Resumes & Cover Letters

What to Include in Your Resume Skills Section

May 6, 2021

The skills section is a crucial component of your resume and can play a significant role in your chances of interesting a potential employer. This section is where you list the skills that are most relevant to the job you're applying for. While there are many skills you should include in your resume, there are also some that can be left out.

What is a resume skills section?

The skills section of a resume is your opportunity to showcase how well you match the job. In this portion of your resume, you can boast about why you would make a great candidate by aligning your characteristics with the job description. It's always best to review the job description of the position you're applying for and look at the types of qualifications the position is looking for. The skills section can list both hard and soft skills. Whatever you plan on listing in this section, make sure it's truthful.

Why is a skills section on your resume important?

The skills section of a resume is important because it goes beyond your educational qualifications or training. The skills section allows an employer to determine if you're a good fit for their organization and the role. For entry-level positions, employers may consider the skills section a more important factor for hiring than experience. As you progress in your career, new skills, like leadership skills, can be developed. Additional reasons why a skills section is important include:

  • It differentiates you from your competitors.
  • It helps define what value you can bring to a company.
  • It gives you a chance to match your skills to the company's job description.

4 types of skills you should include on your resume

When creating your skills section, it's important to keep the skills you list as specific to the job you're applying for as possible. You can list many skills on your resume, but it's important to only include skills that you have or can prove that you have. Below is a list of four different types of skills you can include on your resume:

1. Skills that showcase your thought process

If the job you're applying for relies on your ability to solve problems or think critically, it's important that you list those relevant skills. Some key skills that showcase your thought process include creative thinking, critical thinking, analytical skills, and inductive reasoning.

2. Leadership and management skills

If you're applying for a management position, it's important to let the employer know what skills you have that enable you to lead a team. Some key leadership or management skills to list on your resume include strong negotiation, delegation, decision-making, and motivational skills. While it may seem obvious, in addition to simply listing management and leadership skills on your resume, give examples that show your skills as well.

3. Your top soft skills

Soft skills are skills that help you to be successful in any workplace you join. These skills include flexibility and interpersonal, time management, and organizational skills. They're often hard to teach but can be developed with practice.

4. Your top hard skills

Hard skills are important for industry-specific jobs that require you to have certain training or educational proponents to perform the job. Some of these skills can include proficiency with specific computer programs, presentation skills, fluency in another language, or knowledge of content management systems (CMS).

Skills to exclude from your resume

While highlighting relevant skills is important, it's also important to leave out others. The following is a list of some skills that are best not included in the skills section of your resume:

1. Basic computer skills

Most individuals in the workforce are familiar with using basic computer programs such as email and Microsoft Office. The only time it would be beneficial to include basic computer skills is if you have particular training or unique skills with these programs. Otherwise, it may look as if you are trying to fill your resume with generic skills rather than specific ones that make you stand out.

2. Languages you're not fluent in

If you studied a language like French in high school or college but are not able to speak it fluently, exclude it from your resume. You may feel that adding a language to your resume makes you stand out from other candidates, but employers see a language listed and assume this means you're fluent. And if you're not fluent, it likely won't help you much in a professional setting. So, if you aren't fluent in a particular language, consider leaving it off of your resume to avoid confusion. Rather than including skills you used to have, the goal is to include skills that you can discuss with potential employers confidently.

3. Irrelevant skills

Of course, you never want to include skills on your resume that don't relate to the position you're applying to. For example, if you're applying for a marketing position, including the fact that you have great computer programming skills is not likely to help you get that job. The skills you list should relate directly to the role you're applying to. You can also change this section based on the jobs you apply to if they require different skills.

4. Skills you don't possess

Listing skills you don't truly have on a resume is never a great idea because if you do get the job, you then have to prove that you do have them. Being dishonest could lead to you not getting the job or being terminated if you are unable to perform the tasks required for the position. Sometimes the interviewer asks about these skills, and you don't want to start the employee-employer relationship by not telling the truth during your in-person interview. When in doubt, delete the skill from your resume.

5. Generalized skills

Try to be as specific and unique as possible when writing the skills section of your resume. It's best to avoid generalized skills because the person who reviews your resume might just glance over them and not give them proper consideration. They also won't stand out as much as unique skills. Examples of generalized words you should remove from your skills list include creative, focused, experienced, and skilled. Instead, try to find a more specific word or phrase to convey your abilities.

Tips for writing a great resume skills section

Before submitting your resume for consideration, take the time to review your skills section and ensure it suits the job you're applying for. The following tips can help you write an eye-catching skills list.

  • Review the job description. Don't just look through the job description and hit the apply button. Be sure to spend some time and thoroughly read what kind of qualifications and skills the company is looking for. Looking through the responsibilities required for the role and the kind of duties you'll be performing allows you to determine the skills required for that role.
  • Be as specific as possible. Make sure to eliminate general or common skills. For example, instead of listing "great communication skills," be specific by saying something like "ability to articulate complex ideas and techniques to all levels of management."
  • Edit your resume to suit the job you're applying for. Edit your resume each time you apply for a job. It's especially important to do so if you're applying for work in different industries.
  • Look at examples of resumes for the job or industry you're interested in. The best way to tailor your resume or determine what you should be putting in your skills section is to look at some examples in your industry. Take time to look for examples online or ask a former colleague or friend to share theirs.
  • List your skills in a definitive way. Employers often want to see specific examples of your skills in action. Be as detailed as possible when putting skills on your resume. For example, rather than saying “strong social media marketer,” you could say “strong social media marketer with proven experience in audience growth, strong click-thru rates, and positive impressions.”

When listing skills on your resume, it's important to be as honest with yourself as possible about the skills you have. Ask a former employer, colleague, or friend for honest feedback. This helps you determine which skills are most important and include them in your skills section.

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