Highlighting Your Skills and Qualifications
Even if you’ve never had a job before, you have many different skills, and employers want to know about them—well, some of them.
Unfortunately, your impressive binge-watching skills and animal impressions don’t belong on your resume.
But what skills should you include?
Soft Skills and Hard Skills
Employers want to hire someone with a balanced blend of hard and soft skills.
While hard skills, also known as technical skills, are essential for executing specific tasks, soft skills are the interpersonal qualities that enable individuals to work effectively with others and navigate complex professional environments.
Both hard and soft skills play a crucial role in determining an individual’s success in the workplace.
Understanding the distinction between these two skill sets is vital for career development and building a well-rounded professional profile.
Soft skills, often referred to as interpersonal or people skills, are personal attributes that enable one to interact, communicate, and collaborate effectively with others.
While hard skills are specific to a particular job or industry, soft skills are transferable and applicable in all jobs (and in life).
These skills are not typically taught in a structured academic setting. They are developed through real-life experiences, observation, and continuous self-improvement. In other words, you learn them just by living your life and interacting with people.
One of the key aspects of soft skills is their impact on relationships and interactions within the workplace.
Effective communication skills, for example, enable individuals to express their ideas clearly, listen actively, and understand others’ perspectives. This fosters a positive work environment, enhances teamwork, and facilitates the successful completion of projects and tasks. Of course, employers want this.
Every single job requires you to have soft skills.
However, they are particularly valuable in client-facing roles, customer service, project management, sales, and any position that requires interaction with colleagues, stakeholders, or the public.
Examples of Soft Skills
- Communication: Expressing ideas clearly, listening attentively, and fostering open dialogue.
- Collaboration: Working effectively in teams, sharing responsibilities, and valuing diverse perspectives.
- Adaptability: Embracing change, being flexible, and adjusting to new situations or challenges.
- Problem-solving: Analyzing issues, identifying solutions, and making informed decisions.
- Leadership: Inspiring and motivating others, guiding teams, and taking initiative.
- Emotional intelligence: Recognizing and managing emotions in oneself and others, displaying empathy, and building strong relationships.
- Time management: Prioritizing tasks, managing deadlines, and optimizing productivity.
- Critical thinking: Evaluating information, reasoning logically, and making sound judgments.
- Creativity: Thinking innovatively, generating new ideas, and finding unique approaches to problem-solving.
- Conflict resolution: Resolving disputes, managing disagreements, and promoting constructive dialogue.
- Resilience: Bouncing back from setbacks, staying positive in challenging situations, and maintaining perseverance.
- Networking: Building and nurturing professional relationships, leveraging connections, and collaborating with others.
- Decision-making: Weighing options, assessing risks, and making effective choices based on available information.
- Empathy: Understanding and considering the feelings and perspectives of others and responding with compassion.
- Customer service: Providing excellent service, addressing customer needs, and resolving issues satisfactorily.
- Conflict management: Managing and resolving conflicts, finding mutually beneficial solutions, and promoting positive outcomes.
- Negotiation: Finding common ground, reaching agreements, and maintaining positive relationships during discussions or transactions.
- Presentation skills: Delivering engaging and impactful presentations, effectively conveying information to an audience.
Hard Skills or Technical Skills
Hard skills are the bridge that transforms ideas into real-world solutions. It means going beyond theoretical knowledge and actually applying it.
Whether acquired through education, training programs, or immersive hands-on experiences, technical skills can be tested and measured, demonstrating a professional’s proficiency in their chosen field.
These skills are highly sought after, but different jobs and industries have varying demands for the skills they seek.
The technical skills you need as a salesperson significantly differ from what you need to know as a nuclear physicist.
Hard skills are particularly important in engineering, computer science, mechanics, healthcare, and science roles; however, every industry will have its own requirements.
