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How to write a skills section for your resume?

Your skills section is the part of your resume where you list the skills and abilities you have that are necessary for the job you want.

On the first glance, this part of your resume might seem quite uncomplicated. After all, you probably know of at least some of your skills and abilities. In the end, listing them on a resume is relatively easy.

But then again, as soon as you get to the nitty-gritty of writing, you’re going to run into a pile of practical questions that require a bit of research.

Why do I need a skills section on my resume? Which skills should I include? Are there any skills I should omit? What if I don’t have any skills relevant for the job? Am I really that useless? What is the point of it all???

But anyway. In this guide, we’ve tried to answer every question you might have about writing a skills section for your resume.

In the unlikely chance that you don’t find answers to some of your questions here, let us know by filling in the form at the bottom of this page. After all, this guide is, and always will be, a work in progress. Your questions can help others. Please, don’t keep them to yourself. 🤓

Why do I need a skills section on my resume?

A well-put-together skills section can help a recruiter figure out whether you have what it takes for the job — and do it quickly. Speed is of the essence here.

Why? As you might already know, most recruiters only need about six seconds to decide whether a resume is worth reading in full. That means you only have about six seconds to get the most important, most impressive points across. Otherwise your resume ends up in the bin.

With that in mind, having an entire section designated to your skills makes a lot of sense. After all, it’s through your skills that you can be useful to a company. By devoting an entire section to them you help the employer quickly assess if you can bring something to the table.

What’s more, your resume isn’t for human eyes only. Every larger company nowadays uses an applicant tracking system (ATS) to weed out weak candidates. Because of that, most resumes never get to a human reader.

Fortunately, your resume’s skills section can help you punch through the ATS wall.

How? One way an ATS flags a resume for closer (human) review is by scanning it for relevant keywords. Luckily, by definition, any good skills section contains a relatively large number of these keywords and can help you get invited for a job interview.

In the end, a well constructed skills section helps you make your resume more attractive both to human and computer eyes.

Finally, you should know that a large majority of your skills should already be shown in the work experience section of your resume. In other words, the skills section will always be a bit redundant. Don’t worry about that. For the reasons described above, it’s still worth it even if it comes at the cost of little redundancy.

What is considered a skill?

In broad terms, a skill is an ability to perform certain tasks well. Some skills can be measured and you acquire them through deliberate effort, others are related to your personality traits.

In other words, not all skills are created equal. That’s why we call some of them “hard” and others “soft”.

  • Hard skills, as we’ve already mentioned, are those of your skills that you’ve acquired through deliberate effort. They can be learned, taught, and measured. Examples of hard skills include: English, Spanish, HTML, Python, copywriting, data analysis, SEO, SEM,  and others.
  • Soft skills, on the other hand, are closely tied to one’s personality traits. They arise from your previous experiences and the environment you grew up in. These could be your leadership, communication, or other interpersonal skills. As opposed to hard skills, soft skills cannot be easily taught. Examples of soft skills include: problem-solving, negotiating, multitasking, time management, presenting, and others.

Both types of skills are highly valued by employers and have an important role to play in your job search.

You can think of your hard skills as a foundation upon which your entire application is built. They give you a fighting chance to score the job you want.

Your soft skills, on the other hand, are that something extra that can make your application stand out. They give you an edge over other equally capable candidates.

What skills should I put on my resume?

The rule of thumb is: stay relevant. What does it mean in practice?

First, you want to limit the length of your resume to a single page. Anything longer than that and you risk the hiring manager losing interest. Hence you need to provide only the most relevant information possible.

But how can you tell which of your skills are most relevant for the job you want?

The easiest way is to stick to the job advertisement. Print it out, get a marker, and try to highlight all skills that are essential for the job. These are the keywords that both the hiring managers and ATS will be looking for.

Once you’ve done that, see how many of those skills you already have. List them in your skills section.

Are there any skills I should NOT include?

Sure, every skill you have might come handy at some point. But that doesn’t mean that every skill belongs on a resume. In fact, the number of unsuitable skills is so large we had to split them into five categories:

  1. Skills you DON’T have. Remember, most skills take a lot of effort to acquire. Don’t fabricate them just to get hired. It will come back to haunt you in the long run — probably as soon as you get to the job interview. It’s bad enough to look incompetent, far worse to be seen as a liar.
  2. Obsolete skills. Do you know how to backup files on a floppy disk?Good, but don’t put it on your resume. You don’t want to look as obsolete as floppy disks. The same goes for other outdated technologies and skills related to them.
  3. Skills that have nothing to do with the job. Scuba diving is an impressive skill to have. But it’s also completely irrelevant if you’re applying for a job on dry land. Remember, hiring managers only have a limited attention span. Make sure they focus on those of your skills that can actually get you the job.
  4. Overused buzzwords. Are you a flexible quick learner? Are you passionately creative, always motivated and focused the strategic vision? Even if it’s true, don’t mention it. These are some of the most overused words on resumes and hiring managers are tired of seeing them. What’s more, these buzzwords don’t really mean anything.
  5. Skills everybody should have. Never list skills like Microsoft Word, email, or web searching. It’s a given that anyone applying for an office job nowadays has these skills. Would you hire someone who considers the ability to browse the internet an achievement?

One more thing. If you’re struggling to fit your resume on a single page, consider shortening your skills section. Relevancy is key here. Prioritize the hard skills mentioned in the job advertisement and ditch anything less relevant.

What about my soft skills?

It doesn’t matter how technical is your profession. At the end of the day, you’ll have to interact with people. That’s where soft skills come into play.

Examples include: time management, communication skills, conflict resolution, problem-solving, negotiation, etc.

If you were a recruiter, who would you rather hire? A programmer who’s also emotionally intelligent and has a way with people? Or someone equally skilled who’s also a bit anti-social?

If you’d prefer the former candidate, you wouldn’t be alone. In fact, 67 percent of HR managers said they’d hire a candidate with strong soft skills even if his or her technical abilities were lacking. On the contrary, only 9 percent would hire someone with strong technical credentials but weak soft skills. Even when it comes to hard-to-fill positions, the candidate’s soft skills still amount to about 25 percent of the hiring decision.

Most companies understand that efficiency alone doesn’t make an organization stand out. They need to be innovative too—and create an environment where talented workers want to come and stay.