Skills-based hiring exists and is real.
As they’re extremely valuable to employers, having the right ones can land you an interview.
Recruiters regularly evaluate candidates based on their job skills rather than their work experience, past employment, education, and future potential. So don’t underestimate the power of including them in your job application. They can be instrumental in showing employers you have the abilities required to succeed in their role.
This guide will give you a better understanding of not only what skills are, but also of how to find them, how to write them and where to put them in your resume.
You’ll learn how to use industry specific buzzwords to describe in-demand competencies that will get you noticed for all the right reasons. You will also find pre-written examples here that you can use to maximum effect and get walked through the process of showcasing your value to potential employers.
What are skills?
A skill is the ability to do something effectively.
It can be anything from simple to complex task that you’re good at doing. In relation to the world of work, skills are classified as having the ability, knowledge, expertise, talent, and competence needed to carry out your duties and responsibilities.
You can acquire, develop, or learn them through formal education, training, and work experiences. They can be of benefit to an individual’s professional and personal life.
Types of skills
The two main types of skills are hard and soft. Employers typically look for a good combination of both of these in a candidate.
Hard skills tend to be teachable and measurable technical abilities, that can be enhanced through education and experience. These are typically industry specific and are needed to perform a specific task.
Whereas soft skills are more difficult to measure and tend to be general behavioural traits not specific to any job. Meaning they are transferable and can be applied across many industries or job roles. They are developed through an individual’s personal life, career, and social volunteer activities etc. Examples include a person’s ability to communicate, empathy and adaptability.
Why include skills in your resume?
Having the right combination of skills can be the key that gets you an interview and ultimately your next job.
As industries become more dynamic and technology-driven, the demand for a skilled workforce has never been greater.
Changes in the labour market and the evolving needs of employers, means that individuals need to continuously upskill and reskill to remain relevant in the job market. To stop falling behind your peers, its therefor vital that you ensure your resume template is packed with relevant skills that employers are looking for.
Beat the ATS
But it’s also not just about setting yourself apart from the competition and impressing the reader. Having the right keywords to describe your competencies can also help you get past the dreaded ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems).
These software applications are electronic guard dogs used by recruiters to screen candidates. They search for keywords in a resume and reject those that don’t have what they are looking for. By optimising your resume with words relevant to the vacancy, you have a much better chance of being shortlisted.
How to find your skills and talents
There are quite a few ways to spot you best skills.
The first thing to remember is that a key part to crafting a bespoke resume that’s targeted at a specific role is to include those skills a recruiter wants in a candidate.
To do this you must find your most relevant ones by going through a process of self-reflection and auditing your abilities. It can be difficult to know where to begin this process and uncover competencies you might not have thought of. You must do more than just ask yourself questions like:
- What am I good at?
- What do I know a lot about?
- What comes naturally to me?
Here are a few ways to pinpoint your skills
Look for patterns that come up frequently in any or all of the below.
Write down a detailed list of what you do at work. See if you can spot a pattern of regular tasks that you perform.
Are there areas you’re often complimented on by your current fellow workers? Also, consider contacting former co-workers or managers and asking them as well.
Achievements and awards
Have you ever been officially recognised for reaching a certain goal or excelling in a particular field.
Think about what you have done well in your past career, for instance: ‘What did people come to you for?’ Did you have any previous performance reviews by supervisors of managers? If so, dig them out and see what you were complimented on.
Go through the one you’re applying for and also others in related fields to find out what skills companies want. This will give you a candid viewpoint of what’s in demands and remind you of what you have.
Research the employer and industry
Jog your mind further by going through their websites and make a note of any required skills or abilities that match your own ones.
Ask other people for feedback
Enquire with trusted friends and family members what they think you’re good at.
Take one of these to gauge your ability in specific fields and natural strengths in a given area.
Have you enrolled on and successfully completed or passed any courses for a specific skill?
Other advantages of assessing your skill sets
1. It can also help you to identify those areas of your abilities that you are weak in and need to further develop and improve.
2. Can quickly help you decide whether you’re not a good match for the job. If you haven’t got the necessary skills, then there’s no point applying for it. This in turn will save time by stopping you from putting your name forward for something you’re not suitable for or have no chance of getting.
