A Quick Two-Step Guide to List Your Skills on a Resume

A Quick Two-Step Guide to List Your Skills on a Resume

Listing your skills on a resume is no rocket science. Most people simply list their skills and leave it at that. Still, in spite of its relative simplicity, you need to get the basics right. How you present your skills on a resume is tied closely to how you decide to structure your resume as a whole. We’ll show you how to present your skills on a resume like a champ.

When Should You Emphasise Your Skills on a Resume instead of Experience?

If you’ve ever written a resume in your life, you’re probably quite familiar with the chronological resume style. Although this format fits the needs of most people, there are cases when using it would be ill-advised.

  • Are you a fresh graduate with no experience to speak of? A chronological resume will make your lack of experience jarring — without letting you showcase the useful abilities you might already have.
  • Are you trying to switch careers? A chronological resume won’t let you out of the box of your previous professional experiences. At the same time, it won’t give yo space to highlight your transferrable skills.
  • Multiple roles at a single company? A chronological resume wouldn’t make justice to the diversity of skills you’ve acquired.
  • Do you rely heavily on your portfolio? A chronological resume would probably end up looking like a complete mess, as your professional history is probably not structured around stable jobs.
  • Is there a gap in your employment? A chronological resume will bring attention to this fact instead of emphasising the wealth of skills you had acquired before.

In all of these cases, experts recommend using a functional resume instead, as it emphasises your skills and abilities over a chronological career progression. It highlights what you can offer to a company, regardless of your career history.

The main drawback of a functional resume is that some recruiters will automatically assume that you’re hiding something by choosing to use this resume format. In the end, however, it all comes down to how effective it is at convincing potential employers that you really have the skills necessary for getting the job done.

skills on a resume

Two Steps to List Your Skills on a Resume

A functional resume revolves around its skills section. Yet, since functional resume is less commonly used, few candidates know how to write their skills section well.

The premise sounds childishly uncomplicated — write a section where you list your skills on a resume. As obvious as it sounds, things can get a bit tricky once you start writing. For instance, is “strong work ethic” a skill or a strength? You should know the difference.

  • Skills are things you learn through effort and experience, like being fluent in Spanish or being good at SEO marketing.
  • Strengths are your natural personality traits you acquire over time. These might include the aforementioned “strong work ethic” or “good communications skills.” You probably know them under the label “soft skills.”

Your skills section should mostly include hard skills. Once you’ve put your hard skills on a resume and did it well, it’s no longer necessary to explicitly mention soft skills. After all, if you show you’re good at programming in C#, it becomes quite obvious your computer skills are excellent. In any case, you can mention soft skills if they’re specific to the position.

Step 1: Decide Which of Your Skills You Want to Highlight

When it comes to showcasing your skills on a resume, it’s crucial that you highlight the right ones. This is a crucial part of tailoring your resume to each job position you’re applying for.

  • Make a list of keywords. Carefully reread the job description and look for skills that are required for the position. This will give you a list of keywords that will help you structure your skills section as well as let your resume pass through Applicant Tracking Software that recruiters use to weed out weak candidates.
  • Match your skills to the position you’re applying for. Now take a look at your own skill set and see where it overlaps with the list you’ve just made. The closer your set of skills matches the skills necessary for the job, the better your chances are for getting the job.

If you don’t have a skill that is absolutely essential for performing well at the given job, dig into your past experience. Try to come up with some examples that can demonstrate that you’d be able to perform the skill or acquire it very quickly. At the same time, even if you don’t have every skill in the job description, it’s not critical. Simply craft your skills section to best reflect what the job requires.

skills on a resume

Step 2: Support Each Skill Category on a Resume with Examples and Accomplishments

Employers don’t respond well to arbitrary lists of nouns and adjectives. Look at it this way: If someone told you about what a fantastic snowboarder he or she is, would you believe it? Probably not, as it sounds very much like bragging. But what if they’d also tell you about a snowboarding competition they won or about how they go snowboarding every weekend? As Beyoncé says: “Don’t bore me, show me!”

  • Choose 3-4 major skill categories to serve as subheadings. This is to structure your skills section into something that will look sleek and organised. Name it something appropriate, don’t try to get too creative with this. For instance, if you happen to speak multiple languages, group them under the subheading “Languages” (no kidding). See the example below.
  • Use bullet points to list your individual skills and accomplishments. Once you have the subheadings set up, fill them with bullet points and always be specific. For instance, don’t simply say that you have excellent writing skills. Opt for something like “Experience with writing business and funding proposals, pitch documents and advertising copy,” as seen below.

On the side note, you don’t have to include job titles or names of the companies you worked for. That belongs to the (now quite lightweight) experience section.

 Resume Example:


EXAMPLE: Skills on a Resume

Writing and Communication:

  • Degree with an emphasis on clarity and structure in written and oral communication.
  • Wrote blog posts, news features, technical documents and marketing copies. 
  • Former editor-in-chief of the university newspaper.
  • Experience writing business and grant proposals, pitch documents and advertising copy.
  • Translated documents and interpreted conversations in Spanish, German and English.

Creative and Analytical Thinking

  • Analysis of audience, purpose and style of documents. 
  • Strategic choice of wording, tone, format and source of information.
  • Ability to take fact-based materials and make them interesting.

Software and Social Media

  • Knowledge of social media, blogging and digital marketing.
  • Experience with Google Wave, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress and Blogspot. 
  • Managed social media accounts with more than 30.000 followers in total.

Your skills section has to play nicely with the rest of your resume

In the end, even if the skills section is going to be central to your resume, it’s only the beginning. Learn how to write a powerful resume here. If you’re a student or a fresh graduate, you might want to refer to our college student resume guide. You’ll find there an exhaustive tutorial on how to write a fantastic functional resume. Good luck!

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