Examples of Technical Skills
Here are some examples of technical skills in different fields:
- Information Technology:
- Programming languages (e.g., Python, Java, C++)
- Database management (e.g., SQL, MongoDB)
- Network administration and troubleshooting
- Web development
- Cloud computing (e.g., AWS, Azure)
- CAD software proficiency (e.g., AutoCAD, SolidWorks)
- Electrical circuit design
- Mechanical engineering principles
- Structural analysis and design
- Programming microcontrollers
- 3D modeling and simulation
- Medical terminology
- Patient assessment and diagnosis
- Electronic health records (EHR) management
- Surgical techniques
- Medical imaging (e.g., X-ray, MRI)
- Pharmacology and medication administration
- Digital Marketing:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising
- Social media management and analytics
- Google Analytics
- Content creation and marketing
- Email marketing and automation
- Financial Analysis:
- Financial modeling and forecasting
- Valuation techniques
- Risk assessment and management
- Financial statement analysis
- Proficiency in spreadsheet software (e.g., Excel, Google Sheets)
- Knowledge of financial markets and instruments
These examples only scratch the surface. Each industry has its own software, tools, regulations, and standards that are essential for success.
- Reflect on your past work experience, internships, volunteer work, and educational background.
- Identify the skills you have developed and utilized in those roles. Don’t edit yourself; you want to create a master list of all your skills.
- Categorize the skills into technical skills (specific to your field or industry) and transferable skills (applicable across different roles and industries).
It’s not always easy to recognize what you are good at, especially when the skill comes naturally to you. But when it comes to things like writing a resume or successfully organizing your life, you need to know!
Identifying Relevant Skills for Your Target Roles
You have a unique set of abilities that make you capable of tackling any challenge that comes your way. Just look at that list of skills you made!
From technical to interpersonal, each skill you possess adds value to your resume and presents you as a capable professional.
But, of course, different jobs ask for different skills.
By identifying and highlighting the skills that align with your target roles, you can show employers that you’re the star they’ve been searching for.
Research the Job Requirements
Start by researching and understanding the specific job requirements for your target roles. Review job descriptions, industry trends, and employer expectations to gain insight into the skills employers want.
Look for keywords and phrases that frequently appear in job postings (like we did at the end of Lesson 1), as they indicate the essential skills and qualifications for the position.
Determine the “Must-Have” vs. “Nice-To-Have” Skills
Next, differentiate between core skills and additional skills for the job. Sometimes, the job ad will blatantly tell you, while other times, you need to do a little digging.
Core skills, also known as “must-have” skills, are the essential competencies required to perform the job’s core functions. These skills are directly related to the specific role and prominently mentioned in job descriptions.
Additional skills, on the other hand, are complementary skills that enhance your overall qualifications and add value to your profile. Although these skills may not be explicitly mentioned in the job description, they are still relevant and can set you apart from other candidates.
- Automotive Repair and Maintenance: Extensive knowledge of diagnosing and repairing mechanical issues in various vehicles, including engines, transmissions, brakes, and electrical systems.
- Technical Expertise: Proficient in using diagnostic tools and equipment to identify problems and perform accurate repairs efficiently.
- Problem Solving: Strong troubleshooting skills to identify the root cause of mechanical issues and develop effective solutions to ensure optimal vehicle performance.
- Attention to Detail: Meticulous in conducting inspections, identifying potential problems, and performing maintenance tasks to prevent future issues and ensure safety compliance.
- Teamwork and Communication: Collaborative approach to working with other mechanics and service advisors, providing clear and concise explanations to customers about repair options and recommendations.
- Safety Compliance: Deep understanding of safety regulations and protocols, ensuring adherence to industry standards and promoting a safe work environment.
- Welding and Fabrication: Proficient in welding techniques and metal fabrication, capable of performing repairs and modifications as needed.
- Diagnostic Software: Experience with diagnostic software and computerized systems, such as OBD-II scanners, to retrieve and interpret vehicle fault codes accurately.
- Preventive Maintenance: Skilled in performing routine maintenance tasks, including oil changes, filter replacements, and fluid checks, to ensure vehicle longevity and optimal performance.
- Inventory Management: Experience in managing inventory levels, tracking parts and supplies, and maintaining an organized and well-stocked work area.
In this example, the additional skills clearly complement the core ones and show your well-rounded experience.
Finding Soft Skills
Soft skills are also often implied or mentioned indirectly. They aren’t always clearly stated like technical skills are, meaning you have to read between the lines to figure out what they want.
Here are a few strategies to identify the desired soft skills:
1. Analyze Job Description Language
Pay attention to the choice of words and phrases used in the job description. For example, “Leadership” or “Management” indicates that the role involves training and supervising others, taking charge of projects, decision-making, and demonstrating strong organizational or motivational skills.
