No matter the job and no matter the experience level, skills are essential to a resume.
So much so, that amongst recruiters there's a new saying brewing — “the future is skill-based”.
And it makes sense, as mundane jobs get automated, those with a strong skill-set are able to shift focus and remain relevant in a fast evolving job environment.
In this article we'll not only show you how to write a skills section for your resume, but also show you the differences between soft and hard skills and when to apply them, as well as some of the most sought after skills by recruiters in today’s job market.
TL;DR Video Guide: How to List Skills on a Resume
Learn to write a great skills section for your resume in under 60 seconds. Watch our quick video guide, save time, and skip straight to the most important takeaways.
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. These are the 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.
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? Because most recruiters only have about six seconds to decide whether a resume is worth reading in full. That means you only have a very limited time 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.
Get through the applicant tracking system (ATS)
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.
As you can see there are also resume qualifications and a well constructed skills section will help 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.
How to write a skills section for your resume?
Although, at a first glance the skills resume section might seem straightforward. Once you start getting into the nitty-gritty of it, you will soon realize that you have a pile of practical questions that will require some research –– both about you and the job at hand.
A good way to start preparing for writing the skill section of your resume is by researching the job listing, the company and its work culture and asking yourself these 4 questions:
- What are the skills needed for this job?
- Do my skills align with the job?
- Am I proficient in such skills?
- Is it essential to add these skills on my resume?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin adding the skills that meet your requirements.
How to format skills on a resume?
Formatting your skills on your resume will depend on a few factors such as, your choice of resume template and resume style. With the style of resume bearing the most weight; will it be a chronological, functional, or a combined resume?
- Chronological resume: This style of resume is the standard. It adds your work experience to the top of the resume and lists your jobs in a chronological order from newest to oldest. Though anyone can use this style, those with greater experience benefit the most.
- Functional resume: If you want your resume to highlight your skills then picking a functional resume is the way to go, as it prioritizes them by adding them to the forefront of your resume. This is a great choice for those working in the tech industry or if you’re new to the workforce.
- Combined resume: As the name suggests, this is a mix of both a functional and chronological resume. This style of resume is a good way to go if you’re someone with a large gap in your employment or if you are switching careers. Where to put skills on a resume with a mix function depends on what you want to emphasize to your employer. If your skills are unique and in-demand, put them at the top.
As for your resume template, you have more freedom and can pick from a variety of templates that meet your needs. However, not all resume templates are created equal and some are more suitable than others depending on the occupation.
If you’re having a hard time deciding what kind of resume template to use, go through resume examples to gauge what kind of templates are typically used for certain jobs.
Best skills to add to your resume in 2021
The rule of thumb is: stay relevant. What does it mean in practice?
First, it’s advised to limit the length of your resume to no more than two pages. This shouldn’t be a problem, as nowadays resume builders make it really simple to keep things concise.
Basically, by having a long resume you risk the hiring manager losing interest.
Hence, you need to provide only the most relevant information and because things move so fast in today’s day and age you also need to make sure the information is up to date.
But how can you tell which of your skills are up to date and relevant for the job you want?
Easy, by following these 3 tips:
- Study the job advertisement.
- Print it out.
- Highlight skills that are essential for the job.
These skills are the keywords that both the hiring managers and the ATS will be looking for.
Once you’ve done that, see how many of those skills you already have and list them in your skills section.
Best hard skills to put on a resume in 2021
LIke we said earlier on, the job landscape is evolving and we don’t mean your typical slow pace, Darwin type of evolution. Nope. This is a fast computer age evolution and you’re going to have to put in some effort and come up with some great resume ideas for skills if you don’t want to be left in the dust.
This is especially true for careers that depend heavily on hard-skills, such as those in the tech, industrial and construction industry. So, just like bringing the right tool for the job, it’s important to bring the right set of hard-skills.
With that said, these 10 hard-skills are in huge demand in 2021:
- Business analysis
- Sales processing
- Product marketing
- Clinical research
- Creative writing
- Video editing
- Web development
Now, we don’t mean for you to just go jotting down as many hard-skills as you can on your resume just because they’re in demand. No, unique skills for a resume or any additional skill for a resume should only be added if you can at least perform the skills with some proficiency.
Another good way to decide what skill to add on your skill summary is by asking yourself this question, “Would I be able to answer a hiring manager’s in depth questions about such skill?”. If not, then scrap it from your resume and cover letter.
Best soft skills to put on a resume in 2021
It doesn’t matter how technical your profession is. At the end of the day, you’ll have to interact with people in some form or another. That’s where soft skills come into play.
Think about it, 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 but who is 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.
