How to Pick the Best Skills for a Resume
All skills aren't created equal. Show employers you've got what they want.
Figuring out the right skills for a resume isn't easy. After all, your skills are what will get you hired, but which ones are considered good skills to put on a resume that will help you stand out?
Hiring managers want to make sure they're picking the right person for the job, so don't rush through this part. You probably spent hours perfecting your work experience section, and you need to do the same with your resume skills section. It's not just a laundry list of skills that no one reads—knowing which to include and which to leave off can help convince hiring managers to interview you.
These tips can help you determine which skills to put on a resume and also help you optimize this crucial section to attract the eyes of discerning hiring managers.
Types of skills for a resume
There are two categories of good skills for a resume: hard and soft skills. Both need to shine.
Hard skills are skills learned through experience or education and generally produce measurable results. For example, hard skills for an accountant could include cash management, financial analysis, and financial reporting.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are more like personality traits and characteristics that determine your work style. Think communication skills, emotional intelligence, problem-solving skills, the ability to work in a team, and initiative.
You might think employers are focused only on job-related hard skills, but soft skills are equally—if not more—essential. Soft skills routinely top lists of attributes employers seek on applicant resumes.
Both hard and soft skills should be included on a resume, as both types are highly valued in all industries.
How to choose skills to put on a resume
The skills section provides an overview of your top skills for human readers and also helps with keyword searching by applicant tracking systems. These tips explain how to figure out the right skills for a resume:
1. Look at job ads. The best way to get started finding good skills to put on a resume is to search jobs on Monster and review several postings for your target job. Look at the job descriptions and write a list of frequently repeated skills.
2. Next, identify your matching skills. Keep in mind you develop skills in everything from work experience to education, training, hobbies, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and self-study. Once you know where your skills overlap with the job’s qualifications, incorporate these valuable keywords on your resume.
3. Research your target employer. Another way to find keywords? Check out their website and social media posts, paying attention to the descriptive words they use to describe their company, brand, and employees. Use those words on your resume to indicate you’d be a good cultural fit.
Don't lie about your skill set
Be honest when choosing the skills to list on a resume. It's tempting to include an in-demand skill to get the keyword in your resume, but you could be asked to prove your claim during the interview process or after you’re hired.
You don’t need to include a competency level for each skill on your resume, but calling out your skill level is an option. Use this as a guide:
- Beginner: A novice understanding of the skill. You have exposure to the skill and understand basic concepts, but you lack experience. For transparency, there’s nothing wrong with writing “beginner” in parentheses next to the skill.
- Intermediate: Between a beginner and an expert. You have experience with and can carry out the skill, but you don't understand advanced concepts. For this level skill, you normally wouldn’t need a qualifier.
- Expert: A highly developed skill level. You have solid experience and training with the skill and understand advanced concepts. To draw attention to a crucial skill, write “expert” in parentheses next to the skill. If you’re an expert in your entire skills list, call the section “expertise.”
Examples of skills for a resume
Here are some skills for a resume that will never go out of style:
- Problem solving
- Work ethic
- Written and verbal communication
- Computer and technical skills
Of course, you can’t forget about specialty and industry-specific skills. Take a look at some examples of skills for three different job titles and you’ll get an understanding of the kind of mix of hard and soft skills employers like to see.
Skills for an event coordinator:
- Event production and management
- Conference and meeting planning
- Social media marketing
- Vendor negotiations
- Brand strategy alignment
- Client and VIP relations
- Venue and travel coordination
Skills for an IT project manager:
- Project lifecycle management
- Enterprise implementations
- Systems migrations
- Project scheduling
- Teambuilding and leadership
- Project budgeting and cost controls
- Quality assurance
Skills for a personal trainer:
- 1-on-1 personal training
- Group fitness instruction
- Client goal-setting and motivation
- Customized exercise and meal plans
- Strength and conditioning
- Cardiovascular and endurance training
- Pilates and bootcamp-style workouts
Where and how to add skills to your resume
Now that you’ve identified good skills to put on a resume, it’s time to add them to yours. You can call this section “skills” or create similar heading, such as “expertise” or “proficiencies.”
- Select 10 to 15 skills. A short, targeted list will be more effective than one that's long and overwhelming.
- Start the section below your career summary. A good place for your skills section is below your career summary or weaved into the summary, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule—place it where it works best for your resume’s design.
- A symmetrical listing is most pleasing to the eyes. Consider a two-column list with five to six skills per column or a three-column list with five skills per column. Another option is centering the list and using symbols between skills as separators.
- Specialized skills can be separated. Skills for resumes in specialized fields could be grouped in their own section, such as a technology or language skills section.
- Customize. If you have more than one career goal, modify the skills section for each of your job targets.
- For career changers: transferable skills should be added to the skills section to draw attention to skills necessary for a new career goal.
Provide examples of skills in action
Now it’s time to think beyond your resume’s skills section. After all, anyone can say they have a certain skill, but it’s more powerful to include examples of your skills in action. Prove your skills by tying them to specific accomplishments.
For example, if an accountant wanted to prove they have strong communication skills, the “work experience” section could include accomplishments showing use of the skill, such as facilitating training sessions, collaborating across departments, or authoring a month-close instruction manual.
A resume skills section is a snapshot of the talents you offer, whereas the experience section includes details of how you used the skill to achieve beneficial outcomes.
Make your resume skills shine
Knowing the right skills for a resume is key to getting called for an interview. Be proud of all you have to offer a company—after all, it's not like you magically developed all those skills overnight. Want to make sure your resume works as hard for you as you do for others? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service who will review your resume's appearance and content. With your skills front and center, your odds of getting called in for an interview will be better than ever.