The COVID economy has scrambled the job market. As recently as early March, unemployment was low and the competition to hire skilled talent was red hot as companies expanded their teams. But the dynamic has shifted. If you’re a job hunter, now you’re the one looking at some pretty fierce competition. It’s tough out there, and you’re going to need a carefully crafted resume to help you land the position you want.
And by carefully crafted, we mean a resume that’s tailored for the specific role you’re applying for. Don’t kid yourself: Every job is different, even jobs that share the same title. Your resume, particularly how you report your skills on your resume, can determine how far along you advance in the hiring process. And if a hiring panel does decide to offer you the job, your resume skills section can easily influence the salary figure they settle on.
This post will cover…
- What are the best skills to put on a resume?
- What are examples of soft skills for a resume?
- What are technical, or hard skills, on your resume?
- How to match your resume skills to the job description
- How to discover skills the company values
- How to create a resume skills section
- Ways to weave your skills into the rest of the resume
- What shouldn’t you do with skills on your resume?
What are the best skills to put on a resume?
It’s no secret that many hiring managers spend only a short amount of time looking at a resume before deciding whether to pass on a job candidate or add them to the short-list. What you may not know is, employers today are looking for both hard and soft skills on your resume. Read any job posting, for example, and you might see the following requests:
#Time management skills
These skills and attributes, and others we discuss in this post, are essential for today’s workplace. Hard skills are the technical skills required to accomplish the tasks and responsibilities associated with the job. They’re acquired through practice, education and training. They’re measurable and easy to advertise: You either have the desired technical skills and experience, or you don’t. Your work history and certifications will speak to them.
Soft skills, or interpersonal skills, reflect one’s personality and personal attributes. They can relate to an ability to fit into a company’s work culture, handle stress, communicate clearly or play well with others, for example. They may be “soft,” but they’re important skills for a resume: When job candidates possess comparable experience levels and technical skills, soft skills can tip the balance.
See later sections for tips on how to showcase soft and hard skills on your resume. But let’s talk first about which skills employers are looking for.
What are examples of soft skills for a resume?
Make no mistake, the soft skills on your resume can be of as much interest to a hiring manager as the technical skills you offer. Smart managers know that an experienced, highly trained new hire who doesn’t fit in the office culture, communicates poorly with clients and colleagues, or freezes under deadline pressures can take a heavy toll on the workplace. Your resume —and, later, how you present at the interview — should assure the employer that you not only can do the job, but you’ll help make the team thrive.
Unsure which soft skills can send that message? Remember, every job application should get a tailored resume. So review the duties of the position you’re applying for, and determine which of your personal strengths would help you be a success at the job and in the work environment.
Consider these 15 soft skills and personal attributes, and why employers value them:
- Adaptability —Whether you’re a new hire learning the ropes, a long-time staff member adjusting to change management, or a manager adopting transformative technologies in the workplace, you’re going to face some disruption in your career. Companies want employees who can quickly acclimate to different environments and are open to new processes and technologies.
- Attention to detail —Mistakes are expensive to businesses in terms of time and money. To show prospective employers that you are careful and deliberate in all you do, submit a tailored, proofread resume and cover letter with work history highlights that exemplify diligence and conscientiousness.
- Collaboration —How well you work with others, both team members and across departments, is going to be critical to your career success. Give examples in your work history — or if you’re a new college grad, examples from your labs, seminars and coursework — that demonstrate successful teamwork and partnerships.
- Communication — No matter the industry, no matter the position, verbal and presentation skills are an increasingly important soft skill in the workplace. Employers are looking for candidates who can message to different audiences, from interns to the C-suite, without resorting to jargon, and can present to an audience with confidence.
- Creativity —Businesses grow with the infusion of fresh ideas and new approaches to old problems. Hiring managers will give a careful look at someone whose resume skills show they think outside of the box, challenge the status quo and offer novel solutions.
- Customer service —A company’s prosperity — and an employee’s career prospects — is tied to good customer service. Employers want staff to be dedicated to meeting the expectations of both internal stakeholders and external clients.
