The skills section of resumes may be the one factor most likely to lead to an interview. Your resume’s primary job is to grab a reader’s attention and show that you’re a great fit for the job in question. The right skill set, presented in the right way, can accomplish both of these goals. The key is to focus on resume skills that are relevant to the job to which you’re applying.
It’s also a good idea to upload your resume to Chegg CareerMatch. We’ll provide a list of your employable skills to get you started.
What skills should you highlight on your resume?
For both new graduates and seasoned professionals, the answer to this question is simple: Your list of resume skills should include most (if not all) of the skill sets mentioned as “Required” and “Preferred” in the job posting.
Hiring new employees costs a significant amount of time, money, and resources. Smart employers want to hire the right person the first time by listing the skills they need and prefer for the position.
Use this information for guidance as you determine your list of job skills for resumes. Look at this job posting as an 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.
Notice that this job description contains absolutes. For the employer, this helps quickly eliminate unqualified applicants. For you, this means that your resume must mention these required skills to have any chance of receiving an interview.
In this case, we recommend including a “Summary of Qualifications” or “Professional Profile” section that clearly indicates experience and training in smart grid technology, power systems engineering, and CADD systems maintenance. Additionally, you should acknowledge that you have the required NICET and LEED AP certifications.
This strategy may seem simple, but it’s the same way certified career coaches and professional resume writers determine appropriate skills for resumes. They understand that the job description provides the keywords employers are looking for in a resume.
Application Tracking Systems (ATS) are usually designed to automatically identify these keywords and skill sets in order to filter out unqualified applicants. To pass this screening and even get your resume in front of the hiring manager, you must mention key skills.
Beyond what is listed in a job description, how do you determine what skills to put on resumes?
Job descriptions are expensive and often priced based on word count. To save money, hiring managers may list only the primary skills sought for the new hire. Of course, these aren’t the only skills that the hiring manager would like the employee to possess.
Consider the sample electrical engineer posting listed above.
What if beyond the listed skills, the company informed their hiring manager or committee that they would prefer someone who was also experienced in assuring energy code compliance and conducting engineering inspections?
Perhaps those were on their “wish list” but were considered skills in which they could quickly train a new hire. Since they were deemed wish-list skills, the hiring manager didn’t include them in the job description.
In that case, how would a candidate know that those skill sets were important skills to include on the resume?
This is where your network comes in. Starting with professors and cohorts in your major, it is vital that college students and new graduates continue to work at building and maintaining a professional network.
All industries change and evolve over time. 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 possessed by nearly all electrical engineers.
How will the field of electrical engineering evolve 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 resumes, 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’re more likely to 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’ll be able to continuously update your skill set. Additionally, look through job descriptions related to your field periodically. Identify any skill sets that you don’t possess but notice frequently appearing in job descriptions. Those are skills you should seek to acquire and include on a resume.
What if you don’t have some of the required skills listed in a job description?
New graduates often struggle to find jobs because:
- They don’t have a wide range of specialized skill sets.
- They don’t have the minimum years of experience listed in the job description.
Likewise, as a new graduate, you may have the required years of experience, but your degree isn’t on the list of required degrees in the job posting.
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.
We suggest still applying in this scenario. The experience of applying is in and of itself an important skill set to master, particularly for new graduates!
What if you have no skills required for the job?
This is an entirely different matter. You may encounter a sympathetic hiring manager who understands the plight of new graduates seeking employment. More likely, however, you run the risk of having your future job applications deleted outright, particularly if you regularly apply to jobs for which you’re unqualified.
If you’re clearly not remotely qualified for a position, we recommend not applying at all. Continue your job search and find a better fit.
When you upload your resume to Chegg CareerMatch, we’ll help you find jobs that are well-suited to your qualifications.
What are hard skills?
Hard skills are measurable skills that typically require specialized training. They’re identified as required skill sets within a job description. Hard skills may include abilities in computer repair, bookkeeping, or typing.
Hard skills 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 related to these requirements.
Any hard skills noted in job descriptions are skills to put on resumes. The more of these skills that you possess and place on your resume, the more likely you will be called in for an interview.
Be certain to quantify your skills by stating specific related experience and training.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are personal qualities that can help you succeed in the workplace. Unlike hard skills, soft skills are not quantifiable, and they’re often overused–or used ineffectively–on resumes. Some soft resume skills examples include being a leader, an effective communicator, team-oriented, patient, and a critical thinker.
Both new graduates and seasoned professionals too often list soft skills without context. Your resume 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 electric bills.
- Collaborated with architects to design a more energy-efficient power grid for new apartment complex.
These accomplishments indicate that the 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, collaborating with, and likely leading parts of a team, the candidate resolved the issue and contributed to new designs that would possibly prevent similar issues in the future. This is the best way to include soft skills amongst resume skills. Interviews allow hiring managers to gauge soft skills, particularly regarding teamwork, critical thinking, and the ability to remain calm in difficult situations. Too often, soft skills listed by a candidate on a resume are not supported by the interview.
Here’s the takeaway: When listing job skills for resumes, focus more on hard skills. Illustrate soft skills with accomplishments, then elaborate on them in the interview.
How to List Skills on a Resume
Recent graduates wondering how to list skills on a resume should include a “Summary of Qualifications” section immediately after education. For the electrical engineering example, that summary might look like the following resume skills examples:
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, this section might resemble the following:
- Computer Hardware
- Smart Grid Technology
- Construction Design
- Power Systems Engineering
- Engineering Inspection
- Biomedical Devices
- Energy Code Compliance
Those without a significant amount of hard skills should avoid using the “Core Competencies” section. This format is not appropriate for listing soft skills.
How do you write skills for ATS?
Applicant tracking software/systems certainly complicate matters for job seekers. Some of these systems analyze submitted resumes, scanning for the number of keywords (sought-after skills) included on each resume and/or the amount of times certain keywords/skills appear on a resume.
Consequently, job applicants need to be mindful of word choice throughout their resumes. When including skills for resumes, incorporate skills from the job description into every section of your resume that you possibly can.
As mentioned, include a Summary of Qualifications or Core Competencies section that lists skills as seen in the job description. However, it’s equally important to work these skills into your job history section, identifying the contexts in which you utilized these skills.
Further, if you earned training in any of the preferred or required skills, identify such trainings in the education section of your resume.
Your new understanding of relevant skills to put on resumes should propel your resume to the top and earn you an interview.