Putting skills on a resume is a great way to show hiring managers what you can do for them, while also including relevant keywords on your resume. However, there’s one BIG mistake that I’ve seen many job seekers make with their skills section on a resume… and it can cost them the interview.
So in this article, we’re going to look at real-life examples of resume skills sections, how to write this section and come up with ideas of skills to list, and the biggest mistake to avoid if you want to get the interview.
What Skills Should you add on your resume?
Your resume is essentially your first impression to a potential employer, so it must showcase your skills in the best possible light. Hence, it’s important to understand that there are two types of skills: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are those that are specifically related to the job at hand, such as technical skills like programming or accounting.
Examples of Hard Skills:
- Proficiencies with tools or software.
- Hands-on work experience or degrees and certifications.
- Proficiencies in languages.
Meanwhile, soft skills are more personal traits such as interpersonal skills like communication, EQ, teamwork and problem-solving abilities. Additionally, transferable skills are those that can be used across different industries and job types, such as leadership, time management, computer skills and adaptability. Usually, job postings include a bullet list of role requirements that each feature a certain skill, skill set, aptitude, or ability.
Examples of Soft Skills:
- Active listening
Essentially, the skills, competencies, or core competencies section of your resume will give hiring managers a quick-glance guide to how closely your abilities match the role requirements.
With this in-mind, let’s take a closer look at each of those hard and soft transferable skills I mentioned above, to see why they really are the best skills to put on your resume. Let’s start with the soft skills because, even if you’ve never had a job or skills training, there’s a good chance you already have many of these skills.
Best Soft Skills to add on your resume:
1. Communication skills
These skills are essential to almost all roles because they allow you to receive and share ideas effectively. These skills are applied through a range of channels and may include both soft skills (like active listening) and hard skills (like social media writing). Communication skills include listening skills, verbal skills, body-language skills, visual skills, and contextual (or versatility) skills like cross-cultural, academic, crisis, professional, and online communication skills.
2. Problem-solving skills
Most roles will see you encountering problems at some point, that’s one of the reasons work can be stressful. Some roles are all about finding and making innovative solutions to problems. Problem-solving skills may include methodologies and various hard skills, but they’re also about the soft skills of defining problems, prioritizing issues, determining causes, brainstorming solutions, considering alternatives, and implementing solutions.
3. Creativity skills
These skills come naturally to some but, in general, can be learned by simply applying yourself to creative pursuits. Aside from the artistic side, however, creativity is a thinking skill that allows you to think outside the box, innovate solutions, imagine new concepts and ideas, and generally do things in an open-minded, original way. This is highly prized by employers who are trying to set their brand apart through creative, innovative products and services.
4. Organizational skills
Organizational skills refer to your ability to manage yourself, your time, and your productivity efficiently and effectively. They’re vital to employers because they indicate that you have a systematic, goal-oriented approach to working. Unless you have the ability to manage your calendar, your time, your thoughts, and your duties in a functional and efficient manner, you will be difficult to manage or rely on, and you certainly won’t be able to manage others.
5. Leadership skills
Some simply have a natural tendency to lead, while others seem ready to follow them–this is important to employers, as few things are more costly than an ineffective leader. Leadership skills, however, can be learned over time, and include a range of other hard and soft skills like communication, critical thinking, versatility, conflict management, relationship building, decisiveness, delegation, project management, and more.
6. Teamwork skills
Teamwork skills are vital to all interactive and collaborative job roles, as they allow you to work efficiently and effectively with others. Teamwork skills are very much a blend of communication and interpersonal skills, but there are specific soft skills, like collaboration, empathy, honesty, and integrity that will determine whether you can thrive in a team setting.
Best Hard Skills to add on your resume:
1. Digital skills:
In 2023 and beyond, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t rely largely on digital interaction and processes to get their products and services to market. So, adding digital skills means that employers will know that you can use a tablet, computer, mobile phone, and the internet to communicate, research, transact, manage tasks, and create. Examples of hard digital skills include market research, social media marketing, SEO, email marketing, digital project management, software development, and much more.