- Decision making —Most savvy managers want to give staff a measure of autonomy so leadership can focus on the bigger picture (they also know it can improve employee happiness and performance). That’s why they value employees who can assess a situation and determine the next steps to take, rather than continually ask for guidance.
- Empathy —Understanding the emotions of others is important if you want to effectively engage with coworkers, managers, direct reports, customers and clients. Whether for a senior leadership or staff-level role, the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is a valuable trait.
- Leadership —Even when they’re not hiring for a managerial role, employers look for candidates who can inspire and motivate team members, and act with integrity, fairness, and a strategic mindset. Where possible, highlight the professional experience and skills on your resume that show you can lead.
- Multitasking —Today’s workplace is in many ways busier and more complicated than our parents’. A strong resume will demonstrate a job candidate’s ability to juggle projects and competing priorities.
- Positivity — No, this doesn’t mean “excessively cheerful or optimistic.” Rather, show that you approach difficulties with a can-do attitude. Resilience and determination, not a negative mindset, are what gets a job done. Employers know that. Employers want that.
- Problem solving —What job doesn’t involve challenges and problems? And what employer wants to handhold staff when those challenges and problems arise? An ability to resolve conflicts and come up with creative solutions to challenges big and small are prized skills for a resume.
- Self-motivation —No boss wants to keep lighting a fire under their workers. Give instances of how you’ve taken initiative to solve problems and get the job done.
- Time management —Whatever role you’re seeking, time management is a prime skill to include on your resume. Employers want to know you have the discipline to tune out distractions, meet deadlines and get the most out of the workday.
- Work ethic —Honesty, punctuality, responsibility and reliability are all integral to a strong work ethic. Draw out those qualities in the examples you give in your professional history and resume skills sections.
What are technical or hard skills on your resume?
Here are some hard resume skills for 15 in-demand fields:
- Accounting or bookkeeping —Basic abilities include invoicing, collections, payments, account reconciliation and proficiency in software such as QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero.
- Data analysis —Businesses need professionals who can gather and interpret technical data for various stakeholders. Hard skills in this area range from a thorough knowledge of relational database theory and practice to strong writing and verbal skills.
- Data privacy —Cybersecurity is top of mind for any organization that deals with sensitive or proprietary client information. Specific in-demand skills will depend on the position and field.
- Enterprise resource planning — ERP systems such as Oracle, NetSuite and SAP help employers manage their business and automate functions. Professionals in this area will want to talk up their coding expertise and project management skills.
- Human resources —Companies rely on HR specialists to assess and hire job candidates, help onboard new employees and develop retention efforts. These professionals might also handle employee engagement, create wellness initiatives, develop training and team-building programs. If this is your area, you’d want to promote your strong communication and project management skills on your resume.
- Mathematics —It’s not just the accounting world that requires workers to figure percentages, calculate margins and create accurate data charts. A marketing professional and a copy editor, for instance, will likely work with survey results from time to time. For roles that need a more extensive mathematics background, see the business systems consultant role listed in our blog post on financial consulting jobs.
- Multilingualism — The more customers and clients you can serve, the greater value you are to an employer. Sought-after second languages depend on the industry and city, but Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, French and German are among the most in demand. Even if you’re applying for a position that doesn’t require interacting with an international clientele, fluency in another language is an important asset to mention. Unique skills on your resume will make you stand out among the competition.
- Process automation —Businesses can save resources and improve accuracy by using smart software and artificial intelligence to take over rote tasks. At the same time, companies rely on humans to set up and oversee those systems. Spotlighting your professional experience in this area, or completion of one of the many certification programs, can make you markedly more appealing to employers.
- Product design —Form and function are rolled into one in this field, which optimizes both user friendliness and visual appeal. Even if you have a degree in product design, you’d want to talk up your specific skills on your resume.
- Project management —In your work history and resume skills sections, show your familiarity with the software and best practices required for seeing a project through from beginning to end. (A Project Manager Professional [PMP] certification, offered by the Project Management Institute, would a highly desired endorsement of your skills.)
