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How to Effectively List Professional Skills on Your Resume

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This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
How to Write a Personal Brand Statement for Your Resume
How to List Your Education on a Resume (+Best Format Examples)

Bar tending, Writing, Python, Bookkeeping, Crocheting, what do these things have in common?

These are a list of skills, not all of which are worth listing in your resume.

What skills should you list in your resume skills sectionWhat skills should you list in your resume skills sectionWhat skills should you list in your resume skills section
What skills should you list in your resume skills section? (graphic source)

Employers call applicants for an interview only when their resume matches the specific professional skill set they need. Padding your resume with a list of skills, as impressive as it looks, won’t help your application if those skills aren’t related to the job. 

In this article, I explain the different types of professional skills that are relevant, and how to select which of those skills to include in your resume skills section. I also cover how to list skills on a resume so it stands out and fits the job your applying to best. 

Listing the right professional skills on your resume is important, let's begin by looking at why that is:

What Is a Resume Skills Section? Why Is It Important?

Having a section dedicated to an applicant’s skills makes it easy for recruiters to check qualifications quickly. For candidates, it’s another opportunity to add keywords and highlight their skills, in case the recruiter didn’t read through their professional history.

The resume skills section is often listed after the professional experience section, but some resume templates have the skill section at a separate column on the left or right-hand side of the document. 

Resume template with multiple skills sections from Envato Elements

Some candidates group their skills according to the main responsibilities of their job.

Using a template such as those available through Envato Elements and GraphicRiver makes your professional skills look more organized and easy to read for the recruiter. Above is an example of how to list programming skills on a resume (based on a template from Envato Elements), which clearly shows the applicant has more experience when it comes to programming (HTML5 and CSS3) compared to graphic design (Illustrator).

2 Major Types of Skills to Put on a Resume

There are different kinds of professional skills for your resume, but the two main types are hard skills and soft skills. 

1. Hard Skills to Put on a Resume

Hard skills are quantifiable and often learned from school or on the job. Operating machinery, programming languages, designing graphics, SEO, data analysis are all hard skills examples.

2. Soft Skills to Put on a Resume

Soft skills, also known as '"people skills" are subjective, that’s why it’s harder to quantify. For instance, an applicant’s definition of "good communication skills" might not match equal what an employer is looking for. Public speaking, communication, patience, decision making and conflict resolution are all soft skills.

Use Both Types of Skills on Your Resume

Both are important to include in the skills section of a professional resume. These types of professional skills can be categorized as transferable or job-specific. 

As the name implies, job-specific skills are required for a particular job, while transferable skills are relevant in different industries and roles. For example, an animator has 3D modeling, time management, and communication skills. 3D modeling won’t be useful after changing careers, but the remaining skills might be useful despite switching to a programming or sales job. 

Hard or Soft Skills: Which Is More Important in a Great Resume?

Logic suggests hard skills are more important. The answer isn’t so simple.

In a tough economy, applicants with hard skills are hired quicker because employers think they can do the job with little or no training.

In a niche or competitive market, applicants with sought-after skills are prioritized. This happened before when iOS apps were gaining popularity and companies scrambled to fight over limited talent supply. It’s happening again now that Facebook, Google, and other tech companies are fighting over candidates with machine learning expertise.

In industries where the supply of talent is plenty, employers prefer applicants with developed soft skills, arguing that soft skills aren’t easily learned.

“Don’t forget, employers don’t recruit on practical ability alone, they also consider cultural fit,” says Sarah Dowzell of Natural HR.

LinkedIn's 2019 analysis of all the 50,000 skills listed on their network shows that majority of employers prefer candidates with a combination of hard and soft skills, most desirable of which is creativity. 

Findings from the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs report also shows that "soft skills" like critical thinking, originality, collaboration, and originality are going to be demand the more we advance in technology. 

How to List Skills on Your Resume: 5 Quick and Easy Tips 

Let's narrow down how to list skills on a resume so that it makes its way through resume tracking software, stands out professionally, and catches the eye of potential employers. Here are quick resume skills section tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use Job-Specific Skills on Your Resume. Only write job-specific skills currently used and recognized in your job. Don’t bother including old programming languages and old machinery, as it makes you look out of touch with current trends.
  2. Limit Your List to Only Include Applicable Skills. A skill section’s goal is to convince an employer that you can do the job, not every task imaginable. Write only the professional skills relevant for the job. It would also be helpful if you include the levels of proficiency on the r
  3. Organize Your Skills into Categories. Divide skills into major categories related to the position. For example, a web developer’s skill set could be divided into programming languages, software, design, and soft skills. 
  4. Include Relevant Synonyms. Use synonyms and different phrases used for your skills. For instance, social media marketing also goes by SMM, and can sometimes refer to specific platforms, such as Facebook marketing, or Pinterest marketing.
  5. List Your Important Skills a Few Times. Recruiters also use skills as keywords for Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) searches, so it’s important your skills are listed a few times in your resume, such as in the professional summary and work experience. An ATS can count how frequently a keyword appears, and then rank the applications according to which resume contains the most keywords.

