Skills matter in a CV. They can make or break it.

Hiring managers have a particular interest in a candidate’s skill sets. The skills section is one of the most important parts of your CV, and it’s common for recruiters to take a shortcut to it and scan it before anything else. Skills can prove a person will perform a job well.

Having the right ones can get you noticed and win you that all important interview. They can set you apart from other candidates and convince an employer that you’re worth interviewing.

Also remember that including the right keywords to describe your skills is one way an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) flags CVs up for closer review, Meaning, they’re a great way of optimising your job application for both the human and digital review process.

The problem, as always is firstly, how to identify the best skills and secondly, how to write these into your CV. On this page we will look at how to do this and more.

By: Iejaz Uddin – 31 May 2024


What is a skill?

A skill is having the capacity to carry out a task competently.

This can be something simple or complicated, but you must be good at doing it. In a job they are classified as being able to carry out your duties and responsibilities.

Skills can be gained and developed through work experience, formal education, training, or personal experiences. They can be something simple or complicated.


Different types of skills

In the world of work there are hard and soft skills. They can overlap as well as complement each other, and both have a place in your CV.


Hard skills

These are fairly clean cut and easy to define technical skills. You either have them or you don’t. They show what you can do for an employer in practical terms. Through them the recruiter can very quickly see that you’re qualified to carry out a particular duty.

When describing these it’s a good idea to back them up with specific examples or achievements.


Never lie

The skills you include in your CV should be the ones you really possess. Be honest with yourself and don’t be tempted to exaggerate or oversell your abilities. In a technical role you will be very easily found out.


Soft skills

These are more difficult to define than hard skills, but just as important.

They are most relevant to leadership or sales positions and jobs where you have to communicate with members of the public. If you have them, you’ll reassure employers that you can work well with others and will fit into any existing company culture.


How to write skills in your CV

Don’t be shy about shouting about your skills. If you’ve got them, flaunt them.

When describing your skills, try to start every sentence with a strong action verb such as achieved, gained, controlled, and lead etc. This gives more emphasis and gravitas to what you’re saying.

Employers don’t want to see everything. They just want the best bits.

Always try to prove that you have the skills by showing how you’ve used them during your career to get results. If applicable back them up with numbers, figures, percentages, and statistics.


Keep your skills fresh

Remember to continually update the skill sets on your CV as you learn new ones.


How many skills to list

Bearing in mind that your CV should be as short as possible and that space on it is at a premium, you should list only the necessary ones. In line with keeping your CV length within the two page limit, it’s usually advisable to use  7 bullet pointed sentences to describe them.


Where to put them on your CV

You’ve got the skills for the role, now you need to place where they can be easily spotted after a quick skim. Because a CV rarely gets a close read on a first pass, they’ve got to be in a prominent place.

Here are the two main options to choose from:


Separate section

Create a stand alone section and place it below your work experience section and above your education. This is common practise in a chronological CV format.

In a functional CV it will go near the top of your CV, below your personal summary and above your work experience.


Weave them into your work experience 

Here you incorporate them into your work duties. Use keywords to describe them as part of a sentence in your personal summary or work experience section.


Skills sections layout and format

If you have different types of skill sets then it’s a good idea to differentiate them by category. This makes them easier to spot and read.


How to identify your best skills

Not sure which skills to put in your CV?

  • The answer is simple, determine which ones will help your job application and include them.

Next question, how to do you this?

  • Answer, through research and reflection.


Start by self-reflecting on your past career and going through a process of self-auditing. Also ask the opinion of people you know or have worked with. Sometimes, others will see in you strengths that you may not be aware of.

Contact past and current managers, mentors, references, or work colleagues for their thoughts on your performance. Ask them what they think you were good at and what your strongest points were.


Ask yourself the following questions;

  • What am I good at?
  • What do I know a lot about?
  • What comes naturally to me?
  • What were you good at in previous jobs?
  • What did your colleagues always ask you about?
  • Did you every receive an award or recognition for excelling in a specific task?


Career history

In your past work experience you can find examples of how you’ve used your skills to complete tasks.