- Research skills — Whether for eDiscovery, competitor intelligence or internal data collection, employers are looking for job candidates who know how to use the right research tools and methodologies. Hard research skills on your resume might include experience interviewing, planning and scheduling, and analyzing and interpreting collected data to help stakeholders reach a solution. Proficiency with relevant technologies should also be given on your resume.
- Software proficiency —Almost every office job today requires at least a baseline knowledge of Microsoft Office and G Suite apps for word processing, spreadsheets, email, presentations and collaboration. Many roles will require a far deeper knowledge of technologies. Jobs in the IT and creative fields are obvious examples, but tech proficiency is highly valued in many other sectors and roles. Consider the legal field: 62% of lawyers said in a Robert Half survey that their hiring decisions are influenced more by job candidates’ technical abilities than their soft skills.
- Typing skills— Medical coders, transcribers, schedulers, clerks, data entry specialists and administrative professionals should have fast and accurate keyboarding abilities. How fast is fast? That depends on the industry and the job, but the job description should give you a clue. To check your speed and accuracy, go to one of the many free typing speed testing websites. Then for consistency, check them again on a different website.
- Writing and editing— Just as polished verbal and presentation skills are prized people skills in today’s workplace, strong writing and editing are highly valued hard skills in almost any field. Clearly written, persuasive cross-departmental written memos, emails and other internal communication keep an organization humming. And no organization wants anyexternal-facing content — website text, press releases, printed matter or even company emails — marred by incorrect grammar and diction or poor sentence structure and organization.
Keep in mind that your resume should provide examples of how you’ve used the hard skills that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking. Whenever possible, note specific, quantifiable achievements for each position you’ve held. If you’re digital marketer, give conversion and click-through rates. If you’re a project manager, showcase projects that came in on time and on budget — and report their impact. As we discuss below, you want to demonstrate you’re a results-driven professional.
How to match your resume skills to the job description
Many companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which acts as an electronic filter, to collect, scan, sort and rank resumes to narrow applicant pools to the most qualified candidates. That’s why you need to customize your resume and cover letter using keywords and phrases that match the job listing (so long as you possess the skills you’re listing, of course).
If an employer is looking for a graphic designer with mastery in Adobe Creative Suite, for example, you wouldn’t just claim “experience with software for creative professionals.” List the software by name, give your expertise level, and — if you have it — highlight your Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) certification. Likewise, if an employer is searching for an accountant with “experience processing daily invoices and credit,” then use similar language in your resume. Simply listing “gathering receipts” as a duty won’t likely score well with an ATS.
Repeat common words and phrases from other postings of the same role, too. But remember, every job description is different. Tailor the keywords and skills on your resume and in your cover letter for each position.
How to discover skills the company values
You need to use the job description to customize your resume skills and work history sections. But don’t stop there. Research the employer to gain insight into the workplace culture and company values. You may discover additional qualities that would be prized by the employer.
If you know someone who works at the company, or has in the past, reach out to ask about the workplace culture and what the employer considers important in its workers. Also check websites such as Glassdoor and Fairygodboss for company reviews by employees and former employees. (You might even get an idea there about the employer’s interviewing process.)
The company’s website can tell you a lot, too. Reading the About Us page is typically a good place to begin.
For instance, in a section called “Living our values,” IBM includes the following:
- Dedication to every client’s success
- Innovation that matters — for our company and for the world
- Trust and responsibility in all relationships
If you were applying for a job at IBM, you would want to consider what soft skills you possess that fit this framework — customer service, attentiveness, initiative and loyalty — and weave them into your resume.
Here at Robert Half, we focus on and promote our four LEAD principles. They are:
- Leadership by Example
- Ethics First
- An Openness to New Ideas
- Dedication to Excellence
If you’re applying for a job at Robert Half, you might highlight skills that speak to your leadership, drive and diligence, as well as your confidence and ability to collaborate.
