Some companies receive thousands of applications for coveted positions, making writing an effective resume a critical step in any job search. The only way you will be granted an interview when there is a lot of competition is to make your application stand out from the masses. To do so, you must include your skills on your resume.
But how do you know what skills to include? What skills do employers seek the most in a candidate?
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In this article, you will learn:
- The difference between hard skills and soft skills
- 25 in-demand skills employers are looking for
- How to identify your best skills
- How to identify the skills employers want
- Why listing the right skills for a resume is important
- How to best list your relevant skills on a resume
Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
There are two types of in-demand skills to focus on when building your resume – hard skills and soft skills. The first type of skills employees look for in all candidates are soft skills. Soft skills, also known as professional or personal skills, include your interpersonal skills such as critical thinking and flexibility.
Hard skills, which are also known as technical skills, are more tangible. These include skills that require specialized training, talent or study, like speaking a foreign language, computer coding or artistic ability. These are important to include on your resume as you never know when an employer might think having someone on their staff who can speak Portuguese or fly a private plane would be valuable.
Whereas soft skills are typically intangible and required for most jobs, hard resume skills are concrete and are specific to certain job positions or industries.
The 25 Best Skills to List on Your Resume
While there are a plethora of resume skills, here are the 25 best skills to include on your resume.
1. Active Listening Skills
Active listening essentially means that you pay attention so that you understand what others are saying. It requires focusing on the person speaking, keeping an open mind, waiting until they have finished before you respond and asking questions for clarification.
2. Administrative Experience
Many positions that do not necessarily fall under the specific title of “administrator” often require administrative skills and experience. The administrative skill set involves various soft skills that show your attention to detail, such as organizing, planning, time management, and managing personnel or projects.
3. Analytical Skills
Employers want workers who can investigate a problem and consider different solutions. The level of analytical skills can vary widely depending on the sector and position. For example, analyzing computer data requires a somewhat different skill set than figuring out why employee productivity has fallen.
4. Attention to Detail
Similar to being organized, attention to detail shows employers you can properly follow instructions. The easiest way to demonstrate this skill when job searching is to carefully follow the directions provided in the job posting. You can also mention an instance when and how you caught an error in your cover letter or during the job interview.
5. Communication Skills
Employers see candidates who possess strong written and verbal communication skills as valuable additions to their teams, as every job demands communicating with others. This is because people who can communicate tend to get along well with others in various situations. It also helps to prevent issues like miscommunication or arguments from happening.
Public speaking is another skill related to communication that employers often look for. These skills are useful for various roles that involve giving presentations, such as teaching, sales, broadcasting, and legal positions.
6. Computer Skills
There are far more positions that require using a computer than do not. This can be anything from word processing and spreadsheets to being an expert with a specific software program, like an architectural program or scheduling system.
Along the same lines, web development and information technology skills are also in high demand across most industries. If you have these job skills or experience in this area, be sure to include them on your resume, even if you aren’t applying for a technology-specific role.
7. Creativity and Innovation Skills
Creativity is one of the many skills employers love. You can demonstrate your creative skills in numerous ways, from coming up with new ideas, making connections and solving problems. Like critical thinking, being able to come up with innovative solutions further shows your problem-solving ability. This can be illustrated on your resume by highlighting a creative solution you came up with to an unusual problem.
8. Critical Thinking and Decision-Making Skills
Every employer wants to hire employees who can think clearly and rationally. Employers see critical thinking skills as an indispensable skill that allows employees to figure out the best steps to take when working on projects or assisting customers.
9. Customer Service Skills
Many jobs involve working with customers, clients or patients, making good customer service one of the most common top skills employers seek. Whether you communicate with clients in person or online, you need to understand what your customers want, acknowledge their feelings and assist them by providing a service or finding a solution.
10. Data Analysis
The business world is becoming more digital every day, making data analysis an extremely valuable skill to have on your resume. Many large and small organizations are looking for people who can analyze and extrapolate information from raw data, such as website visitor traffic and sales conversion rates.
