Employers are looking for specific skills, so your resume needs to address this. But what’s the best way to do so? Is better to list them, or sprinkle them throughout? Are there generic skills all resumes should include? What skills should you include?

When we think about resume skills, the classic place in which to showcase them is a specific ‘skills’ section. This is usually located below the ‘professional experience’ section in a single column format, though more modern, creative formats will list this section as a smaller secondary column somewhere on the first page.

The reason for this is to keep key skills easily skim-able for recruiters and hiring managers to spot at a glance.

But while bullet-points are easy and quick to read, it’s not the only way in which to demonstrate desired skills. There’s no hard-and-fast rule; it largely depends on what you want to highlight in your own resume, as well as what’s accepted by your industry.

Hard vs. soft skills

When it comes to which specific skills you should include, the answer is: it depends.

In the modern workplace, it’s no longer enough to have only technical skills on your resume. You need to have a mix of those technical skills, also called hard skills, and soft skills.

According to LinkedIn, hard skills concern an employee’s ability to do a specific task, but the way in which they do them are more dependent on their soft skills: whether they like to work in teams, for example, or how they go about solving problems and making decisions.

Some soft skills are helpful to most, if not all, jobs: think emotional intelligence, adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to problem solve.

But others are much more specific: the ability to teach, for example, or public speaking skills.

How to find relevant resume skills in job descriptions

So how do you identify what skills you need to include in your own job application?

Hard skills are usually listed explicitly in the job description: for example, being familiar with accounting software, the ability to understand and perform data analysis, and understanding accepted accounting principles are all technical skills that are likely to be included in a job description for an ad for an accountant.

Soft skills are also increasingly listed in job ads. This is likely because companies are increasingly hiring for soft skills rather than hard skills, many of which can be taught on the job.

However, in cases where they are not, there are several ways you can develop your own list of soft skills the role is likely to require.

  1. Consider the company culture: what are their values? What is their mission statement? Often these will hold clues as to the kinds of soft skills the organisation values.
  2. Examine your past experiences in similar roles. What soft skills were important?
  3. Talk to people in similar roles.

How to identify your best skills

Once you know what skills the job requires, you need to consider if your own skills make you a good match for the role.

You likely already have a good idea of your technical skills: consider your education and any certifications or qualifications, as well as any other languages you can speak, training you’ve completed, software you’re familiar with, machinery you can use, and industry or role-specific knowledge you’ve picked up on the job.

It can be a little more difficult to identify your soft skills.

  • It may help to talk to people that know you well or that have worked with you in the past: colleagues and managers are likely to have the most relevant insight into the professional skills you should include on your resume, but your friends and family are also a good source of information.
  • Consider any awards, achievements or accolades you’ve won at work. What soft skills did you need to win them? These are likely among your strongest attributes.
  • Look over old job descriptions and any old work diaries.
  • Talk to a mentor or coach, who may be able to complete an independent assessment of your soft skills.

What not to do when listing your skills on your resume

It should go without saying, but lying or exaggerating the skills you list on your resume is never a good idea.

Not only are hiring managers likely to ask for proof (if you haven’t already demonstrated them in your CV), but should you be hired for the position, you may find yourself in a job that isn’t well suited to you.

Just as damaging for your application is a list of unrelated skills. This can give the impression of an applicant who didn’t read the job description clearly, and is likely to be discarded.

How to include resume skills in your CV

An additional specific skills section within your resume is an easy way for recruiters to see if you fit the profile of their desired applicant.

But the skills you want to list should also be included throughout your entire resume: the most important ones – the ones the employer is most likely to want in their ideal candidate – should be included in your career objectives, and reinforced throughout your resume by using synonyms, specific examples, and by including quantifiable examples and/or achievements that utilised these skills.

For example: if you’re applying for a role in human resources, you may want to mention that you are familiar with Australian labour law. This could be stated outright in the resume objective, included in the professional experience section by referencing work that you completed that requires a thorough understanding of labour legislation, and reinforced again by your qualifications: perhaps you have a degree in human resources, or are a member of the Australian Human Resources Institute.

Once you’ve finished writing your skills into your resume, learn what resume template works best.