What Are Relevant Skills for Resumes?

relevant resume skills

The list of skills on your resume may be the one thing most likely to land your next job.

Why?

Because your résumé’s primary job is to grab a reader’s attention. You need to make them see that you are one of the top candidates!

Period.

So how do you grab their attention in a positive way and get that sought-after interview?

Here’s the simple key takeaway:

Include résumé skills that are relevant to the job to which you’re applying.

If you haven’t already – Read our “How to Write a Resume” and “Resume Samples and Templates” articles to get a better idea of optimizing your resume.


1. What skills should you highlight on your résumé?

This is the million-dollar question.

For both new graduates and seasoned professionals, your list of résumé skills should include most if not all of the skill sets listed as “Required” and “Preferred” qualifications in a company’s job posting.

Is it really that simple?

Yes!

Hiring new employees costs a significant amount of time, money and resources. So smart employers want to do things right the first time by listing what skills are needed (and preferred) by the person ultimately hired for a position.

So, when determining a list of skills for your résumé, look to the job ads you apply to for guidance. Take the following job ad for example:

Seeking electrical engineer with three plus years of experience in power systems engineering, smart grid technology, and CADD systems maintenance. Must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s in Engineering and be NICET and LEED AP certified.

This is a great job ad since it places absolutes into the description. Well… it’s a good ad for the employer in that it will help in quickly eliminating applicants.

Why?

Whenever there are skill sets listed as required, the list of skills on your résumé needs to include those to have any real chance of getting an interview.

In this case, we recommend including a “Summary of Qualifications” or “Professional Profile” section in which you clearly indicate experience and training in power systems engineering, smart grid technology, and CADD systems maintenance. Further, you should acknowledge that you have the required NICET and LEED AP certifications.

This is how the pros—certified career coaches and résumé writers—determine appropriate skills for résumés. They use the job ad for guidance because those keywords are what employers and hiring managers are looking for.

Insider tip: Those same credentialed career coaches and résumé writers often assist employers with writing job ads. They recommend keywords as an essential tool to help filter out candidates who are not even remotely suited for the job.

Additionally, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are usually designed to search out such keywords or skill sets to likewise eliminate unqualified applicants to help reduce a hiring manager or committee’s time.

2. Beyond what is listed in a job description, how do you determine what skills to put on résumé?

Here’s a little secret:

Job ads are expensive. And the price of the ad sometimes depends on the word count.

Understandably, a hiring manager may just list the primary skills sought for the new hire. That’s money saved. But there are often other skills that employers would like applicants to have.

Consider the example electrical engineer ad above:

What if beyond the listed skills, the company informed their hiring manager or committee that they would prefer someone who also was experienced in assuring energy code compliance and conducting engineering inspections?

Perhaps those were on their “wish list” but were considered skills they could quickly train a new hire in. Since they were deemed wish-list skills, the hiring manager didn’t include them in the job ad.

How would a candidate know then that those skill sets were important skills to put on résumé?

This is where your network comes in. Starting with professors in your major and fellow majors themselves, it is vital that college students and new graduates continue to work at building and maintaining a professional network.

Why?

All industries change, whether on a technological, organizational or market level. In the example here, the unique skill sets preferred for electrical engineer positions 20, 10, or even five years ago are now likely commonplace skill sets that nearly all electrical engineers have.

How is the field of electrical engineering evolving in the next five to 10 years? What skills, though often not needed now, will likely be critical five years down the line?

Be mindful of such skills for résumés as many employers are on the lookout for these new skill sets. By continually interacting with your college professors, fellow graduates, and other professionals, you will more likely be knowledgeable about developments in your respective field.

It’s especially beneficial if you network with fellow professionals who spend considerable time on hiring committees. That’s how you can find out what skills are up-and-coming in importance.

By taking continuing education classes or attending workshops or presentations at conferences, you will be able to obtain many new skill sets. Those are important skills to put on résumés you submit.  Even simple interactions at conference luncheons and coffee breaks could shed light on critical skill sets you should learn.

Additionally, look through job ads related to your field periodically. Identify any skill sets that you don’t possess but are appearing in more and more job ads. Those are skills you should seek to acquire! That is how you increase your chances of getting noticed by a hiring manager or committee.

3. What if you don’t have some of the required skills posted in a job description?

New grads often have difficulty finding jobs because:

  1. They don’t have a wide range of specialty skill sets under their belts, or
  2. They don’t have the minimum years of experience as listed in the job ad.