2. Study the Company Culture
Research the company culture, values, and mission to gain insights into the soft skills they prioritize. Companies often look for candidates who align with their cultural values and exhibit specific traits or behaviors contributing to their work environment.
3. Review Required Qualifications
While job descriptions may focus on technical qualifications, they occasionally mention soft skills indirectly under the preferred qualifications or desirable traits sections. Look for phrases like “ability to work in a fast-paced environment” or “customer-oriented mindset” that hint at the desired soft skills like adaptability and problem-solving.
4. Seek Clues in Job Responsibilities
Soft skills are often embedded within the job responsibilities. For instance, phrases like “effectively collaborate with cross-functional teams” or “deliver exceptional customer service” indicate the importance of teamwork and communication skills.
5. Research Company Reviews or Employee Profiles
Browse online reviews or employee profiles on professional networking platforms to gain insights into the soft skills valued within the organization. This can help you understand the qualities and behaviors that contribute to success in that particular workplace.
Identify Transferable Skills
Transferable skills are not tied to specific job titles or technical knowledge. Rather, they encompass qualities and abilities that can be valuable in many professional contexts; they are “transferable” to other industries.
They are essential elements to highlight in your resume, as they demonstrate your ability to adapt and apply your skills across different roles and sectors.
These skills are usually soft skills (such as communication, problem-solving, leadership, creativity, and teamwork) but can also include technical skills (such as Microsoft Office, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, and email management).
- Identify three transferable skills from your own professional experience and reflect on how they can be applied in different roles or industries. Consider both soft skills and technical skills.
- Write a brief paragraph or point form notes for each skill, highlighting its value and versatility across various roles.
This exercise will help you recognize and articulate your transferable skills, allowing you to communicate your adaptability and potential to employers effectively.
If you found it helpful, go back and identify more transferable skills and analyze their applicability.
Seek Input from Others
Reach out to colleagues, mentors, and professionals in your desired field for their perspectives on the skills required for the roles you are targeting. They can provide valuable insights and help you identify skills you may have overlooked.
Their input can also validate your own assessment of your skills and guide areas where you might need to further develop or enhance your competencies.
Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Now that you have a detailed list of sought-after skills, how do you measure up? Which skills do you excel at, and which do you need to develop further?
Be honest with yourself and identify areas where you may need additional training or experience—there are plenty of free ways to learn new skills (more on this below).
This self-assessment will help you focus on highlighting your strongest skills in your resume and identify opportunities for improvement.
Your skills are your secret weapon in the job market. So, unleash your powers, showcase your abilities, and let potential employers know you’re the skilled candidate they’ve been waiting for.
From in-demand technical proficiencies to sought-after soft skills, we’ve curated the definitive list of the top 25 skills that employers simply can’t resist.
Adding Skills to Your Resume
Now that you have a long list of your skills and have identified the keywords for the job, it’s time to match them up and fill your resume with all of this pertinent information.
In this section, learn how to decide what skills to include, as well as where to include them on your resume.
Review Your Past Experience
Analyze your past work experience, internships, volunteer work, and educational background to identify the skills you have developed. Think about the tasks you performed, projects you completed, and responsibilities you held, and specify the skills you utilized to succeed in those roles. (This was your “homework” from the first part of Lesson 3.)
Look for easy wins by identifying skills you can confidently and clearly showcase on your resume. These are skills that are directly relevant to the job you are applying for and can easily be matched to the job requirements.
Provide Context and Examples
When describing your experiences and skills, provide context to help employers understand the relevance and impact of your achievements. Bring your skills to life by sharing instances where you have effectively applied them to achieve remarkable outcomes.
Explain the industry, company size, and specific projects or initiatives you were involved in. This helps employers envision how your experience can translate into success in their organization.
By weaving these real-world experiences into your resume, you validate your skills and demonstrate their practical application and impact. It’s not enough to simply list your skills; you need to substantiate them with evidence.
For instance, if you are a registered nurse, explain how your knowledge of evidence-based practice, medication administration, and wound care protocols enabled you to provide high-quality patient care (hard skills).
But also mention how you established rapport with patients and their families, compassionately communicated complex medical information, and collaborated with interdisciplinary healthcare teams (soft skills).
Hard skills are generally easy to quantify. You can easily measure them through objective assessments, tests, certifications, and demonstrated application.
