- Collected and compiled medical records and other evidence for settlement brochures, hearings, and trials
- Organized pleadings, correspondence, emails, bills, and other documents in client files
Customer Service Representative
- Troubleshoot customer questions and complaints about phone apps, connections, audio, and other technical issues with phones
- Resolved customer disputes about bills, including issuing refunds per company policy
- Managed a ten-member team of developers of accounting software
- Delegated tasks such as design, testing, and obtaining customer feedback
- Trained and led continuing education in principles of accounting
The skills section of your resume is another commonplace to add your soft skills. Remember that you need to be specific. Don’t just add “customer service skills” or “organizational skills” as a bullet point. That doesn’t add any value to your resume.
Instead, elaborate on these traits, such as:
- Customer Service: effectively communicate with people, stay calm in difficult situations, and find solutions to problems
- Organizational Skills: prioritize tasks, keep track of paperwork and deadlines, and create systems for organizing information
How to Include Hard Skills On Your Resume
Your skills section will contain mostly hard skills, if not exclusively. A simple list of skills works here.
Content Marketing Manager
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Google Analytics
- Facebook Ads
- Web Design
- Social Media Management (Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram)
- Dental Prophylaxis
- Patient Education
- Oral Health Assessment
- X-ray Imaging
- Dental Charting
- Periodontal Care
- Infection Control
It’s also easy to include hard skills in your experience section. Again, be specific. Focus on the job description and required skills, and state how you used a particular skill, software, or piece of equipment to accomplish a result.
- Translated statements, questions, and answers at press conferences and briefings for hard-of-hearing citizens
- Transcribed jury trials, non-jury trials, depositions, and other hearings in federal and state courts using voice-to-text software
- Transmitted large transcripts and exhibits using DropBox, Google Drive, and other cloud technologies
- Created logos for local governments, school boards, and businesses using Adobe Creative Cloud
- Designed PowerPoint presentations of statistics and trends for client acquisition
- Uploaded and formatted supporting graphics for articles into WordPress
- Applied Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to recognize and report transactions for financial statements for Fortune 500 companies
- Conducted direct deposits, wage withholding, and benefits administration for law firms, medical practices, and local retail stores with QuickBooks Pay payroll software
Lastly, your resume can include hard skills in a Certifications section.
Many professions and trades have organizations that certify individuals. Employers or regulators may require these certifications of you. Even when not mandatory, a certificate tells employers you possess a high level of skills.
- Cyber Security Analyst: Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) from ISACA, Certified Ethical Hacker
- Dental Assistant: Certified Dental Assistant from Dental Assisting National Board, IV Sedation Certification from American Dental Assistants Association
- Construction: WHMIS, Working From Heights, Forklift Safety, First Aid Level C/CPR, and AED Certified
Make Sure To Add Your Skills to Your Resume
Although you have a few options on how to list skills on a resume, the most important thing is that they are there somewhere. Here, we’ve outlined smart ways to do so.
Remember that nearly three-fourths of resumes submitted electronically never make it past the automated filters. You must create a strong resume that includes your skills to ensure it not only lands on the hiring manager’s desk but gets you an interview.
To effectively list your skills on your resume, keep these tips in mind:
- Carefully read the job description, noting the hard and soft skills mentioned.
- Match your relevant skills to the ones the employer is looking for in the role.
- Use the bullet points under each position to explain how you have used these skills in the past.
- Be specific with your examples and the programs or equipment you are experienced with.
- Incorporate your skills throughout your resume and cover letter.
It can be challenging to strike the right balance between including the right keywords and highlighting your relevant skills and experience. However, it is crucial to take the time to do so. A well-written resume means the difference between getting an interview and being rejected.