How to Customize a Resume Template With MS Word

Many of the resume templates on Envato Elements and GraphicRiver come with an editable PDF or MS Word File, so you don't need to use specialized graphic editing software to customize a resume template with your information. 

Here's a quick rundown of how to list skills on a resume using MS Word. 

Note: For this example, we've used a professionally-designed resume template from Envato Elements.

1. Select the Professional Skills You Want to Edit

Open the MS Word file of the template you purchased, and click the corresponding text box that you want to edit.

Select the skill you want to edit, then click on one of the circles beside it.

Let's say you want to edit the levels of proficiency on the resume for the skill HTML5. Just select one of the circles, right click on your mouse, then select Format Autoshape. 

You can easily edit the levels of proficiency in a list of professional skills.

2. Use Color to Show Levels of Proficiency on Resume

A new window will prompt you to change certain elements of the selected AutoShape. Just click Color, then pick the color similar to the already shaded circles on the template.

Color and proficiencyColor and proficiencyColor and proficiency
Color will help recruiters see which professional skills you're most proficient at.

The selection we made in this example indicates that you're more proficient in HTML5 compared to the other technical skills listed in your resume. You can see the results below:

professional skills on resumeprofessional skills on resumeprofessional skills on resume
In this professional skill example, the applicant is most proficient at HTML5.

Read this tutorial for more information on create a resume using MS Word:

How to Write Soft Skills on Your Resume

Show, don’t tell. That’s the important rule in making your soft skills believable for a recruiter. 

Use numbers, awards, and any other quantifiable metric to make the recruiter see your claims of being a good team player and communicator are real.

Let's look at a few helpful examples of how to list skills on resume:

1. Time Management and Teamwork

“Coordinated with 3 animators to successfully complete a 30-second video animation project before deadline.”

2. Initiative and Interpersonal Skills

“Organized different team building activities to improve morale after a company merger.”

3. Communication and Leadership Skills

“Managed a team of volunteers and sponsors to schedule activities, pack giveaways, and conduct a successful community outreach campaign.”

How to Write Hard Skills on Your Resume

Hard skills are often transferable and job specific skills that a recruiter would input in an ATS. Here’s an example of hard skills for an editor or copywriter:

Example of listing hard skills on your resumeExample of listing hard skills on your resumeExample of listing hard skills on your resume
From Wendi M. Weiner, Certified Executive Resume Writer and Career Coach at Writing Guru

1. Show Quantifiable Evidence of Your Skills

Taylor Dumouchel, Career Expert at Peak Sales Recruiting says,

“Top performers in the business and finance sectors understand exactly how their efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line, so a top resume should also include the metrics that quantify their efforts."

2. Remove Unnecessary Jargon From Your Resume

"The hard skills you write should be recognizable to the company or audience who will review your resume", says Kristen McAlister of Cerius Executives.

For example, a specific program you used at your old job might be unheard of to your new boss, so you should replace it with a generic name to describe what the application does instead. 

Customer service and phone sales agents, for example, use software specific to the company they work for. Instead of naming the sales software, it’s better to write lead management application or customer database application in your resume business skills.

3. Rate Your Hard Skills With a Clear Metric

Using numbers to rate your skills might sound good, but it doesn’t clearly convey your skill level.

On a 10-point scale with 10 being the highest, what's seven? To you, it might mean that you’re ‘proficient’ in that skill, but what if the recruiter thinks ‘proficient’ is more of an eight or nine?

Use an easily understood metric to show levels of proficiency on your resume:

  • Beginner. You can handle the basic features of the program, but you can’t do complicated tricks or troubleshoot problems yet.
  • Intermediate. You can also troubleshoot and do some fancy tricks. But you might need to Google some functions or ask in forums from time to time.
  • Proficient. You’re not yet an expert, but you can handle advanced functions and troubleshoot problems by examining things on your own. You don’t need a manual.
  • Expert. You know the program like the back of your hand. You know of obscure features, tricks, and weird problems, so much so that other people often come to you for help.

4. Order Hard Skills on Your Resume Logically

Let's look at how to list skills on a resume in the right order. 

Some jobs require more technical skills than others, like nursing, engineering, video animation, and programming. For jobs like this, it’s important that your skills are listed in a logical manner.

Here’s how to list programming skills on resume without making it look like a laundry list of jargon:

Option 1. List Your Skills In Order of Relevance

List the job-specific skills most relevant to your target job then move on to the secondary or routine skills expected. This layout makes it easy for recruiters to see that you've got the skills required on the job description.