Bottom line: Pay close attention to how the company says it operates and the workplace environment it promotes, and emphasize your most pertinent strengths.
Think you’d make a great fit at Robert Half? Search our corporate jobs or our open recruiting positions.
How to create a resume skills section
When you write a resume, it’s important to organize the content so it’s succinct and easy to read. A three-column, three-row highlights section near the top of your resume, just above your professional experience, is helpful way to list the nine soft and technical skills that speak directly to the posting’s required qualifications. It’s also a good place to add keywords you’ve identified.
You don’t need more than a couple words here to show what you bring to the table. This should be a bulleted list a reader can quickly scan. Complete sentences will come in your work history.
Here are some examples of what professionals from different industries could list in this section:
- Accounting jobs
Accountants are expected to crunch numbers, but also to make data-driven conclusions and communicate them to people outside of their department. You might include skills in these areas:
- Analytical and problem solving
- Microsoft Excel
- Enterprise resource planning software
- Business and leadership
- Verbal and writing skills
- Data analytics
- Revenue recognition
- Risk and compliance
- Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
- Customer service jobs
When customers have issues or concerns about a company, they turn to customer service departments to get their problems solved. Dealing with the public in these roles often requires skills in these areas:
- Data entry
- Attentive listening, empathy
- Troubleshooting and research
- Speed and efficiency
- Positive attitude
- Communication skills
- Time management
- Business analyst jobs
A business analyst wears many hats: data specialist, finance professional and problem solver. Skills for the resume of a business analyst might include:
- Business acumen
- Data mining
- Client relations
- Strategic thinking
- Verbal and presentation skills
- Project management
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Marketing jobs
Marketing jobs can run the gamut from social media or email marketing specialist to product manager and brand manager. But in general, candidates applying for marketing jobs need to show a mix of soft and hard skills that reflect the creative yet analytical nature of the career. Some examples include:
- Content creation
- Market research
- Web analytics
- SEO and SEM
- Critical thinking
- Project management
- Content management systems
- Social media (strategy, campaigns, etc.)
- Web developer jobs
Web developers need both the tech skills to accomplish their tasks and the soft skills to work with clients and internal stakeholders. Whether you’re looking at a front-end or back-end position, you’d want to carefully review the tech stack that the job posting describes, then tailor your resume to address the employer’s needs and work environment. Some soft and hard skills for a web developer’s resume might include:
- Coding languages
- Troubleshooting and testing skills
- Operating systems
- Database software
- UX and UI design
- Project management
- Web frameworks
- API design
- Graphic design jobs
Graphic designers need to possess a combination of creative flair and technical mastery. In addition to creating a digital portfolio that wows, you could mention these hard and soft skills on your resume:
- Design principles, such as color theory and typography
- Brand development
- Attention to detail
- Collaboration with clients
- Project management
- Commitment to deadlines
- Time management
- Verbal and presentation skills
If you’re in a specialized field, such as legal or technology, another option would be to create a skills column on the side of your first page. This would give you more space to list all skills, divided by technical and interpersonal, that pertain to the job you’re applying for.
The important thing is to make the skills section an attention-grabbing part of your resume. Not every employer uses an ATS, so you want this section to stand out to the reader.
Ways to weave your skills into the rest of the resume
Keep in mind that skills should be highlighted in your work history and other resume sections, such as volunteer activities or professional certifications. There, you’d be less likely to name a specific skill than to show it — for example, you “led a team project” to successful completion, not you “have leadership skills” or “project management skills.”
Here, you would also give concrete examples of the impact you made at your current or past employer. Impressive skills on your resume will get you careful consideration. Impressive results on your resume can get you the interview — and possibly the job offer.
Here are some tips and examples on how to present your resume skills:
Communication — Focus on your verbal, writing and presentation skills, but also your collaborative and customer service skills. In your work history, show how your track record of strong communication with your colleagues, manager, clients or customers delivered solid results.
- Wrote a monthly email newsletter to customers that increased website traffic by 35 percent.
- Presented in eight company webinars that reached an audience average of 5,000 per session.