Having said that, here are 10 of the most marketable soft-skills in 2021:
- Time management
- Conflict resolution
- Attention to detail
- Analytical thinking
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.
Top skills by career field to add on a resume
Some general skills can be a plus for nearly any job out there, particularly soft-skills.
However, the number one rule on how to write a resume applies here too, always tailor your resume with skills that align with the job. Also, keep in mind that sometimes skills that don’t seem relevant actually are, you just have to learn how to describe skills on a resume.
Here are a few soft and hard skill examples for popular career fields you can add to your resume (assuming you possess such skills).
Skills to put on an art and design resume (examples)
For those who want to work in a creative field, it's imperative to understand that a blend of both soft and hard skills are needed. Few jobs out there require you to be a lone wolf and because of this, regardless of how good you're at your craft, it's equally important to hone your soft-skills.
- Soft skills: creativity, communication, collaboration, flexibility, planning, multitasking, troubleshooting, indepence, perceptivity, accuracy
- Hard skills: basic HTML, print knowledge, Adobe Create Suite, Dreamweaver, typography-knowledge, photo editing, logo creation, marketing, storyboard creation, layout
Get inspired by this stylish resume example for an illustrator.
Best skills to put on a marketing resume (examples)
As someone in the marketing field you're likely very aware at how fast the world is changing, especially if you’re into digital marketing. Hence, it’s important for you to highlight that you’re keeping up with the latest trends.
- Soft skills: collaboration, intuitive, creativity, problem-solving, multitasking, curiosity, innovation, networking, quantitative thinking, forward-thinking
- Hard skills: content marketing, Wordpress, mobile marketing, social media, email marketing, lead nurturing, SEO, Mailchimp, Adobe Photoshop, video production
Check out this well researched resume example from an online marketing specialist for inspiration.
Skills to put on a finance resume (examples)
There’s a rule (hopefully a joke) amongst those working in finance –– always put your job ahead of your personal life. Now, whether that’s hyperbole or not, it should tell you a bit about what’s expected in the field.
- Soft skills: Leadership, presentation skills, compliance, diligence, focused, initiative, thick skinned, communication, execution, patience
- Hard skills: SQL, VBA, Python, index matching, Excel, pivot tables, advanced charting, financial modeling, CFA, C++
Take a look at this well presented and executed resume example for an equity analyst for inspiration.
Skills to put on an IT resume (examples)
Many think that working in IT means you don’t really need soft-skills and honestly, they couldn’t be more wrong. Soft-skills are just as important as hard-skills when it comes to IT, so make sure that your IT resume contains both sets of skills.
- Soft skills: Communication, attention to detail, logical thinking, adaptability, prioritizing, decisive, deadline management, problem-solving, collaboration, accuracy
- Hard skills: AI, data science, cloud services, blockchain, VR, Cyber security, python, AWS, CSS, cyber security
Start your resume strong, get inspired with this meticulous and well formatted resume example for an IT analyst.
Skills to put on a sales resume (examples)
Sales people are people people and should definitely emphasize their soft-skills on their resume. However, many sales roles like B2B are becoming more tech dependent and should also include hard-skills on their resumes.
- Soft skills: Persuasion, negotiation, confidence, public speaking, active listening, responsibility, written communication, flexibility, intuitive, business acumen
- Hard skills: Powerpoint, SEO, data analysis, SaSS, content writing, cold calling, CRM, email management, pitch creation, product knowledge
Have a peek at this persuasive resume example for a sales representative if you're in need of inspiration.
Are there any skills I should NOT include on a resume?
Sure, most skills you have might come in 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Overused buzzwords. Are you a flexible quick learner? Are you passionately creative, always motivated and focused on 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.
- 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. Leave only the key skills on a resume, relevancy is key the word here. Prioritize the hard skills mentioned in the job advertisement and ditch anything less relevant.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are professional skills?
A professional skill is a hard or soft skill that was learned with the intention (either at school, job or certifications) of applying it in an employment setting. Examples of such skills are computer languages, machine skills and writing skills.
How to list technical skills on a resume?
Technical skills can be listed together with other skills on the skills section of your resume or independently in a “Technical Skills” section. If the job listing emphasizes the need for technical skills, then it's advice to add them to the latter.
What to put under skills on a resume?
When deciding what to put under skills on a resume, it's advised to research the job ad. Once that is done, then you can list the skills you possess that align with the job ad description.
You can add hard-skills, such as: Microsoft Word, Photoshop and Excel. You can also add soft-skills, such as: punctuality, teamwork, and problem solver.
How to list soft skills on a resume?
Listing soft-skills can be done in multiple ways, you can sprinkle them through your work experience section of your resume, you can add them under the skills section or create an independent section titled “Soft Skills”.