Option 2. Categorize Them by Type of Skill

Hard skills can be categorized in different ways, depending on your job title. Below are hard skills examples for graphic designer, grouped according to the skill type:

  • Design Skills. Layouts, typography, drawing, sketching
  • Design Software. Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop
  • Additional Skills. Skills useful for designers, but not directly related to their current niche. For example, CSS and Web Development are good secondary skills for a print layout artist.

Option 3. Place Them In Order of Experience

List hard skills followed by the years of experience. Listing your professional skills in this fashion shows your career’s progression. 

Where to Place Skills on Your Resume

Have you noticed how some resume skills sections have the skills listed as a separate column on the right-hand side, while others list it below their professional summary?

There’s no such thing as right and wrong placement, it just depends on your goal. That said, the recruiters and resume experts I talked to have varying but equally logical opinions on this subject.

1. Place Skills after the Professional Summary

“Write your skills below the professional summary because the top one-third of the resume is the prime real estate. Since resumes are only read for five to seven seconds, you want your key skills to grab the employer’s attention early,” says Weiner.

2. Consider Whether or Not to Use Side Columns

Dr. Dawn D. Boyer of Dboyer Consulting advises against using templates with text blocks, double-line spacing, side columns, and other creative but problematic layouts.

She continues, “An ATS takes the text it finds and parses it over into data blocks for future searches. Resumes with text boxes, fancy graphics, tables, and weird columns may confuse the ATS system, which can lead it to mix up the text, or ignore it totally.”

According to her, it’s also the reason why putting your information only in the header or footer is a bad idea. ATS often can’t recognize text embedded in headers, so your contact details won’t be included on your application.

3. Place Your Skills Depending on Job Requirements

“If technical skills are required for the position, I list them after the professional summary then include soft skills in a separate section labeled ‘Areas of Strength’ below it”, says Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish of Feather Communications.

So the Order Is

  1. Professional Summary
  2. Technical Skills 
  3. Soft Skills.

For professional jobs where the hard skills are standard and often transferable to a lot of positions, Dr. Rothbauer-Wanish lists them at the bottom of the resume. Some of these hard skills examples include sales and online research.

Not sure how to structure your resume? Check out this guide.

You can also find sleek and simple resume templates here:

Here's an example of a simple resume design:

Clean Resume Template from EnvatoClean Resume Template from EnvatoClean Resume Template from Envato
Clean Resume template from Envato

6 Lists of Skills to Put on a Resume (Organized by Type and Job Function)

Here are lists of professional skills for resumes, which you can use to write your resume skills section with—from business skills to technical skills to include on your resume: 

1. General Soft Skills

Below are some soft professional skills for your resume:

  • written and verbal communication
  • teamwork
  • openness to feedback
  • initiative
  • meeting deadlines
  • problem solving
  • public speaking
  • time management

2. Management Soft Skills

Must-have professional skills for resume of anyone interested in a management role: 

  • team management
  • mentoring
  • writing reports and proposals
  • coordinating cross-functional events

3. Hard Skills: Design

Here are some professional skills examples for design professionals:

  • Photoshop
  • 3D Modeling
  • print layout
  • typography
  • Maya

4. Resume Technical Skills: Programming

Below are different hard skills examples for IT and Programming professionals:

  • programming languages: C++, Python, Perl, Ruby
  • operating systems: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows 8, Ubuntu
  • data analysis
  • iOS app development
  • troubleshooting
  • penetration testing
  • Android development
  • process improvement
  • technical documentation
  • network and information security
  • software Q&A user yesting

5. Hard Skills: Online Marketing

  • Facebook marketing
  • video marketing
  • link building
  • Google analytics
  • majestic SEO
  • content writing
  • email Marketing
  • search engine optimization (SEO)
  • influencer marketing

6. Business Skills for a Resume

Different types of professional skills you may want to include in your resume:

  • accounting
  • bookkeeping
  • project management
  • MS Excel
  • shorthand
  • SQL
  • human resources
  • talent management
  • technical recruiting

7. In-Demand Hard Skills for 2019

Below are some of the most in-demand hard skills for 2019, according to data from LinkedIn:

  • cloud computing
  • artificial intelligence
  • people management
  • translation
  • analytical reasoning
  • UX design
  • mobile application development
  • sales leadership
  • video production
  • natural language processing

Show Off What You Can Do…But Not Everything

Conserve space on your resume and write only the skills related to the job opening you're applying to. Remember, every skill you include in your resume skills section comes with an opportunity-cost for that space—and attention span of the hiring manager. Use an organized resume template that'll showcase your skills without making your resume look cluttered. 

Now that you know how to list skills on a resume for best results, and what technical and soft skills are important to include, you're ready to take action. Why not download a professional resume template to show off your professional skills today?

Editorial Note: This post was originally published in 2017. It has been comprehensively revised to make it up to date by our staff—with special assistance from Charley Mendoza.

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