2. Design skills
Design skills start with foresight and imagination, and the ability to envision things that aren’t yet made. In that way, they are similar to creative skills. Other than that, design skills include a range of hard skills that depend on your profession, including coding abilities, branding skills, typography skills, architectural software skills, Adobe apps skills, Illustration skills, physics and engineering skills, and more. Design skills are vital to jobs that involve product innovation, marketing, and more.
3. Project management skills
Whether you’re applying for a post in marketing, product or service development, or something like events planning, project management skills are those skills that allow you to take a project (often requiring numerous employees and teams) all the way from ideation to completion. There are a range of factors involved and a number of hard and soft skills. Examples of PM skills include budgeting, scope planning, risk assessment stakeholder communication, problem-solving, team leadership, delegation, digital project management administration, and more.
4. Data analysis skills
Data analysis skills are important because they allow you to absorb, quantify, categorize, analyze, collate, and draw conclusions from data such as statistics, sales figures, customer queries and complaints, product tests, and more. Data analysis skills are essential to a range of roles and include hard and soft skills such as math, statistics , calculus, linear algebra, detail orientation, logical thought, troubleshooting, speed reading, database management, data mining, and more.
5. Customer service skills
Customer service skills are your ability to offer knowledge and support to prospective and existing customers and to act as the face of a business. As such, these are essential skills for a range of businesses. Core customer service skills include soft skills like discernment and emotional intelligence, communications skills, and persuasion skills, and hard skills like SaaS support, POS skills, FOH skills, outbound call skills, product/industry knowledge skills, and more.
6. Language skills
Language skills include proficiency in native and foreign language reading, writing, listening, and speaking, and they can be included among communication skills as well. In today’s globalized world and online marketplace, multilingual skills are in high demand. Employers are often willing to pay more for multilingual candidates, especially in fields like international business, hospitality, tourism, human resources, and more. Language skills are, however, largely made up of hard skills because language proficiency is a technical and measurable skill set. Correct use and grasp of grammar, syntax, tone, diction, vocabulary, and contextual language are essential in the professional world because they allow you to absorb and offer information in a way that is more accurate, conclusive, concise, and business-like.
7. Content writing skills
Incorporating many of the language skills mentioned above, content writing includes knowledge of formats, annotation systems, referencing skills, and tonal parameters that apply to all different types of business, sales, and marketing content. Companies value content writing skills because, using hard skills like knowledge of online content formats, research and referencing, SEO, and sales funneling, a content writer can target, engage, and convert new customers while retaining existing ones with regular, high-value content.
8. Marketing skills
Marketing is a powerful skill set that incorporates other skills like content writing, customer service, data analysis, communication, creativity, and problem-solving. Marketing allows businesses to target markets, figure out how to appeal to and reach those markets, and then effectively (and in conjunction with content writers, web designers, and other key members) funnel clients down the path to conversion. Marketing includes a broad range of highly technical hard skills as well, including UX design, CRM, CMS, CRO, marketing automation, social media and ad marketing, PPC, SEO, SEM, and more.
How Many Resume Skills Should You Put?
The number of skills to include on your resume will depend on the job you’re applying for, your industry, and your experience level. For example, an experienced software engineer may list 20 skills. However, for an entry-level job seeker, 8-10 skills are sufficient, and any more than that will be unlikely to be read by a hiring manager or recruiter.
Also, someone in a less technical field (like sales or customer service) might only need 8-10 skills on their resume, even if they have a few years of experience.
Overall, my recommendation as a recruiter is that you should have somewhere between 8 and 20 skills on your resume. You should list both hard and soft skills, but it’s more important to include hard skills. These are the skills that hiring managers look for first and foremost on your resume; soft skills are secondary.
Resume Skills Section Guide With Examples
Let’s look at some good examples of resume Skills sections (which you can also name “Core Competencies,” “Professional Skills,” etc.) Your goal when writing this resume section is to highlight your most relevant skills for the job, all in one place. So you want the list to be easy to read. I suggest one or two columns.
And you don’t just want to list random skills. And you don’t want to list the same skills for every job! You really want to research the job and company (starting with the job description) and put the skills and keywords THEY mention. This is called “tailoring” your resume and will immediately boost the number of interviews you receive. I wrote a guide on the easiest way to do this HERE . (It’s much easier than people think).
So you really need to be looking at the specific job description for keywords.
Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to put together your Skills section. Here are some sample skills sections so you can see what it might look like:
Resume Skills Section Example #1 – Bullet Point format:
This resume skills section example is for a salesperson. You can see it contains a lot of keywords, and also highlights what this person is best at. That’s what you should aim to do.
Remember, don’t just guess which skills and keywords the employer wants. Study the job description.
Resume Skills Section Example #2:
This is another example of a simple layout for this section on your resume, this time using two columns.
Choose a format that is simple and not distracting. You want the employer’s attention to be on your skills and qualifications, not on your resume’s formatting.
If you take one idea away from these sample skill sections of a resume, it should be that the section is meant to be simple and clutter-free, and should only feature your top relevant skills for the jobs you’re pursuing now. It’s not a place to list every single skill you’ve ever used, and it shouldn’t have as much content as other, more important, sections like your resume work experience.
Resume Skills Section Example #3 – Skills Matrix Format:
Communication | Problem-Solving | Time Management | Teamwork | Technical Skills
Excellent verbal and written communication skills | Strong analytical and creative problem-solving abilities | Proficient in prioritizing tasks and meeting deadlines | Collaborative and able to work effectively in team settings | Proficient in MS Office and Google Workspace
Now, let’s look at examples of resume skills sections for popular professions:
1. Software Developer:
- Programming Languages: Java, Python, C++
- Database Management: SQL, MySQL
- Problem-Solving: Strong analytical and debugging skills
- Collaboration: Experienced in working in Agile development teams
2. Marketing Coordinator:
- Digital Marketing: SEO, SEM, PPC
- Social Media Management: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
- Content Creation: Copywriting, blogging, content strategy
- Analytics: Google Analytics, data analysis
- Project Management: Organizing campaigns, coordinating with stakeholders
3. Registered Nurse:
- Patient Care: Assessing, planning, and implementing patient care
- Medical Procedures: IV insertion, wound care, medication administration
- Communication: Effective patient and family communication
- Critical Thinking: Rapid decision-making in emergency situations
- Team Collaboration: Working closely with doctors and healthcare professionals
4. Sales Representative:
- Relationship Building: Cultivating and maintaining client relationships
- Negotiation: Effective in closing deals and achieving sales targets
- Presentation Skills: Delivering persuasive sales presentations
- CRM Software: Proficient in Salesforce or other CRM platforms
- Prospecting: Identifying and pursuing new sales opportunities
5. Graphic Designer:
- Adobe Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign
- Typography: Knowledge of various typefaces and layout design
- Branding: Creating visually consistent brand identities
- User Experience (UX): Designing intuitive user interfaces
- Attention to Detail: Ensuring accuracy and precision in design wor
More Ideas of Skills to Include
If you’ve read the tips above and are still thinking, “I don’t have enough key skills to put on my resume,” here are a few ideas to help you… Along with looking at the job description for the role you’re applying for, you can also look at job descriptions for roles you’ve previously held. Which skills did you use most?
Look at current or most recent work, too. What did your typical week look like? Sit down and think about which skills you used the most throughout a normal week. Remember to think about hard skills and soft skills. That should help you come up with more ideas.
You can also look at LinkedIn’s list of skills that are available for your LinkedIn profile. (LinkedIn suggests skills when you go edit this section of your profile).
You can look at peers/colleagues on LinkedIn, too, to see which skills they’ve chosen! Look at a few current coworkers, for example. Which skills are they mentioning? Those are good skills to list on your LinkedIn and your resume, too. The LinkedIn skills section is a great way to get resume ideas overall.
You can also learn something new that will make you more attractive to employers…
I recommend doing this by taking a course via LinkedIn Learning and then adding it to your resume Skills section). This is a great option if you’re job searching after being unemployed because it shows employers you’re keeping your skills current and staying active.
You can learn soft skills like body language (this could help you if you’re in sales, customer service, etc.) or hard skills like front-end web development, social media management, and more.
Tip: Employers Want to See Where You Used Each Skill, Too
In general, employers want to see where and when you used each skill (especially for hard skills). So don’t just rely on a Skills section. You should put equal (or more) time into writing your work experience section and your resume bullets).
Also, put effort into your resume summary paragraph.