Because people are highly visual creatures, having good design skills make you a valuable commodity. Design skills range from graphic and web design to advertising to creating presentations for internal and external stakeholders.
12. Emotional Intelligence and Maturity
Maturity shows you have emotional intelligence and can productively handle your emotions, particularly during a difficult situation. This can also encompass helping others deal with their emotions in a productive manner.
13. Foreign Languages
Speaking multiple languages is a sought-after skill in many industries. Since most people in North America are monolingual, bilingual and multilingual candidates have a real advantage. They are needed for everything from translators to negotiating international business contracts and even government treaties.
14. Interpersonal Skills
Interpersonal skills involve how you communicate and forge relationships with other people. They incorporate your personality and how you have learned to deal with specific social situations. Every job involves working with others in some capacity. For a business to succeed, there needs to be open communication and collaboration between staff and management to exchange ideas and information and to ensure productivity and employee satisfaction.
15. Leadership and Management Skills
You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader. Between team projects, training new staff, facilitating discussions and stepping up when a problem needs to be solved, employees at every level can benefit from strong leadership skills.
Marketing is often thought of as the link between advertisement and sales. While advertising is about making a product or service desirable, marketing is figuring out the best way to promote it. Knowing how to promote products and services effectively is not an easy skill to master. As such, this is one of those hard skills that many employers are always looking to recruit. Even if you have never explicitly worked in marketing, having extensive experience in sales or advertising may get you consideration.
Various industries, such as finance, engineering, construction and healthcare, require people who possess strong math skills. If you have multiple math skills, list each separately or group similar skills together on your resume.
18. Negotiation and Persuasion Skills
Negotiation and persuasion skills are useful for everything from conflict resolution, making deals, settling contracts and advancing your career. Flexibility is an important aspect of successful negotiations. With a bit of give and take, all parties will ideally reach a solution that works for everyone. If you also have strong persuasion skills, you can get others to understand your perspective and, thus, support your ideas or suggestions.
19. Problem Solving
Every employer wants their employees to be able to deal with problems when they come up. Some positions are specifically designed to solve problems, such as tech support and customer service roles. Problem-solving is often considered a separate skill from being analytical. While some people may be very good at analyzing data and spotting a problem, not everyone can develop a creative solution.
20. Project Management
Project management skills show a prospective employer that you can take charge and complete assignments correctly and on time. Knowing how to use project management software is a bonus that you should also include in your resume.
Employers see organized prospects as productive employees. This skill is easy to show off your resume by making sure it is neat, well structured and properly formatted. You can also demonstrate this skill at a job interview by being on time, bringing extra copies of your resume and having a list of references ready.
Employers don’t want to hire someone who will need constant monitoring to ensure they are doing their job. They want someone responsible who is also willing to own up to their mistakes.
Most jobs require working in a team environment where you interact with other people. Working well and effectively communicating with team members is considered a must-have skill by most employers. They need to know their employees can work together and be part of a team that works toward achieving the goals and objectives of the company. Your ability to work as a team member shows your effectiveness at collaborating with others.
24. Time Management Skills
In a busy work environment, time management skills are critical. But good time management skills involve more than just being on time. Employers want their staff to know how to prioritize tasks, plan ahead, delegate or ask for help when needed, and use their time wisely to ensure the works gets done and that deadlines are met.
25. Writing Skills
As most people can only write at the 10th-grade level, having solid writing skills will make you a strong candidate for many positions. Even if the position does not call for writing skills specifically, this is a hard skill you should always include on your resume. Employers often become tired of reading reports and emails (not to mention resumes) filled with typos and simple grammatical errors.
How to Identify Your Best Skills
Some people find it challenging to look at their own skill set objectively. Even experienced workers aren’t sure what their strengths are or how to make their key skills stand out from the crowd. If you fall in this category, you can do a few things to hone in on the attributes you want to impress upon an employer.