For instance, you can get 100% on a technical exam, meet sales quotas, and complete projects on time and on budget.
Quantifying soft skills presents a more nuanced challenge. Soft skills are subjective in nature and influenced by various factors. While you can self-assess your soft skills and assign yourself a rating, providing concrete evidence to support your claims can be difficult.
Consider the following approaches to substantiate your soft skills:
- Examples of Achievements: Describe situations where your soft skills contributed to successful outcomes. For example, you can share instances where your leadership skills helped to motivate and inspire a team or where your adaptability allowed you to thrive in a rapidly changing work environment.
- Feedback and Testimonials: Seek feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or mentors who can provide insights into your soft skills. Positive testimonials that highlight your ability to collaborate, communicate effectively, or resolve conflicts can be powerful indicators of your soft skills.
- Performance Reviews: Performance evaluations from past employers or supervisors often touch upon soft skills. Look for specific feedback that mentions your strengths in areas like teamwork, problem-solving, or customer service.
- Demonstrated Impact: Emphasize the impact of your soft skills on overall team performance or organizational success. Highlight specific instances where your effective communication facilitated better project outcomes or where your exceptional teamwork skills led to improved collaboration and productivity.
While quantifying soft skills may not be as straightforward as quantifying hard skills, providing concrete examples, feedback, and evidence of using them can help substantiate your claims and show your skillfulness.
Please, I beg you, on behalf of hiring managers everywhere – do not use “skill dots” or any other self-ranking scale on your resume. They mean absolutely nothing!
Of course, you’ll rank yourself generously, but you’re basing it on your own experiences. You may consider yourself a “5-star” writer, and although you may be excellent, wouldn’t Stephen King or Agatha Christie be considered the true 5-star-worthy writers?
Plus, an ATS scanner isn’t going to understand what it means, thus costing you valuable points. You have to provide context (using keywords) and let the hiring panel decide their own rankings.
Add Language Proficiencies
If you are proficient in multiple languages, highlight this valuable skill on your resume. Clearly list the languages you speak, read, and write, along with your level of proficiency (e.g., basic, intermediate, advanced, or fluent).
Additionally, mention any certifications or official assessments you have obtained to validate your language skills, such as TOEFL, DELF, or HSK.
This indicates your ability to navigate diverse environments, work effectively with individuals from different backgrounds, and contribute to global teams.
Update and Validate
Unfortunately, the skills that made you an excellent graphic designer in 2003 aren’t going to cut it today.
To stay ahead in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, it’s crucial to keep your proficiencies sharp, especially if they’re vital for the job you’re pursuing. Stay on top of industry trends and advancements, and consider completing training courses to validate and enhance your technical expertise.
Attend workshops, webinars, or online courses to acquire new skills and stay current in your field. When you do, update your resume to reflect any new skills you have developed.
This highlights your proactive approach to self-improvement and demonstrates that you stay up-to-date with industry trends.
By investing in the development of your skills, you position yourself as a competent and adaptable professional who is fully equipped to meet the demands of the dynamic job market.
Upgrading your job skills and learning something new is always a great idea. Whatever the reason, there are plenty of ways to learn new job skills or refresh the ones you already have. And the best news is that it can be for free!
Keep it Concise
Instead of providing a generic overview of your career, focus on the specific skills that make you a strong candidate for the position. Avoid overwhelming the reader with an exhaustive list. Consider using industry-specific keywords to enhance the relevance of your skills.
Proofread and Edit
As with any resume, proofread and edit your document thoroughly. Check for spelling and grammar errors to ensure a polished and professional presentation. Review your resume to ensure that your integrated skills are consistent and aligned with the job description.
By including skills in your resume, you demonstrate your adaptability, versatility, and ability to contribute effectively in a diverse and technology-driven workplace.
Using the skills and professional experience lists you’ve made:
- Write specific examples or achievements demonstrating how you have applied those skills in your past experiences.
- Incorporate these examples into your resume bullet points under your work experience or skill sections.
Simply put, you won’t make it to the interview stage if you don’t include your skills on your resume. Learning how to list skills on a resume effectively can mean the difference between landing that fantastic new job and facing a longer, more frustrating job search.
