With hundreds of people applying for coveted positions, it can feel impossible to stand out in a competitive job market. So how can you ensure your resume doesn’t get lost in the shuffle?
The answer lies in one word: skills.
Your resume must showcase the right set of skills that will impress employers and make them take notice. But what are those skills? What exactly are employers desperately seeking in their ideal candidates?
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.
Not only will you gain valuable insights into which of these in-demand skills you already have, but we will also help you pinpoint the specific skills required for your target job. These tips are your ticket to showcasing your expertise and securing job interviews.
What Employers Really Want – Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
There are two types of in-demand skills to focus on when building your resume – hard and soft skills.
Soft skills are the first type of skills employees look for in all candidates. Also known as professional or personal skills, these include interpersonal skills such as critical thinking and flexibility. Soft skills are typically intangible and required for most jobs.
Hard skills, or technical skills, are more tangible abilities tied to particular job positions or industries. They include specialized training, talents, or knowledge, like speaking a foreign language, computer coding, or artistic ability. Including these skills on your resume is crucial as employers often value unique abilities like speaking a foreign language or piloting a plane.
The 25 Best Skills to List on Your Resume
You have a lot of remarkable talents. While your skillset may be impressive, here are the top 25 skills that will captivate employers and give you a competitive advantage in today’s job market.
1. Active Listening Skills
Active listening involves paying attention so that you understand what others are saying. It requires focusing on the speaker, keeping an open mind, not interrupting, and asking thoughtful questions to ensure clarity.
2. Administrative Experience
Administrative skills and experience are highly valuable in a wide range of positions beyond the traditional “administrator” role. These skills encompass soft skills that show your attention to detail, such as organizing, planning, time management, and managing personnel or projects.
3. Analytical Skills
Employers want workers who can investigate a problem and find solutions. The level of analytical skills needed can vary widely depending on the sector and position. For example, analyzing computer data requires a somewhat different skill set than figuring out why employee productivity has fallen.
4. Attention to Detail
Like being organized, attention to detail shows employers you are thorough and meticulous in your work. The easiest way to demonstrate being detail-oriented when job searching is to follow the directions in the job posting carefully. And make sure your cover letter and resume are error-free and formatted correctly. Mistakes on your application show that you don’t pay attention, causing employers to question what else on your resume is false.
5. Communication Skills
Every job demands communicating with others, so employers see candidates with strong written and verbal communication skills as valuable additions to their teams. This is because people who can communicate well tend to get along with others. It also helps to prevent issues like miscommunication or arguments from happening.
Public speaking is another related skill that employers often look for. These skills are useful for roles involving presentations, such as teaching, sales, broadcasting, and legal positions.
6. Computer Skills
There are far more positions that require using a computer than do not. This can be anything from word processing and spreadsheets to being an expert with specific software, like an architectural program or scheduling system.
Along the same lines, web development and information technology skills are also in high demand across most industries. If you have these job skills or experience in this area, include them on your resume, even if you aren’t applying for a technology-specific role.
7. Creativity and Innovation Skills
Employers love creative candidates. The ability to think outside the box, develop new and innovative ideas, and approach challenges with a fresh perspective is a valuable asset in today’s dynamic work environment.
Demonstrate your creative skills on your resume by highlighting an innovative solution you came up with to an unusual problem.
8. Critical Thinking and Decision-Making Skills
Every employer wants to hire someone who can think clearly and rationally. They see critical thinking as an indispensable skill that allows employees to figure out the best steps to take when working on projects or assisting customers and confidently move forward in their decision-making.
9. Customer Service Skills
Many jobs involve working with customers, clients, or patients, making good customer service one of the most common top skills employers seek. Whether you communicate with clients in person or online, you need to understand what they want, acknowledge their feelings, and assist them by providing a service or finding a solution.
10. Data Analysis
The business world is becoming more digital every day, making data analysis an extremely valuable skill to have on your resume. Many organizations are looking for people who can analyze and extrapolate information from raw data, such as website visitor traffic and sales conversion rates.
Because people are highly visual creatures, having good design skills make you a valuable commodity. Good design attracts customers, encourages engagement and sales, and effectively communicates complex ideas and brand messages.
Design skills range from graphic and web design to advertising to creating presentations for internal and external stakeholders.
12. Emotional Intelligence and Maturity
Maturity demonstrates your emotional intelligence and ability to handle emotions with composure and professionalism, particularly during difficult situations. It also involves helping others deal with their emotions constructively, creating a supportive environment.
