Make Your Resume Leap Out with an Effective Skills Section
If your resume has a skills section, chances are that it’s a bit jumbled and hasn’t been updated in a while. Many people neglect to do regular updates although it’s strongly recommended to have a fresh resume even when you’re not actively searching for a job.
If you don’t have a skills section on your resume, you might be confused about what it is and why you should bother including one. Having a skills section or revising the one you already have can help set you apart from the crowd and give a hiring manager all the more reason to offer you the job.
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Why is a skills section important?
Just like the other parts of your resume, the skills section is a summary that a hiring manager can use as an easy reference while sorting through the mountain of applications on their desk. You can use it to make the overlap between your skill set and the job requirements more obvious, improving your chances of being selected for an interview.
When you’re competing against hundreds of other candidates, you want to highlight your skills in every way you can. Perhaps even more importantly, an organized skills section tailored to the position you’re applying for can get you past the digital gatekeepers that do the initial screening—those would be the applicant tracking systems (ATSs) used by most large and mid-sized companies these days.
Let’s now see how you can put together or revise your skills inventory so that you can snag an interview.
Tailor your skills list to the job
This piece of advice may seem obvious, but it’s something few job seekers heed. Don’t include skills that aren’t relevant to the job or industry you’re targeting. Of course, some transferable skills are helpful in any career—soft skills, computer skills, language skills—but keep out of your resume those that aren’t at all useful in your field. Every line in your resume should communicate information that makes the person reading it want to invite you for an interview.
If you’re unsure which skills make sense to include and which don’t, browse through the LinkedIn profiles of professionals in positions similar to the one you’re applying for. Make a note of the skills and keywords that appear over and over again. It may also be helpful to review as many listings for similar positions as possible, looking for the same things. Use the list you create to shape your skills section.
When you’re applying for a position, you’ll also want to tailor your resume to that specific position. Read the job description carefully and make sure to include any skills listed that you have. Use the same terminology, otherwise, your application may be tossed out by the ATS.
Don’t include the most basic skills
Adding basic skills, such as proficiency with MS Word, will probably do more harm than good. Familiarity with basic office software is more or less assumed nowadays, and including such skills will make it seem as though you’re trying to pad your resume.
However, it’s always a good idea to include any special or advanced skills you have related to office software. Being an Excel wizard is one thing that’s bound to make you stand out. Again, if you’re unsure what counts as “too basic,” check out the LinkedIn profiles of successful professionals in your field and observe what skills they have listed.
Highlight soft skills
No matter what kind of job you’re applying for, you must be able to get along with your colleagues, communicate clearly, and solve problems. Listing these so-called soft skills on your resume can be a great way to make yourself stand out.
If you’re applying for a job that requires a set of specific soft skills, include a line that highlights them. Your exceptional people skills could be just the edge you need to get a position working with the public, for example. Just be prepared to discuss how you’ve developed and applied these skills in your previous work.
Also, if you’re applying for a more technical job, be sure to highlight your technical skills before your soft skills. Basically, you want to put the most relevant, most important skills at the top.
A skills inventory that’s too broad can be problematic for a couple of reasons. First, the program that screens applications may be looking for specific keywords that demonstrate familiarity with, for example, a given piece of software. Replace phrases like “sales software proficiency” with “experience with Salesforce, Pipedrive, and Freshsales.”
Second, broad-brush statements can be vague—“programming skills,” for example, might mean something entirely different to a database manager and an application developer. In general, you want to be as specific as possible because if any part of your resume is vague or ambiguous, the hiring manager is almost certain to move on to other candidates instead of reaching out for clarification.
Include your passion projects
If your hobbies or pastimes can be used to illustrate any of your skills, get them in there! Demonstrating that your interest in a position is at least partially fueled by passion is a powerful way to separate yourself from the crowd. This indicates that you may be more enthusiastic and loyal than the average applicant, which can take you far.
Organize your list
How you arrange the items in your skills section is important. The skills most relevant to the job opening should come first. If your list is long, you can make it easier for a hiring manager to read and process the information by grouping closely related skills together. Grouping items in this way emphasizes your expertise in a particular area.
If your list is really long, consider splitting it into two sections: Technical Skills (appearing first) and Other Skills (appearing toward the end). However, if your list is that long, you may want to consider whether you’re including irrelevant information. If there are any skills that don’t deserve to be there, remove them—after all, you need room for the rest of your resume.
Competition for the best positions can be fierce, even in a market that favors job seekers. Don’t risk missing out on your dream opportunity—get an expert to revise or write your resume!