For many resume writers, the “skills section” presents a unique quagmire. On the one hand, you want to showcase as many skills as you can to show your competence. On the other hand, you don’t want to make it look like you’re padding your resume, and you definitely don’t want to list skills that you’re only half-competent at.
Resume writer Anish Majumdar recommends building your skills section by writing out the skills you need at your current job, and then reviewing your list and circling skills that correlate with your target position. “Finally, underline those circled skills which can be proven on your resume. These are the ones you need to focus on,” writes Majumdar. Once you’ve done that, here are a few more tips on how to make the skills section on your resume truly shine:
1. Give it all you’ve got
Don’t be shy about layering on your skills – both hard and soft skills. Just because you’re a software engineer doesn’t mean you don’t need to showcase your communication, cross-sector collaboration, and time management abilities. In fact, listing those skills alongside your competency with Java and Python will make you stand out from the crowd. Layering your resume with skills can serve to give recruiters a well-rounded, multi-faceted image of you.
2. Only include the good stuff
That being said, you need to make sure you’re not putting skills on your resume merely to bulk it up. Certain skills, like knowing how to use Microsoft Word or email, are too basic to distinguish you from other candidates. These competencies are obvious to recruiters, and should not be placed on your resume. If the answer to the question “can every other applicant to the job write that they have this skill?” is yes, you might want to reconsider taking up precious resume real estate with the skill.
3. Bulk your skills up
No, this doesn’t mean by padding your resume with skills you don’t have! If there are certain skills that you find would be helpful to have for the jobs you’re applying to, but you don’t currently have, it might be time to take a class or do a training on these skills. It also might be a question of brushing up certain skills, so that you can show them off, like upgrading your “intermediate proficiency” in Spanish to “professional working proficiency”. Investing time and money in these skills now can have big payoffs in the future.
4. Be straightforward
The skills section of your resume is not the place to sugarcoat. What you see as a rose-colored picture of a certain skill might simply be seen as a fib by a recruiter. Let’s take the Spanish example again. Suppose you say you have “professional working proficiency”, when you really just spent a semester abroad in Spain when you were in college 10 years ago, and haven’t practiced the language since. A portion of your job interview is conducted in Spanish – yikes! Or even worse, you get the job, and your first assignment is to interface with an Argentinian client – completely in Spanish. Chances are you won’t be at the job for much longer. Even little resume fibs can cause big trouble.
5. Showcase your transferable skills
Especially if you’re transitioning careers, showing off your transferable skills is critical to fleshing out the skills section of your resume. Transferable skills include things like leadership, analytics, communication through writing, public speaking, mathematical reasoning, or organizing meetings. These type of skills can give you the boost you need in showcasing your experience.
6. Back yourself up
Soft skills like “coordination with sub-contractors” can sound intangible and airy – which is why you shouldn’t be afraid to back yourself up with a few examples and numbers. “Coordinated weekly with 12 subcontractors to drive a project slated to take 6 months to a 3-month completion time” packs more of a punch, and lets whoever’s reading your resume visualize better your abilities.