13. Foreign Languages
Speaking multiple languages is a sought-after skill in many industries. Since most people in North America are monolingual, bilingual and multilingual candidates have a real advantage. They play a crucial role in various areas, from translating languages to negotiating international business contracts and government treaties.
14. Interpersonal Skills
Every job involves working with others in some capacity. Interpersonal skills involve how you communicate and build these relationships. For a business to succeed, there needs to be open communication and collaboration between staff and management to exchange ideas and information. It ensures productivity, promotes innovation and leads to a happier workplace.
15. Leadership and Management Skills
You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader. Between team projects, training new staff, facilitating discussions, and stepping up when a problem needs to be solved, employees at every level can benefit from strong leadership skills.
Knowing how to promote products and services effectively is not easy to master. As such, marketing is one of those hard skills many employers always seek to recruit. Thankfully, it’s also a transferable skill.
Even if you have never explicitly worked in marketing, extensive sales or social media management can make you a strong candidate. It shows your ability to effectively promote products and engage with audiences.
Various industries, such as finance, engineering, construction, and healthcare, require people who possess strong math skills.
If you have multiple skills, such as algebra, calculus, or geometry, mention each one separately or group similar skills together on your resume. Remember to provide examples of how you have used these skills on the job, showcasing the positive impact and results.
18. Negotiation and Persuasion Skills
Negotiation and persuasion skills are useful for everything from conflict resolution, making deals, settling contracts, and even advancing your career. These skills involve flexibility to find mutually beneficial solutions and communicating your perspective persuasively, gaining support for your ideas or suggestions.
19. Problem Solving
Every employer wants their employees to be able to deal with problems when they come up. Some positions are specifically designed to solve problems, such as tech support and customer service roles.
Problem-solving and analytical skills are closely related but not exactly the same. While some people may be very good at analyzing data and spotting problems, not everyone can develop a creative solution.
20. Project Management
Project management skills show a prospective employer that you can oversee projects, efficiently allocate resources, and successfully complete assignments on time. They are highly valued skills because they contribute to increased productivity, streamlined workflows, and successful project outcomes.
Knowing how to use project management software is a bonus you should also include in your resume. It shows you know how to use technology to organize and coordinate tasks and teams.
Employers see organized prospects as productive employees. This skill is easy to show off your resume by ensuring it is neat, well-structured, and properly formatted. You can also demonstrate your organizational skills at a job interview by being on time, bringing extra copies of your resume, and having a list of references ready.
Employers don’t want to hire someone who will need constant monitoring to ensure they are doing their job. They want someone responsible who is also willing to own up to their mistakes.
Effective teamwork is essential in today’s workplace. As such, working well and effectively communicating with team members is considered a must-have skill by most employers. They need to know their staff can work together towards achieving the goals and objectives of the company.
24. Time Management Skills
In a busy work environment, time management skills are critical. But good time management skills involve more than just being on time. Employers want their staff to know how to prioritize tasks, plan ahead, delegate or ask for help when needed, and use their time wisely to ensure the work gets done and that deadlines are met.
25. Writing Skills
As most people write at the 8th-grade level, having solid writing skills will make you a strong candidate for many positions. Even if the position does not call for writing skills specifically, this is a hard skill you should always include on your resume.
Employers often tire of reading reports and emails (not to mention resumes) filled with typos and simple grammatical errors. If your communication is polished and error-free, it reflects your professionalism and attention to detail, making a positive impression on potential employers.
Bonus: Unique Skills for Your Resume
Adding your unique skills to a resume is a surefire way to stand out from the rest. So what do you bring the to the table that no one else (or very few others) will have?
We’re not talking about being an expert at historical trivia or your abilities to hit those TikTok dance moves, though. Although these are unique talents, they don’t belong on your resume.
Think more in terms of your unique certifications, specialized training, or licenses. Are there specific technical skills, software, or programming languages that are not commonly known that can give you a competitive edge?
Are you self-motivated, clean, and eager to learn more? Employers love this!
If you have ever started your own business or have experience in entrepreneurship, highlight your ability to take risks, innovate, and drive results independently. Or maybe you are excellent at networking and have some impressive relationships and connections that could be leveraged.
How to Identify Your Best Skills
Some people find it challenging to look at their own skillset objectively. Even experienced workers aren’t sure what their strengths are or how to highlight them on their resume.
If you fall in this category, here’s how to identify and emphasize the qualities you want to impress employers with.
1. Reflect on Your Career
Many job seekers do not take the time to really assess what skills they bring to the table.