10 Best skills to include in a resume
Skills can qualify you or disqualify you for a job.
Not all skills are the same, some are stronger than others. With so many to choose from, deciding which ones to list is not easy. Furthermore, on a resume space is limited, forcing you to limit the amount you can list.
Below are 10 invaluable sought-after ones that will help you stand out in the applicant pool. They are the correct mixture of hard and soft skills that can help keep you relevant to the role you are applying for.
1. Communication skills
These are necessary for virtually every role you can think of. The ability to listen, speak, observe, and empathise are some of the most after qualities in a worker. They’re essential for anyone who wants to show a prospective employer they can fit into an existing set up. Aim to identify yourself as a top candidate who can communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders both in writing and orally.
2 . Technical skills
Performing certain roles requires a person to have knowledge of specific pieces of technology, tools, equipment, processes, or techniques. These are called technical or hard skills. There are many different types, and they can vary widely across industries and jobs. A good example is if you’re applying to be a Chef, you will be required to possess basic cooking skills. Although some companies may provide on-the-job training to give you these competencies, most look for experienced workers who already have them.
3. Critical thinking
This is the ability to use your cognitive intelligence to sift through large amounts of information, draw conclusions and then make well-informed decisions. It refers to an open minded individual who can question and test previously held assumptions. Supercharge your resume by showing you can see beyond the surface level of many issues and think outside of the box to solve problems. Explain how you can make sound logical judgements based on finding, interpreting, understanding and then synthesising evidence.
Example: Mention a situation from your career where you came up with a workable solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem.
One way to stand out from the crowd is to show you are a mature individual who is comfortable with responsibility. Recruiters look for this characteristic amongst potential employees. They want someone who is not afraid to manage and has the communication skills, personality and presence needed to get others to follow them. Above all they look for those who can inspire and motivate team members to be the best they can. When mentioning your leadership skills focus on your ability to get results through others by delegating work and then ensuring it is done. Employers want people who can not only act as the link between staff and senior managers, but also be able to resolve conflicts between team members.
5. Customer service
For any job that involves interacting with clients, you need to have good customer service skills. Therefor highlight how you can maintain solid relationships with clients by ensuring their satisfaction, and resolving their complaints. Showcase how as a friendly, knowledgeable, and confident individual you can be the first professional point of contact in any interactions with customers. Explain how you can create a positive experience for anyone who calls or visits their company. Give clear examples of your conflict resolution, relationship building, troubleshooting and up-selling skills.
6. Problem solving
Recruiters are always looking for candidates who can identify a problem and then find a solution for it. This is because problems cost companies time and money. In any job you do, there is a good chance that something will eventually go wrong. An employer wants to know you can fix it. To impress them, prove you can identify an issue, determine its source and then resolve it. All through logical analysis and thoughtful planning. It’s also advisable to mention you can deal with problems on your own, explain them clearly to others and also spot them before others do. Solving problems is an art that can benefit you in a wide variety of careers, positions and industries.
Regardless of what profession or industry you’re in, the ability to work with others is critical. Teamwork is important because it helps ensure everyone pushes together in the same direction. When writing your resume, mention you are a sociable person who can collaborate with colleagues as part of a group. State you have the emotional intelligence needed to read a person’s reactions and feelings. Tell them you are open to sharing ideas with others and willing to assist those who are struggling with their duties. Give examples of how you have contributed towards fostering a positive and productive work environment in your previous roles.
“I worked as part of a team of 6 people on a cost reduction project that reduced the company’s administrative expenses by 25%”.
Flexibility shows up on almost every prospective employer’s wish list. This is because circumstances at work are constantly changing, meaning an employee must be versatile enough to be able to adjust themselves to new skills, systems, processes, and tools. It’s an important attribute that encompasses a huge range of qualities which also allow an employee to easily integrate into an existing work environment.
Most people consider it as a soft skill that is usually developed through experience, rather than training. This makes it more difficult to describe in a resume than say technical skills or hard skills. Adaptability is best shown in your resume with examples of how you have faced unexpected new conditions, factors, environments, obstacles, colleagues and managers.
