It’s no secret: job hunting is a pain in the neck. Sending out resume after resume hoping an employer emails you back for an interview can get pretty tiresome after a while — especially if you’re really looking for that perfect dream job.
There’s no surefire process to guarantee a job, but there are big steps that you can take to make your resume more appealing to potential employers. One way to do that is showcasing your skills. Skills are a great resume booster because they show potential employers exactly what you’re bringing to the table. Sure, education and past experience are important to include, but often, employers want a more direct description of your abilities before they seriously consider you for a job.
In this post, we’ll walk you through what you should know about skills for resume building. Read through and apply these tips to your resume today to start seeing better results in the future.
- What are the best skills to put on a resume?
- The difference between hard skills and soft skills
- How to match your skills to the job description
- Where to include a skills section on your resume
- Resume-boosting skills: the takeaways
What are the best skills to put on a resume?
Good skills to put on a resume depend on your industry and personal expertise; there’s no one-size-fits-all set of skills that will work for everyone. However, there are some prominent skills that almost every employer will find appealing, including:
- Clear, direct communication
- Time management
- Team leadership and collaboration
- Basic computer literacy
When listing skills, it’s a good idea to tie them back to some experience that you have. For instance, let’s say that in your current job, you collaborate with a team to produce a budget report every month. When you list your “Team leadership” as a skill, be sure to cite your budget meeting collaboration as an example.
We’ll explain more about how to include and format skills in your resume further down. But first, there’s an important distinction that we should explain.
The difference between hard skills and soft skills
You might have heard recruiters, HR reps, and other professionals mention hard skills and soft skills. It’s not a hard science, but this is how each one works.
- Hard skills: Industry-specific skills that often require school or training to achieve
- Soft skills: General skills that can be applied to a diverse range of work environments
It’s easier to understand the difference by considering a few examples.
Hard skills: examples for your resume
As mentioned, hard skills are developed through training or in school, and usually apply to one or more specific industries. For example, here are a few hard skills for your resume that employers are often interested in:
- Computer programming
- Web design
- Technical writing
- Marketing copywriting
- Applied math
- Heavy machinery operation
- Research skills
- Legal analysis
- Medical diagnostics
- Psychological counseling
- Electrician skills
Typically, hard skills are part of the hard requirements for a job. If you don’t have chemical engineering as one of your hard skills, you will likely not be hired for any job that requires it. To learn hard skills, it’s a good idea to attend a trade school, junior college, or four-year university and take the necessary classes.
There may also be industry-led training programs that you can apply to, such as initiatives to train employees in programming and other skills for growing industries. If you need a certain set of hard skills to put on your resume in order to succeed in your favored industry, your first step should be to research how you can get those skills.
Soft skills: examples for your resume
On the other hand, soft skills are more general. They can also be developed in a variety of places: in school, on the job, volunteering, and sometimes people are just born with them. Soft skills often involve working with others. A few examples of soft skills for your resume include:
- Time management
- Active listening
- Public speaking
- Computer literacy
Soft skills might not be strict requirements for many positions, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important. In fact, because many applicants to a given position will likely already have the hard skills required to perform that job, soft skills can make a huge difference when it comes to setting you apart.
For instance, say you’re applying to that chemical engineering position mentioned before. Likely, most of the applicants will have a four-year degree or equivalent training, and will know the basics it takes to get the job done. However, you might be the only one with a proven track record of communicating and collaborating with a diverse team. Highlighting that skill can set you apart from the pack.
- Are you trying to build up hard and soft skills? Read our guide on how to get a virtual internship.
How to match your skills to the job description
Something you may have read online or heard from professionals is that it’s smart to match your skills to the skills asked for in a job description. It’s pretty clear why you’d want to do this: potential employers are looking for someone with a certain set of skills, so you want to make it obvious to them that you have those skills.
On top of that, some employers use algorithmic methods to sort out resumes because they get so many applicants. Using the skills mentioned in the job description increases the likelihood that the algorithm will serve your resume to the human hiring manager.
Matching your skills to the job description is pretty simple. Take a look at your resume, then look at the skills the job description asks for. Let’s say that the job description asks for an “effective communicator,” and your resume skills section (more on that in just a sec) says “clear communicator.” These are pretty much the same thing; simply change the wording on your resume to match the wording from the job description.
Where to include a skills section on your resume
We’ve mentioned a few times that it’s a good idea to have a skills section on your resume. These days, having a well laid-out, dynamic resume is important. A simple Word document printed in black and white Times New Roman may still be the standard for some industries, but in many fields, visually standing out is important.
One way to do that is to have clearly labeled sections on your resume, sometimes graphically laid out in modular boxes that are fun and eye-catching. Whatever layout you choose, prominently identifying your skills is usually a good idea. In that section, simply list your skills. Some professionals also recommend giving clear examples of your skills in action.
- Web design: Build company website from the ground up using HTML and CSS coding.
- Clear communicator: Worked collaboratively with a team of designers to improve software UI
- Leadership: Stepped up and took the lead on a project when the manager had to step out.
Using evidence to support your skills gives potential employers an idea of what they can expect from you — a critical leg up as they assess their many options. It’s also just part of having a strong, well-rounded resume.
When it comes to placing the section for skills for your resume, there is some debate over where the best location might be. There are some options to choose from:
- As the first item on the page: This bold move demonstrates your abilities immediately, before even getting into education or experience. This might work better for jobs that require a number of harder-to-find hard skills.
- Near the bottom: Some jobs might be pickier based on education or experience. If that’s the case, you’ll still want to include your skills, but foregrounding those other accomplishments might be the savvier move.
- MIxed in with experience: Some resumes pepper skills in with experience. List each job you’ve had, then under it, the specific skills (and accomplishments) that you attained there.
Ultimately, the important thing is that you customize your resume to suit the job you’re applying to. Different industries, different employers, and even different individual hiring managers might all have their own preferences and standards. Doing your research to try to match your resume to those standards is your best bet when trying to stand out.
- Pro tip: if you’re headed to a career fair soon, don’t just stop at your resume. Check out our guide to questions to ask at a career fair so you show up informed and prepared.
Resume-boosting skills: the takeaways
Here’s what to remember as you start putting together your professional resume:
- The best skills to put on your resume include both hard and soft skills.
- Hard skills for your resume usually require education or training, and include skills like:
- Computer programming
- Technical writing
- Medical training
- Soft skills are more general, can be learned from experience, and can be applied to many jobs. Good soft skills to put on your resume include:
- Computer literacy
- One way to help your resume stand out is to phrase your skills so that they match the job description. This lets employers know you’re paying attention, and will help keep you from being sorted out by a resume-sorting algorithm (if they use one).
- Different jobs and industries require different resume layouts. However, it’s usually a good idea to highlight your skills in their own section.
Having a well-written resume can increase your earning potential, help you find better jobs, and even help with getting a promotion or salary increase. Try these tips out as you continue your job hunt — and good luck on the market!