When you’re trying to win over a hiring manager with your resume, time is of the essence. Not only are you competing with the other applicants for the job; you’re also competing against all the other priorities that are vying for the hiring manager’s limited attention. You only have a few seconds to show them that you’re worth a closer look, and the skills section of your resume is an important tool in accomplishing that goal.
We’ll explain how to write a resume skills section that showcases your strongest selling points as a candidate and show you exactly how to format this important resume section for best results.
What is a resume skills section?
A skills section is a dedicated part of your resume that quickly conveys your key abilities. It gives a hiring manager an at-a-glance understanding of your proficiency level and experience and tells them whether or not you meet the minimum requirements to be able to do the job,
A resume skills section is not meant to be an exhaustive list of everything you can do. Rather, it’s an overview of the most relevant and essential job competencies.
Why is a skills section important?
Satisfies minimum requirements
The most basic function of a resume skills section is to show the hiring manager that you meet the base qualifications for the role. This is especially important if other parts of your resume, like your job titles, don’t make it obvious.
For example, if you’re making a lateral career move, you might possess all the right skills but have a job history that differs from what a hiring manager might expect to see. Your skills section helps reassure them that your technical capabilities are on point.
Your skills section can convey your area of expertise. This is useful if you’re in a field with many specialized roles that are similar, but distinct, like software development.
Makes the machines happy
Many companies use software to screen candidates’ resumes before passing suitable ones on to a human. This software relies in part on keywords to determine whether an applicant is qualified.
Your skills section should highlight the top keywords these automated screening tools are looking for, helping you make it through to the interview round.
Highlights additional capabilities
While it’s true that your skills section shouldn’t list every skill you have, you should call attention to other capabilities relevant to the job that could set you apart from other candidates. For example, if you’re applying to be a camp counselor, it would be highly appropriate to list that you’re certified in CPR. Being bilingual is another example.
Resume skills section formatting
When formulating your resume, you always want to put the most impressive information closest to the top. So, this will dictate where to put your skills section on the page.
You might lead with your skills if you’re a new grad with little work experience. Since you just came out of school, those skills are fresh in your mind and may be more current than a more seasoned candidate who graduated ten years ago.
On the flip side, if you have a long and noteworthy work history, you might choose to place your skills section further down the page since it’s less impressive than your professional accomplishments.
When determining the order of the skills, you’ll include, follow the same concept–the most relevant and important ones should be listed first.
As for how you convey your skills, a bulleted list is best. The goal is to make it easy for a hiring manager to scan quickly. You may choose to group similar skills together under headers (i.e., ‘design skills,’ ‘development skills,’ etc.). You may also opt to give a bit of additional context on each skill with a short sentence after each bullet point.
Need help crafting a resume?
Enlist in a professional resume-writing service to help you get hired faster!
How to write a resume skills section
Tailor it for the job
In your resume skills section, quality beats quantity. Above all else, your skills section should be tailored to the position, pulling in the top requirements listed in the job description. Here’s an example of how to do this using a job description for a HR call center rep.
The core duties of the job are underlined in red. If you were applying for this job, you’d want to be sure your skills list included things like:
- Customer service
- Problem solving
- Conflict resolution
- Employment verification
- Knowledge of HR operations
- Knowledge of PeopleSoft
- Call logging
- Case management
As you can see, these skills correlate directly with the requirements and will play a big role in helping a hiring manager determine you’re a good fit for the job.
For additional tips, check out our post: How to find keywords in a job description to use in your resume!
Translate job responsibilities into skills
One common mistake candidates make is listing job duties in their skills section. The items in your skills section shouldn’t be descriptions of tasks. Instead, they should be easily digestible one- to two-word skills.
With a little practice, it’s easy to translate your day-to-day activities into skills. This is similar to what we did when translating job posting requirements.
For example, if a big part of your job juggles multiple projects with competing deadlines, this might translate into skills like time management or project management. ‘Helping customers troubleshoot computer problems’ would become ‘technical support.’
Cover various skill types
Your skills section doesn’t have to be limited to technical skills. You can include soft skills too, and definitely should if it’s a position where you’ll rely heavily on them. Consider other non-technical aspects of the job that are likely to be of high importance to a hiring manager, like teamwork or communication.
Edit your list
We’ve said it already, but it bears repeating: include only the most relevant skills to the job. You might have other impressive skills, but they can actually detract from your application if it’s not immediately obvious how they apply.
Resume skills section examples
Example job #1: Project manager for a logistics company
Skills (bulleted list)
- Agile management
- Project roadmapping
- Cost estimation
- Project bidding
- Time management
- Written and verbal communication
- Conflict resolution
Example job #2: Certified nursing assistant in an assisted living facility
Skills (bulleted list, grouped by category)
- Oral hygeiene
- Feeding assistance
- Patient intake
- Recording vital signs
- Measuring bodily fluids
Example job #3: Social media manager for a tech company
Skills (bulleted list, grouped by software type)
- Social media management: Hootsuite, ZoHo, Buffer
- Project management: Asana, Basecamp, Trello
- Graphic design: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Canva
Before submitting your application, ensure you are not making one of these common resume mistakes!