9. Interpersonal skills
The more social skills you have the more of an asset to you will be to a company or organization. Interpersonal skills, also known as employability and people skills are at the top of the list of in demand competencies. They encompass a broad array of verbal and nonverbal skills and are the stuff that will help you to work, communicate, and build relationships with others. This is why employers value them. It’s vital that you include these in any job application you submit, as they’ll show you as someone who can keep the peace and avoid conflict with colleagues.
You must be seen as someone who can resolve and avoid issues with others, rather than start them. Do this by showing you have the positive attitude, social intelligence, patience, and sense of humour to get along with people from all backgrounds.
10. Time management
Every mundane or important task requires a certain amount of time to perform it. The ability to complete these on time is critical to the efficient running of any company or organisation. In the age of multitasking, time management is an essential skill. It’s so important, that it can often be the deciding factor in determining whether a candidate is successful or not. Employers are always on the lookout for those candidates who make the most of their time and consistently meet deadlines. When explaining these in your resume show recruiters you can not only prioritise what needs to be done first but also organise its planning and execution.
What skills to list in your resume
Most people are not very good at saying what they’re good at.
Jobseekers especially get stuck trying to pinpoint their natural strengths and best talents. That’s because they don’t know what they are or how to identify them. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that there are literally 100’s of skills to choose from.
No matter what the reason, not highlighting the right ones can have a detrimental impact on your employment prospects and career development.
The good news is that everyone has more skills than they realize.
Getting it right is a difficult balancing act. You’ve always got to ask yourself whether the skill is important to you, or whether it is to the employer. The golden rule is to only include those that you’re comfortable talking about in an interview, as there’s a good chance, you’ll be asked about them. Try to show recruiters the wide breadth of your capabilities by including a good mixture of both hard and soft ones.
If you’re stuck singling out your best skills, then don’t panic, we’re here to help. This section will help you go through a process of introspection to uncover the best industry-specific technical skills you have.
How to decide which skills to list in your resume
1. Find out everything you can about the job you’re applying for. Specifically look for the skills sets that the company wants applicants to have.
Do this by:
- Reading the job advert.
- Researching the employer by looking at their website to learn more about their mission and goals.
- Delving into the industry sector further to find relevant jargon and buzzwords.
2. Now make a list of all the skills and attributes the employer wants in an applicant.
3. Sit down and review your career, duties, work experience and training to see if you have the skills the employer wants.
4. Make a list of all the ones you have.
5. These are the ones you should put in your resume.
Always read the job description
The advert is a great place to find out exactly what the employer wants from an employee. They nearly always include lists of both “required” and “desired” technical or personal skills.
Read these and make a note of any required skills or abilities that match your own.
All you have to do is then tactfully mimic their language and re-write these skills in your resume.
You should also consider taking a good look at any other similar postings to get an even better idea of the demands of the sector.
Don’t lie about your skills
It’s important that you do not inflate or falsify your skills, qualifications, or experience. Never give in to the temptation to stretch the truth. Apart from being immoral, there’s also the real risk that you will be caught out. Always stick to the facts and only include those things you truly possess. Remember that most companies conduct background checks, contact references, and ask detailed questions at the interview stage.
Difference between hard skills and soft skills
Skills can broadly be divided into two categories, hard and soft. It’s important to understand the different between them.
When writing your resume, you should not just list one. That’s because in the world of job hunting, both groups complement each other. Recruiters who first open your CV, typically look for the hard ones first. The search for the soft transferable ones usually comes later in the recruitment process.
Also known as technical skills these are mostly physical abilities or practical knowledge needed to complete specific work tasks. They are usually specific to one role or industry and are less transferable to other positions.
With these it’s pretty simple, you either have them or you don’t.
They often involve a person being a specialist in a certain area or an expert in their field. They are commonly teachable and measurable know-how that can be gained through on the job experience, training, or education.
Tip: When describing these try to weave statistics into them.
- Data Analysis
- Email marketing
- MS Office
- Organisational Skills
- Product or industry knowledge
- Project Management
These are personal attributes, traits and qualities that are often more harder to quantify than hard skills. They come naturally or can be developed over time but cannot be learnt. This however does not make them any less important to your job hunting.
Because they are more transferable than hard skills, they can be applied in a range of jobs, careers, and sectors.
On the upside, as they often complement a job seekers hard skills, they can show you are a well-rounded candidate who can deal with challenging situations.