1. Reflect on Your Career
Many job seekers do not take the time to really assess what skills they bring to the table. Begin by asking yourself what previous jobs you both enjoyed and excelled at. Think back to the job postings and job descriptions for your current and prior positions. What sort of things did you do? What skills were required?
The hard skills, like math or marketing, are the easiest to zero in on simply because they are the most obvious. Soft skills are typically more challenging for most candidates to identify because they are developed as part of our everyday lives, and people don’t like to talk or think about themselves in abstract ways. For example, some people with natural-born leadership abilities may have never officially been in charge of anything. However, this type of introspection is critical to identify your soft skills thoroughly.
Be as specific as possible when making a list. So instead of just writing down that you speak Spanish and French, be specific as to how long you have spoken the language and what level of fluency you have. List any degrees, certifications and training you have taken and tie those to your previous work experience.
2. Performance Evaluations
You can learn a lot by carefully going over previous performance evaluations. This is how your supervisors see your skills, and these typically focus on your soft-skill set. While you are obviously looking for strengths that you can include in your resume, take note of your weaknesses and think of ways to improve in these areas.
Seek feedback from past and present coworkers and supervisors and ask them what skills they think you have that make you a valuable employee. Be mindful of who you ask, though, as your coworkers that are also your friends may just tell you what you want to hear.
4. Evaluation Tests
Several free online personality tests can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. One popular test is the Myers-Briggs self-assessment that evaluates your personality traits such as emotional intelligence, values and interests.
5. Refine Your List of Skills
You probably have a lot of different skills. And while it may be tempting to include them all on your resume, doing so may actually cause more harm than good. A hiring manager doesn’t want to read a long list of skills. They want to know what your strongest attributes are, and they want to know them quickly. Including too many skills on your resume will only bury the relevant ones.
To determine what your best skills are, take your list and grade how proficient you are for each one, as well as how long you’ve had and used that skill. Skills that are new to you or used casually shouldn’t be on your resume. For example, there’s a big difference between using social media in your personal life to share updates and pictures vs. having 15 years of professional experience in social media marketing with a major company.
Identifying the Skills That Employers Are Looking For
Identifying the skills employers want is as easy as carefully reading through the job posting and job description. Most of the time, these will specifically mention what skills are required for the job. But sometimes, you have to read between the lines a little. For example, if the job ad mentions receptionist duties, employers want someone with customer service, interpersonal, time management and administrative skills.
Suppose you don’t have a specific job ad to tailor your resume to. In that case, you can narrow down the list of potential skills you should include by searching job postings from companies in the business sector you want to work in. While searching, note what soft and hard skills frequently appear in these postings and pinpoint where your skills overlap. If you keep coming across a skill that you don’t have, find a way to build that skill, such as taking an online course, doing some research or finding a mentor.
Why You Need to List the Right Skills on Your Resume
As mentioned, hiring managers don’t want to spend a long time reviewing your resume. In fact, most of them won’t spend more than a few seconds before deciding if they will move forward with your application or discard it altogether. For your resume to pass this glance test and pass any applicant tracking system (ATS) software, it needs to highlight your skills and include keywords. These keywords will consist of the relevant skills they are looking for in a candidate.
How to List Skills on Your Resume
Once you know what skills you have and what an employer is looking for, the last step is actually putting them on your resume. In general, you’ll want to follow these tips when listing your resume skills:
- Customize your resume for each position you apply for
- Place the skills you have from the job posting at or near the top of your resume
- Use the same vocabulary and wording from the job ad or job description
- Focus on transferable skills that are useful in multiple positions
- Group related skills together
- List your skills by relevance
- Create a separate resume skills section that highlights your top 5-10 skills
- Indicate your proficiency level (such as basic, intermediate or advanced)
- Include examples that demonstrate your skills, achievements and professional experience throughout the rest of your resume
- Be sure your references can verify the skills you include
While this is not an all-inclusive list of the must-have skills for a resume, these tips will help you impress potential employers and land you an interview instead of falling off the hiring radar.
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