Likewise, as a new graduate, you may have the appropriate experience, but maybe your bachelor’s degree isn’t on the list of required degrees in the job ad.

In this case, identify your experience and discuss the relevance of your degree. Most people may only have a vague understanding of what students with your degree do and are trained in.

In many instances, if you have comparable skills or are close to having the minimum amount of years of experience, you will often get an interview—especially if not many people apply for the position. That happens more than people realize.

We suggest applying. The experience of applying is in and of itself an important skill set to master, particularly for new graduates!

4. What if you have no skills required for the job?

This is an entirely different matter!

You may get lucky and find a hiring committee member who is sympathetic to the plight of those seeking employment, especially new graduates with tons of college loan debt to take care of.

Or you may run the risk of having your future applications deleted outright, particularly if you regularly apply to positions at that company for which you’re unqualified.

So if you’re clearly not even remotely qualified, the best advice is not to apply for that job at all.

5. What are hard skills?

Hard skills are those that generally require specialized training. They’re identified as required skill sets within a job description.

For example: abilities in computer repair, bookkeeping, or typing.

These are what hiring managers and committees look for from job applicants. In addition to having years of experience utilizing such skills, hiring managers will likely look for college degrees or other specialized training with respect to such skills.

Remember:

Any hard skills noted in job descriptions are skills to put on résumés. The more of these skills that you possess and place on your résumé, the more likely you will be called in for an interview.

Just make certain to quantify your skills by stating specific experience and training related to them!

6. What are soft skills?

Soft skills are those hard-to-quantify skills that get thrown around on résumés way too often.

For example: being a leader, an effective communicator, team-oriented, patient, and a critical thinker.

Frankly, both new graduates and seasoned professionals use these terms too much without context.

What do we mean by context?

Your résumé should include your past accomplishments in addition to a list of relevant skill sets. In listing accomplishments, we often verify that we are critical thinkers, team-oriented, or have patience without having to write those terms explicitly in our summary of qualifications.

Keeping with the electrical engineering example used earlier, when listing a past job, this hypothetical electrician could write the following:

  • Surveyed apartment complex’s energy grid; identified and rectified short in system thereby saving owner over $3000 in monthly electrical bills.
  • Collaborated with architects to design a more energy-efficient power grid for new apartment complex.

These accomplishments show that this electrical engineer was patient and utilized critical thinking strategies to identify why the complex owner was accruing high electricity bills.

Then, by being an effective communicator and collaborating with and likely leading parts of a team, the would-be candidate resolved the issue and contributed, seemingly, to new designs that would possibly prevent similar issues in the future. That is the best way to include soft skills amongst résumé skills.

Interviews are where hiring managers test soft skills particularly regarding teamwork, critical thinking, and ability to remain calm in tough situations. All too often soft skills listed on a résumé are not backed up by the candidate during the interview.

So here’s the takeaway:

When listing skill sets, focus more on hard skills. Illustrate soft skills with accomplishments, then elaborate on them in the interview.

7. How do you list skills for résumés?

For recent graduates, use a “Summary of Qualifications” section, which goes immediately after your education. For the electrical engineer example, that summary might look similar to the following:

SUMMARY OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • NICET and LEED AP certified. Adept at installation and maintenance of smart grid technology.
  • Proficiency in power systems engineering and CADD systems maintenance.

More seasoned professionals can use a “Core Competencies” section. For the electrical engineer example, such a section might look like this:

CORE COMPETENCIES

Photovoltaic Computer Hardware     Smart Grid Technology
Construction Design CADD   Power Systems Engineering
Engineering Inspection Biomedical Devices     Energy Code Compliance

For those without a significant number of hard skills, avoid using the “Core Competencies” section. This is not a suitable format for listing soft skills.

8. How do you write skills for ATS?

Applicant tracking software/systems certainly complicate matters for job seekers. Some of these systems analyze submitted résumés, scanning for the number of keywords (sought-after skills) included on each résumé and/or the amount of times certain keywords/skills appear on a résumé.

Consequently, new graduates and seasoned professionals alike need to be mindful of word choice throughout their résumés. When including skills for résumés, work skills from the job ad into every section of your résumé that you possibly can.

Yes, have a summary of qualifications or core competency section that lists skills as seen in the job description. However, it is equally important to work those skills into your job history section, identifying the contexts in which you utilized those skills.

Further, if you earned training in any of the preferred or required skills, identify such training in the education section of your résumé.

Collectively, these actions should help propel your résumé to the top and land you an interview.

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