Salaries are rising, and competition for skilled talent is heating up as companies expand their teams. Although that means it may be easier to find a job, you'll still need a top-notch resume to land the position you want most. Here are tips to help you highlight skills on your resume to stand out from the competition.
This blog will show you:
- How citing soft and hard skills can differentiate you from other candidates
- How using keywords matching those in the job listing can help you get through applicant scanning software
- How to create a skills section and showcase skills throughout your resume
- Examples of skills to target for different roles
- Do’s and don’ts to check before submitting your resume
Skills to highlight on a resume
There are two main types of job-related skills for a resume: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills, or technical skills, are those required to do the job, acquired through practice, education or training. Soft skills, also sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence, include traits such as communicating effectively and maintaining a positive attitude to achieve your goals. These are transferable skills that you can take from one task or job to another.
When the hard skills and experience are equal between candidates, it can fall on soft skills to tip the balance.
15 examples of soft skills for a resume
To help you narrow down the soft skills to put on your resume, review the various duties of the position and determine which of your personal strengths will help you successfully complete those tasks. Consider these examples:
- Attention to detail
- Decision making
- Positive attitude
- Problem-solving/conflict resolution
- Time management
- Work ethic
How do soft skills apply if you’re pursuing a job as a systems engineer? You might note on your resume how your ability to collaborate with coworkers has helped you design software to improve workflow. For a receptionist, displaying empathy to others would be a valuable soft skill.
10 examples of hard skills for a resume
Here are some examples of hard skills:
- Accounting or bookkeeping
- Data analysis
- Foreign language abilities
- Product design
- Project management
- Software proficiency
- Search engine optimization
- Typing skills
- Writing and editing
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.
Use skills and phrasing from the job description
Many companies scan resumes and cover letters for keywords they’ve used in their job postings. Some use an applicant tracking system, which is an electronic filter used to collect, sort and rank resumes in an effort to narrow applicant pools to the most qualified candidates. That’s why you need to write a resume with words and phrases that match the job listing, as long as you actually possess the skills you’re listing, of course.
If an employer is looking for a graphic designer, and “mastery in Adobe Creative Suite is required,” don’t just include “experience with software for creative professionals.” Likewise, if an employer is searching for an accountant with “experience processing daily invoices and credit,” use similar language in your resume, rather than “gathering receipts.”
Because every job description is different, tailor the skills and keywords on your resume and cover letter for each position to give yourself the best chance at landing an interview.
Discover skills the company values
In addition to using the job description as a guide, it’s useful to have an idea of the type of person the employer typically hires. How do you find that out? Research, research, research. If you know someone who works at the company or has in the past, reach out to ask what the employer considers important in its workers. Follow the company’s social media feeds and visit the company website. Reading the “About us” page is typically a good place to begin.
For instance, IBM lists its “values at work” online:
- 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 might consider soft skills you possess that fit — attentive, detail-oriented, enterprising and loyal, perhaps? — 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 spotlight skills that speak to your leadership, drive and diligence as well as your confidence and ability to collaborate.
Bottom line: Pay close attention to the type of candidate employers seek and then emphasize your most pertinent strengths.
Create a skills section on your resume
The general layout and formatting principles when you write a resume include:
- Keep it to one page in length (three pages maximum for senior positions).
- Write clear section headings.
- Use an easy-to-read font.
- Include sections for contact information, summary, professional title, work experience, skills and education.
If you’re applying for a position that requires specific technical skills, you can create a skills section near the top of your resume and above your professional experience. Another option is to add a side column, but the important thing is to make it the most visible, attention-grabbing part of your resume.
Soft skills can also be highlighted in a skills section, or even combined with technical skills in a more general “key skills” or “areas of expertise” section. If these skills are relevant to the job, make sure they are prominent on your resume. But also sprinkle your work-related skills wherever you can.
Highlight skills throughout your resume
Write about your abilities in the main “work experience” or “experience” section of your resume, too. Show, don’t tell. Rather than saying simply that you’re a good communicator, give concrete details.
Here are some explanations of common skills that applicants put on a resume and examples of how to present them:
Communication. Focus on your verbal and written communication skills, or your sharp active listening abilities. Play up your track record of strong communication with your colleagues, manager, clients and customers, and offer tangible examples:
“Wrote a monthly email newsletter to customers that increased leads by 35 per cent.”
Multitasking. Handling several tasks simultaneously is the status quo for many employees today. Note on your resume the types of tasks and situations you've handled regularly — and how you did so calmly and efficiently.
“Juggled multiple projects and project deadlines, and served as the liaison between clients and colleagues, gathering and implementing feedback from both parties for projects with tight turnaround times."
Leadership skills. Whether you’re managing a team or positively influencing colleagues, employers often seek leadership skills in potential hires.