So take a moment to reflect on the jobs you enjoyed and performed well in. Consider the responsibilities and requirements outlined in the job postings and descriptions. What tasks did you handle? What specific skills were necessary for those roles?
List any degrees, certifications, and training you have taken and tie those to your previous work experience. What skills did your education teach you and how did you apply them?
Hard skills, like math or marketing, are the easiest to zero in on simply because they are the most obvious.
Soft skills are typically more challenging for most candidates to pinpoint because they are developed as part of our everyday lives, and people don’t like to talk or think about themselves in abstract ways. For example, some people with natural-born leadership abilities may have never officially been in charge of anything. However, this type of introspection is critical to identify and understand your soft skills.
Be as specific as possible when making your list. Instead of just writing down that you speak Spanish and French, be specific as to how long you have spoken the language and what level of fluency you have.
2. Performance Evaluations
You can learn a lot by carefully going over previous performance evaluations. This is how your supervisors see your skills, and these typically focus on your soft-skillset.
While focusing on identifying strengths to include in your resume, also take note of any weaknesses and consider strategies for improvement in those areas.
Seek feedback from past and present coworkers and supervisors and ask them what skills they think you have that make you a valuable employee. Be mindful of who you ask, though, as your coworkers that are also your friends may just tell you what you want to hear.
4. Career & Personality Tests
Discover your strengths and weaknesses through free online personality tests like the widely recognized Myers-Briggs assessment. Explore your emotional intelligence, values, and interests to gain valuable insights about yourself. These tests can provide valuable guidance as you navigate your career path.
5. Refine Your List of Skills
Now that you have a long list of different skills, it may be tempting to include them all on your resume. But doing so may actually cause more harm than good.
A hiring manager wants a concise and targeted list of skills that align with the job requirements, and they want to see them quickly. Including too many skills on your resume will only bury the relevant ones, making it more likely that you won’t get called for an interview.
To determine your best skills, take your list and grade how proficient you are for each one, as well as how long you’ve had and used that skill.
Skills that are new to you or used casually shouldn’t be on your resume. For example, there’s a big difference between using social media in your personal life to share updates and pictures vs. having 15 years of professional experience in social media marketing with a major company.
Identifying the Skills That Employers Are Looking For
Identifying the skills employers want is as easy as carefully reading through the job posting and job description. Most of the time, these will specifically mention what skills are required for the job.
But sometimes, you have to read between the lines a little. For example, if the job ad mentions receptionist duties, employers want someone with customer service, interpersonal, time management, and administrative skills.
If you don’t have a specific job ad to customize your resume, search for similar job postings in your desired industry. Note what soft and hard skills frequently appear in these postings and pinpoint where your skills overlap.
If you keep coming across a skill you don’t have, find a way to learn that skill, such as taking a free online course, doing some research, or finding a mentor.
Why You Need to List the Right Skills on Your Resume
Hiring managers don’t want to spend a long time reviewing your resume. In fact, most of them won’t spend more than a few seconds deciding whether to move forward with your application or discard it altogether.
For your resume to pass this glance test and any applicant tracking system (ATS) software, it must include keywords. These keywords will consist of the relevant skills they want in a candidate.
How to List Skills on Your Resume
Once you know what skills you have and what an employer is looking for, the last step is actually putting them on your resume. In general, you’ll want to follow these tips when listing your resume skills:
- Customize your resume for each position you apply for
- Place the skills you have from the job posting at or near the top of your resume
- Use the same vocabulary and wording from the job ad or job description
- Focus on transferable skills that are useful in multiple positions
- Group related skills together
- List your skills by relevance
- Create a separate resume skills section that highlights your top 5 – 10 skills
- Indicate your proficiency level (such as basic, intermediate, or advanced)
- Include examples that demonstrate your skills, achievements, and professional experience throughout the rest of your resume
- Be sure your references can verify the skills you include
While this is not an all-inclusive list of the best skills to put on a resume, these tips will help you impress potential employers and land you an interview instead of falling off the hiring radar.
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Amanda Kay, the founder of My Life, I Guess, provides valuable career advice and support for anyone striving to make a living and, more importantly, make a life. Whether it's navigating job searches, learning new skills, overcoming unemployment, or dealing with debt, My Life, I Guess has been a go-to resource for career guidance and financial stability since 2013. Amanda's expertise and relatable approach have been featured in trusted publications such as MSN, Credit.com, Yahoo! Finance, the Ladders and Fairygodboss.