I typically read those sections first as a recruiter. That’s where I can see which key skills you’ve used most in your career. In fact, even if you put your skills section very high up on a resume, I usually skip it and only return to read it AFTER I check out your recent work experience and bullets!
The bottom line is: Recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to see a big list of skills with no reference to where each skill was used… at least not at first. And they especially do not want to see a long list of soft skills. They’re mostly looking for hard skills and key skills from the job posting when they first glance at your resume.
So keep this in mind when writing your skills list. The hiring manager might skip it and look for your experience section first.
This resume section still has value – as a secondary place to show off your abilities and core competencies, and as a place to fill your resume with great keywords so you can get past the ATS (applicant tracking system). But the biggest mistake I see job seekers making is relying on the skills section too much to get interviews or get the employer’s attention.
Be Prepared to Answer Interview Questions About the Skills You’ve Listed
If you say you’re an expert in Phone Sales, Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Customer Service, or any other hard skill… you need to be ready to defend this in an interview. If you say you’ve done a lot of time management, be prepared with examples. If you say problem-solving is one of your strengths, be ready to back it up with a success story!
They will want to know where you used that skill and details about how you used it and what results you got in recent jobs. And if you say you’re an “expert” at something, they might ask what makes you an expert. So if you’re not an expert or highly proficient, don’t say you are. You can still list the skill, but don’t exaggerate and go overboard by saying “expert.”
I made this mistake early in my career, costing me the job! I said the word “expert” when describing my Microsoft Excel skills, and they asked me about it in an interview and I completely crumbled. I wasn’t an expert and I wasn’t ready to defend why I had said that on my skills list.
Also, don’t list skills you’ve never used. Even if they do hire you, you could immediately be fired if they discover you lied about your skills in your interview. Lying in your job search is usually not a good tactic. So be honest when listing skills on your resume, and review your own resume as you prepare for the interview so you’re not caught off-guard by the interview questions they ask.
You should be ready to answer questions related to any or all skills mentioned in your resume skills section – both soft and hard skills.
What Not to Include in Your Resume Skills Section
Quality over quantity always wins, and this applies while listing resume skills. Highlighting the most relevant skills in your resume is important. Otherwise, your resume may look disorganized and unfocused. Therefore, avoid listing every skill you possess, and follow these tips to ensure your skills align with the job posting.
1. Irrelevant Skills: Only include skills directly related to the job you’re applying for. Avoid listing unrelated or outdated skills, as they can take up valuable space on your resume and distract from your qualifications.
2. Generic Skills: Avoid using overly broad or generic skills that are not specific or actionable. Instead, highlight skills specific to the job and industry you’re targeting.
3. Obvious Skills: Skip listing skills considered basic or commonly expected in the industry. For example, including “proficient in Microsoft Office Suite” may not be necessary, as it is generally expected in most professional roles.
4. False or Exaggerated Skills: Be honest about your skills and avoid exaggerating or fabricating information. Employers may verify your skills during hiring, and misrepresenting your abilities can have negative consequences.
Recap: Putting the Right Skills in a Resume
- Choose 8-20 skills, depending on your industry and level of experience
- Put mostly hard skills and skills that relate directly to the employer’s job
- Avoid putting too many soft skills; employers will judge this primarily in the interview and aren’t looking for soft skills as much on your resume
- Whenever listing a hard skill, make sure also to mention it on your work experience; employers want to see where you used each skill, too, and this is how to show them
- Use the job description to identify important skills for this position
- Include exact phrases from the job description to improve your chances of getting past automated job application systems
- If you need more ideas for which skills to put, review past jobs you’ve held and/or look at peers on LinkedIn to see skills they’ve chosen
- Use one or two columns and simple formatting to make your Skills section easy to read
- Never put your Skills section before your Employment History section on your resume
- If you’re an entry-level job seeker, never put your Skills section before your Education section
- Be prepared to answer interview questions about any skills listed on your resume
- Avoid including irrelevant or generic skills, obvious skills, and false or exaggerated skills in the skills section.
If you read the tips above, you now know how to write a great skills section of a resume, including examples of what it should look like.
You also know the other important pieces to focus on, like your resume work experience. If you follow these guidelines that I shared, you’ll get more interviews and get noticed by better employers in your job search.