Other ways to pinpoint your skills:


Work duties

Compile a list of your current and past responsibilities to spot patterns of any regular tasks you perform.


Aptitude test

Enrol on one to gauge your ability in specific fields and natural strengths in a given area.



Think about if you’ve ever taken and successfully completed or passed any courses for a specific skill.


Achievements and awards

Were you ever recognised for achieving something, excelling in a role or successful reaching a goal.


Which skills to include in a CV

If a particular skill has been asked for by the recruiter, and you have it then you must list it in your CV. Furthermore, as a rule, in your CV you should only include those skills that you are proficient in and which you will be comfortable talking about in an interview.

Most job seekers have more skills that can fit into their CV. Whilst it’s tempting to include all of them, its best to only add those that are relevant to the job you are applying for. This helps to save space on your CV, avoid information overload and keeps your CV targeted.

The required skills for a role vary widely between industry and job type, with each position requires varying proficiency levels. However, there are certain skills that never go out of style with hiring managers. Many new ones are also constantly being added to the list of ‘must haves’. It’s therefore important to keep an eye on the field you work in to identify any new competencies required to enter the workforce or do your job better.


Target the job

Every CV you write should only be aimed at one job, this includes your skills section. The best way to do this is by getting a list of the skills a recruiter wants from candidates and then putting these in your CV.

Do this by:

1. Reading the job description to identify skills the employer has specifically asked for. Read the advert a few times to spot those that are mentioned repeatedly. These are the ones you need to prioritise and list in your CV.

2. Researching the company itself and study the overall industry to identify in demand competencies.

3. Going through your work experience to identify if you have these required skills.

4. Making a list of those that match the recruiter’s requirements.

5. Writing these into your CV.


Combine hard and soft skills

Employers usually look for a good combination of both hard and soft skills in a candidate.


Core skills

There is always a core set of skills that are always sought after by recruiters, no matter what the job or industry. These are ideal for most jobs.

Examples of core skills:


Communication skills

Having these is a prerequisite for most jobs. Possessing good verbal and presentation abilities shows you can interact with others, fit into an existing set up and work as part of a team.



Tell them you can work well with colleagues to reach a common goal. Describe yourself as a team player who gets along with people from all social and cultural backgrounds.


Time management

Every job needs workers who can not only get tasks done on time, but also show up when they’re supposed to and organise their time efficiently.



Another valuable skill that shows employers you are an organised person who keep everything in its rightful place. This is a pre-requisite to being an efficient and productive employee.


Decision making

In many roles, during a day you’ll have to choose between different options. Show employers you know how to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a situation and then come to a logical decision.



Show you can handle the ever-changing demands of a job without losing your rhythm and getting flustered.


Problem solving

A great soft skill that never goes out of fashion and is in demand everywhere. The ability to over come obstacles by finding solutions to them is a major plus for any candidate.


Hard skills vs soft skills

The main difference between these two is that hard skills are job specific abilities, whilst soft skills are transferable personality traits that can be used across various roles and industries.

Employers want candidates to have the right mixture of hard and soft skills. A good combination of these can position you as a well-rounded candidate.


Hard skills for your CV

Also known as technical skills, these are measurable competencies that are specific to one particular role or industry. They are usually abilities you learn on the job or through apprenticeships, formal education and training.

Technical skills can be broken down into two other categories, specialised technical skills and basic technical skills.


Specialised technical skills

This is having the specialized knowledge and expertise needed to carry out specific tasks and use specialist tools, software, or equipment in the workplace. They are required in every field or industry you can think of, for both entry level and experienced positions.


Specialised technical skill examples:


Computer operating

Data analysis

Financial management

Graphic design

Web development



Common hard skill examples:

Here is a list of common technical skills that are commonly required for job roles;


Customer Service



Time Management


Soft skills for your CV

These are personal traits, qualities and attributes that come naturally to people, and which can be used in any job.

Also known as transferable ‘people skills’ or ‘social skills’ they are characteristics which can enhance your hard skills.


Examples of soft skills;



Conflict resolution

Emotional intelligence

Foreign languages



Problem solving

Positive attitude