Showcasing Skills in a Skills-Based Resume
Since we’re talking about skills, let’s explore how to highlight your abilities on a skills-based or functional resume. (We’ll cover chronological resumes next.)
Unlike a traditional chronological resume, which emphasizes work experience, a skills-based resume focuses on showcasing the specific skills and qualifications that make you an ideal candidate for a particular role.
This type of resume, whether functional or combination, is particularly beneficial for individuals transitioning careers, with limited work experience, or possessing a diverse skill set.
When creating a skills-based resume, consider the following additional guidelines to showcase your skills effectively:
Begin with a Skills Summary
Start your resume with a concise summary of your skills and qualifications. This section is an attention-grabbing introduction that entices the employer to continue reading.
Highlight the most relevant skills for the job you’re applying for. Align your summary to match the requirements outlined in the job description.
Example: Data Analyst
Detail-oriented Data Analyst with a strong background in statistical analysis and data visualization. Proficient in SQL, Python, and data manipulation tools. Proven ability to translate complex data into actionable insights for business decision-making. Adept at creating and maintaining dashboards to facilitate data-driven strategies. Strong analytical and problem-solving skills with a commitment to accuracy and efficiency.
Example: Registered Nurse
Compassionate and highly skilled Registered Nurse with a diverse clinical background. Proficient in patient care, assessment, and treatment planning. Experienced in collaborating with interdisciplinary healthcare teams to ensure comprehensive patient support. Strong communication skills with patients, families, and medical staff. Detail-oriented and adaptable, able to thrive in high-pressure healthcare environments. Current certifications in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS).
Create Skill Sections
Divide your resume into different skill sections based on the categories that align with the job requirements. For example, you could have sections such as “Technical Skills,” “Leadership Skills,” “Communication Skills,” or any other relevant categories.
List your skills in bullet points under each section, providing specific examples or achievements to support each skill.
Example: Web Developer
- Backend Development: Node.js, Express.js
- Database Management: MongoDB, MySQL
- Frameworks: React.js, Vue.js
- Version Control: Git, GitHub
- Responsive Design
- RESTful API Development
- Troubleshooting and Debugging
- Project Management
- Agile Methodologies
- Team Collaboration
- Task Prioritization
- Continuous Learning
- Clear Documentation
- Client Communication
- Technical Presentations
- Collaborative Problem Resolution
Example: Sales Representative
- Relationship Building
- Cold Calling
- Consultative Selling
- Sales Presentations
- Closing Techniques
- Pipeline Management
- Negotiation Skills
- Customer Retention
- Active Listening
- Persuasive Communication
- Written Communication
- Sales Pitches
- Email Campaigns
- Territory Planning
- Sales Funnel Management
- Task Prioritization
- Efficient Appointment Scheduling
Include Transferable Skills
If you are transitioning careers or have limited work experience, highlight transferable skills that apply to the new role.
Examples of transferable skills include problem-solving, critical thinking, time management, and teamwork. Emphasize how these skills can benefit the employer, even if you acquired them outside of traditional work settings.
Integrating Skills in a Traditional Resume
While skills-based resumes are great for showcasing specific skills, many job seekers still opt for the traditional chronological resume format. This type of resume emphasizes work experience and job history.
However, it’s important to integrate your skills effectively within a chronological resume to ensure that hiring managers recognize the value you bring to the table.
Here are some key considerations for adding skills to a traditional resume:
Provide Context in Your Work Experience
While your work experience section primarily focuses on describing your job responsibilities and accomplishments, it’s crucial to integrate relevant skills within this section as well. When describing your work experience, highlight the skills you utilized or developed in each role.
For example, if you were responsible for project management, mention your skills in planning, organizing, and coordinating projects.
Include a Skills Section
Include a dedicated skills section in your resume in addition to your work experience. This section can be placed after the professional summary or just before the work experience section.
List your key skills in a bulleted format, ensuring that they align with the job requirements you’re applying for. Group similar skills together, such as sales, computer, or communication skills.
Employers value individuals who can bring a diverse range of skills to the table, as they can contribute to the success of their organization in various ways. Through careful integration, concrete examples, and alignment with job requirements, you can effectively highlight your strengths, increasing your chances of getting interviews.
Use your cover letter to elaborate on how your skills align with the job requirements and provide specific examples of how you have applied them in the past. (Learn more about cover letters in Lesson 9.)