“Led a 10-person team from different areas of the firm that worked together to succeed in reducing operating expenses by 15 per cent.”
Prioritizing. Employees are often tasked with tackling multiple projects at once, and many requests come in on the fly, which requires you to operate with grace under fire. Detail how you prioritize your projects and requests. The last thing an employer wants is an easily flustered employee.
“Smoothly and calmly prioritized multiple web design projects for a team of 20 people in a fast-paced environment.”
Initiative and problem-solving abilities. Prove how essential you've been to past managers by spotlighting examples of ways you took the initiative to solve problems and take on special projects. Or perhaps you excel at looking at complicated business issues and bringing creative solutions to the table.
“Implemented new consolidation procedures for monthly and quarterly close, reducing closing time by 30 per cent.”
Dependability. It doesn't matter what the job is, hiring managers want people on their team who do what they say they're going to do. Dependability can be particularly important if you're working with outside clients. Missing a deadline can mean lost business and a damaged reputation.
“Completed projects on time or before the deadline, and always followed through on work commitments, leading to greater work responsibilities and an eventual promotion.”
Technical skills. As mentioned above, play up your technical knowledge specific to the job, whether you’re an administrative assistant or UX designer:
“Developed personas and usage scenarios for a variety of clients in fields including finance, entertainment and law.”
Depending on the position being sought, candidates will obviously have different skills to feature, as the following examples show for customer service, accounting, marketing and web development jobs.
Important skills on your resume for customer service jobs
When customers have issues or concerns about a company, they often turn first to customer service departments to provide service or solve problems. Dealing with the public in these roles often requires skills in these areas:
- Data entry
- Attentive listening
- Troubleshooting and research
- Speed and efficiency
- Positive attitude
Search customer service jobs to see job descriptions for various roles in customer service, from representatives to managers.
Skills to highlight for accounting jobs
Accountants are expected not just to crunch numbers, but also to make data-driven conclusions and communicate them to people outside of their departments. They should have aptitudes in these areas:
- Software, such as Microsoft Excel
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Business and leadership
- Verbal and written communication
- Data analytics
- Revenue recognition
- Risk and compliance
- Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
Send us your resume for roles in accounting, from clerks to accountants to controllers.
Marketing jobs and desired skills
A resume for a marketing role should show stellar communication skills and various levels of experience with the hard and soft skills related to the position, such as these:
- Content creation
- Market research
- Analytics and search engine optimization
- Critical thinking
- Creative mindset
- Project management
- Digital tools and platforms, such as content management systems
- Social media channels
Job hunting for marketing positions? Check out our available marketing jobs now!
What’s important for web developer jobs
The tech requirements for aspiring web developers might be specific enough to require experience with ASP.NET, CSS, MySQL, MS Access. But it’s often the softer side that will help them stand out. Here’s a mix of what they need in terms of experience and expertise:
- Operating systems
- Applications and databases
- Programming and design
- Search engine optimization
- Web content management
- Project management
Search our open web developer jobs!
Have you compiled the skills on your resume? Before you submit your final version, check over these do’s and don’ts:
DON’T exaggerate or lie about your skills
Whether you include a certification that you don’t have, a college accolade you never earned, an employment history that didn’t last as long as you said it did or an inflated job title, making false claims or stretching the truth isn’t worth the risk.
Most companies conduct background checks and call references. In today’s digital world, the truth about your background is bound to surface, so keep your resume clean.
DO spell it out with numbers and facts
You don’t have to work in finance or manage a budget to make a few points using numbers in your resume. No matter what position you’re applying for, you can quantify your value rather than being ambiguous.
Did you successfully implement several projects in a short time? Did you reduce expenses for your company, increase sales, or reach target markets? Were you responsible for the performance of team members? Did you respond to customer inquiries or process orders? All of those accomplishments involve numbers that should be used.
DON’T clutter your resume with clichés
Certain resume words and phrases have become so ubiquitous they do little more than lead employers to yawn and roll their eyes. Hiring managers are so used to hearing from “gurus” who think “outside-the-box” that those hollow descriptions are now essentially meaningless.
Here are some power words and action verbs to use instead:
DO proofread your resume
Don’t email your resume until you’ve gone 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 a second time. Review a printed copy. Sometimes it’s easier to catch errors on paper than on a computer screen.
Check for wordiness (owing to the fact that is not even close to being as good as because), inconsistent tense (past then present then past again) and personal pronouns (I, you, me, our, us).
Taking the time to create a unique, targeted resume for each job opportunity that showcases both your hard and soft skills takes some time, but it’s worth the effort. You’ll have a much better chance at making it through applicant tracking software. In addition, you’ll be well-prepared when you get called to interview. The process of truly thinking about what skills you have that best apply to the opportunity will help you make a stronger case for yourself in the job interview.
It’s time to put your skills to work for you!