Multitasking — It might be more challenging to show quantifiable results for multitasking. But you can still give the employer an idea of the competing tasks and situations you’ve handled regularly — and how you did so calmly and efficiently.
- Smoothly and calmly prioritized multiple web design projects for a team of 20 people in a fast-paced environment.
- Managed competing editorial deadlines for the company’s annual report and corporate citizenship report, while delivering weekly new content to the organization’s email marketing team that improved click rates by 20 percent.
Leadership — You don’t have to be in a managerial role to show leadership. Taking charge on an important deliverable of a larger team project, working in an entrepreneurial manner independent of a team, burrowing deep into a problem above and beyond expectations to reach a solution all demonstrate leadership and an ability to inspire colleagues. Outside of your official duties, stepping up for volunteer roles within the company can also create opportunity to demonstrate leadership by action.
- Led a 10-person task force that worked together to succeed in reducing firm operating expenses by 15 percent.
- Organized and chaired a six-member employee volunteer task force that researched corporate philanthropic practices and recommended new beneficiaries for senior management consideration.
Problem-solving — Show the essential role you’ve played for current and past managers by spotlighting examples of when you’d double-down on resolving longstanding team problems or show creativity when faced with a challenge.
- Implemented new consolidation procedures for monthly and quarterly close, reducing closing time by 30 percent.
- Closed 92 percent of desktop support tickets on the first call without escalation.
Dependability — Hiring managers want people on their team who’ll do what they say they’re going to do. Dependability can be particularly important if you’re working with outside clients, when missing a deadline can mean lost business and a damaged reputation.
- Completed all projects on time or before deadline, leading to a promotion to account manager after 12 months of service.
- Twice awarded CEO’s “Perfect Attendance” commendation at the company’s annual employee recognition event.
Technology — The technology skills on your resume should be relevant to the job you’re pursuing. If you’re looking for an administrative assistant role, you don’t need to fit in that coursework in data logic you took before switching majors. And if you’re a UX designer or computer programmer, there won’t be much call to advertise your familiarity with Word or Google docs.
- Create monthly PowerPoint presentation to support supervising manager’s report of social media/email campaigns, client engagement and conversion rate to executive team. Success of the presentations has led to requests to train other managers’ support staff in the coming quarter.
- Optimized 300+ blog posts, increasing organic traffic by 33 percent and conversion rate by 15 percent.
What shouldn’t you do with skills on your resume?
We’ve said it all above in one place or another. But now that you have a sense of what you should be doing, here’s a recap of things to avoid doing with your resume:
Don’t exaggerate or lie about your skills — or anything else. Never give in to the temptation to inflate a job title, add a certification or skills you don’t have, or embellish a job tenure that didn’t last as long as you say it did. Making false claims or stretching the truth isn’t worth the risk. Most companies conduct background checks and call references, and falsehoods will severely damage your trustworthiness — and likely cost you the job.
Don’t leave out numbers. As we’ve discussed, don’t be vague. No matter what position you’re applying for, you should try to quantify your value. Did you reduce expenses for your company, increase sales or reach new target markets? Did you respond to customer inquiries or process orders X% faster than the previous year? All of those accomplishments involve numbers that you can use in your resume.
Don’t misuse words. Check your resume for wordiness. If you feel like a section is short, it can be tempting to get flowery with your language, but “owing to the fact that” is nowhere near as good as “because.” Also avoid using business jargon clichés like “synergize” or “outside the box.”
Don’t forget to proofread. Before you send in your resume, go over it with a fine-toothed comb for spelling, grammar and formatting mistakes. Then ask someone who understands your job-search goals to look it over. Review a printed copy: Sometimes it’s easier to catch errors on paper than on a computer screen.
Your resume, and the skills on your resume, should be an accurate, truthful report of you, your work history and your abilities. But help out the hiring manager and recruiters by crafting it in a way that directly addresses their needs. That means, be thoughtful and be meticulous. The time and work you put into that will pay off when interview invitations come in.
It’s time to put your skills to work for you!