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Your résumé is your chance to make an impression on a potential employer. And seeing as how the average amount of time a recruiter spends looking at a résumé is 6 (!!!) seconds, you had better be able to do that pretty fast. The ability to showcase the skills that qualify you for the position in question is just as important as having those skills in the first place. Because what good are they if nobody knows about them?
Room on a résumé is limited, too, meaning you really need to put some thought into what’s worth including. What’s relevant. Because when it comes to résumés, relevance is key. It’s your skills suited to the position in question that will get the recruiter’s attention and get you an interview.
So how can you do your Key Skills section right? In this guide, you will find out:
Are you ready to take your résumé game to the next level?
Then let’s get started!
Table of contents
After the Professional Experience section of your résumé, the Key Skills section is the next most important one. Oftentimes, it is your skillset that gets you invited in for an interview, not, say, your education — it’s great that you have a degree, but theoretical knowledge is often not enough to get a job done.
You might be wondering if your Key Skills really need their own section, and the answer is usually: YES.
This section gets scanned for keywords to figure out if you are worth interviewing, so putting all your skills in one place makes your suitability for a job immediately apparent.
There are some skills that will be useful to you everywhere you go that you should make sure every potential employer knows about. Also called transferable skills, they can include things like:
Remember: these are skills you can add even if they are not specifically listed in the job offer. Just make sure you keep things short and sweet to save room for the specifics.
Now, on to said specifics.
You have probably heard these terms many times before but may not be quite sure what they mean. These are not just buzzwords though — both soft and hard skills are highly valued in today’s workplace. So what are they exactly?
Generally speaking, soft skills are your abilities to work with others — teamwork would be virtually impossible without them. Depending on your personality, some or even many soft skills may come pretty naturally to you. Soft skills include things such as:
Given this list, it’s easy to see why employers value soft skills — teamwork is essential to the functioning of most modern companies.
Sometimes the members of an international team are separated by time zones and language and cultural barriers, making the need for the skills listed above that much greater.
Hard skills are skills you learn, not ones you are born with. They are the knowledge/expertise necessary to perform a specific task or set of tasks, and can be easily defined and assessed.
Usually, you have some sort of certificate or license proving your proficiency and allowing you to do a certain job. Hard skills include but are not limited to:
As you can probably guess, hard skills connected with technology have been in especially high demand over the past few years.
But if you don’t happen to be very good at using a computer, don’t worry! There are plenty of courses that will teach you, and give you a certificate at the end to prove you know your stuff.
Put them on the first page!
Burying the Key Skills section on page 2 might mean it never gets seen at all. Putting it on page 1 will catch the recruiter’s eye and give them a lot of useful information about you in one neat little package.
Take a look at the sample résumé below to see what I mean:
Customize them to suit the job offer. I am going to say it again: relevance. Because remember: Key Skills are called key for a reason.
If you have worked a variety of jobs in different fields, you don’t need to mention every skill you acquired in all of them — unless, of course, they are transferable/universal skills we talked about before.
So think about what skills you have that match this particular position and list those (as long as you have them).
Hint: the job offer itself tells you what skills the company is looking for, so use that as your guide.
Pay attention to phrasing.
This one is a little similar to the customization one I mentioned above. Your résumé should showcase why you are perfect for a certain job, meaning the language you use should reflect the language used in the job offer.
If the job offer lists “Facebook Ads” skills, don’t write “Advertising on Facebook” in your Key Skills section. This is mainly because the keyword detection software that might be used to scan your résumé could miss this and effectively deem you unqualified.
As we agreed before, having theoretical knowledge is one thing, but actually using it in practice is something quite different. You don’t need a doctorate to be employable!
And that’s why we’re going to take a look at some résumé skills so you can see how you should list yours…and how you shouldn’t.
Say you are applying for a position in sales. The Key Skills section of your résumé might look something like this:
Key Skills: → Active listening skills → Sensitivity to customer needs → Enthusiasm → Sociability → Persuasion skills → Ability to create informative, eye-catching presentations → Effective use of CRM tools → Detailed product knowledge → Well-versed in social media use → Brand management → Good e-mail and telephone etiquette
Or, say you are applying for the position of elementary school teacher. Your Key Skills section might look like this:
Key Skills: → Can plan informative and engaging lessons → Patience → Enthusiasm → Can create a secure environment and build self-esteem → Ability to communicate with both children and their parents → Highly adaptable → Technological literacy, well-versed in educational software → Detailed curriculum knowledge
On the other hand, avoid writing mini-essays like this:Bad example
I am really good with computers and technology in general and I am a total whiz at MS Office. I am also very sociable and love talking to people. All of my co-workers past and present see me as their go-to person when a job needs to get done because I am a real go-getter and a hard worker and I can really think outside the box. I am results-driven and goal-oriented, and once I set my mind on something there’s nothing that can stop me.
This rambling paragraph tells us almost nothing of substance — all it has are vague buzzwords whose meanings are a mystery to pretty much everyone. Results-driven? Pray tell us, what results have you achieved exactly? Taking 100 words to say nothing is way worse than just saying nothing at all.
The text above is also chock-full of clichés that make it sound much more like a commercial for a used car dealership than anything a recruiter could take seriously.
Not to mention résumé software, which would not be able to glean any information on the candidate from this mess of a Key Skills section.
And if you’re feeling a little stumped, don’t worry about it. Warm up by making a list of
and then decide which would be useful to mention when applying for a specific job.
So, are you ready to write your own Key Skills section now? Take a last quick look at this short list of do’s and don’ts to make sure you get it right.
Whew! That was a pretty long read, but I think we can agree it was worth making it to the end. Because now you have a new skill: listing your Key Skills on your résumé! See what I did there? 😃
If you have any more questions on how to make your résumé shine, check out my other article: How to Write a résumé.
See you next time!