On the downside, being less tangible makes them harder to measure and prove in a resume.
Examples of soft skills:
- Active listening
- Attention to detail
- Conflict resolution
- decision making
- Emotional intelligence
- Interpersonal skills
- social skills
- Time management
- Work ethic
How to write your skills on a resume
Many jobseekers have an innate modesty when talking about their strengths. This is wrong, you should not be shy when SHOUTING about your skills.
The way you feature your skills in a resume is just as important as possessing them. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Additionally, content in a resume must be structured and easy to read.
When reinforcing your professional experience with your skills, resist the temptation to include every skill you have, instead only insert the relevant ones. Remember, your first encounter with most employers is going to be via your resume. If done right, you can immensely strengthen the chances of being invited to an interview.
Below are tips on how to ensure a recruiter scanning your resume comes away with the desired impression of you.
Sort skills by relevance
Go through your skills and list them in order of relevancy to the job you are applying for.
Position the most important ones at the top in the most prominent places. This way they’ll have more chance of being seen with that vital initial 15 seconds.
Categorize your skills
Always have your hard skills above your soft skills. This is because employers are more interested in any job specific expertise than your interpersonal attributes.
By separating your hard and soft skills into categories, you’ll also make them easier to scan by further distinguishing the difference between them.
Use bold specific keywords
Further highlight phrases and make them stand out in a sentence by making them darker and heavier than normal. This helps to emphasise them more and draw the readers attention to them.
Place your skills under subheadings like: Expert, Advanced, Intermediate, Beginner or Novice.
This sliding scale can help distinguish you more by further zooming in on your competence levels for a particular skill.
Create a skills section
Have a separate designated skills section where you can catalogue your greatest strengths. Header it accordingly i.e.:
- Core skills
- IT skills
- Sales skills
This can be one of the most important parts of your resume and the best place to feature those things that set you apart from others. It will also help to further organise your resume layout and allow recruiters to quickly zoom into what you have to offer.
Remember that many Hiring Managers to save time, have a habit of scanning the skills section first.
Where to place the skills section
Your resume will only get noticed if you the reader can quickly see something they like. Help them find what they’re looking for by placing your skills sections at the top quarter of your CV. It usually goes after the Personal Profile and before the Career history section.
Sprinkle skills in other parts of your resume
Don’t just limit your competencies to your skills section, you can also insert some into your work experience, education, achievements, and awards section. By strategically sprinkling them in multiple places you can further ensure they will be seen. Places to insert them:
An excellent place to showcase them. This brief section always sits at the top of a resume in a prime position and is usually the first thing thats read.
Incorporate your skills into the descriptions of your previous job roles. When describing your work duties, mention the skill sets you used to get things done.
Further demonstrate your prowess of a particular field by giving details of the certifications or academic qualifications you have in a subject.
How to describe your skills on a resume
Use as few words as possible to describe them.
Get straight to the point by using single words, phrases, and short sentences to explain your subject-matter expertise. Explain what you did, how you accomplished your tasks and what tools, equipment, or skills you used to do it. Try to quantify what you did with facts, figures, and statistics.
Do some online research to find and collect those industry specific keywords used to describe the role you’re after. Give your application a optimization bump by then including the same phrasing or words in it. Having the right ones can also help you get past the ATS algorithms that scan all electronic resumes and CV’s.
Emphasis your skills even more by using bullet pointed short sentences to explain your skills. These are much more attention grabbing than writing a paragraph and also have the advantage of making your resume look more aesthetically pleasing whilst saving you space.
Try to start every bullet point with a strong action verb such as Adopted, Prioritized, Spearheaded, Updated and Revamped etc.
Only use circle or hyphen points and ensure consistency by using the same ones throughout your document.
- Prioritize your bullet points by having the most relevant points at the top of the list.
- Use no more than 3 to 5 bullet points for each specific skill set.
How many skills to list
In a resume, less is more. Meaning it should be as short as possible. For this reason, you should have no more than 10 – 12 bullet pointed skills sentences in it. Avoid overwhelming recruiters by writing an entire dictionary.
What if you don’t have any skills
Then you have to conclude that you are not suitably qualified for the job. However, all is not lost. If you really want that job, simply make a detailed plan to learn the skills and competencies you lack.