How to Feature and Format Key Skills on Your Resume

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A dedicated skills section on your resume can help convey your technical know-how, but there are a few other places where you can showcase your skill set.

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Including a skills section on your resume can be a fantastic opportunity to list the specific competencies you’ve developed in order to successfully do a job. Potential employers often look for job skills on your resume, which typically include a mix of technical skills (software and tools you know) and workplace skills (how you do your work and what type of team member you’d be). 

However, there are a few places on your resume where you can showcase your skill set, building on and bolstering what you share in your skills section. In this article, we’ll go over the important skills a recruiter or hiring manager likely wants to see on your resume, how to format a specific skills section, and other ways you can highlight your unique talents. 

Resume skills section and formatting 

You have a few different formatting options when it comes to your resume, but the two most common are chronological resume and functional resume. A chronological resume lists out your experience by year and role, usually starting with your most recent position and moving backward. A functional resume, on the other hand, focuses more on your overall skills rather than the defined roles you held.  

When it comes to a resume skills section, a functional resume might seem to make more sense because it provides you with the most space to discuss your distinctive skill set. Instead, thanks to the number of companies that now use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to parse resumes, it may be better to use a chronological resume so that the algorithm accurately reads the scope of your experience. In that case, there are additional ways you can weave your skills throughout a chronological resume, giving you more opportunities than a skills section alone to discuss your know-how. 

Learn more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume

3 ways to highlight skills on your resume

Let’s go over three places on your resume to highlight your skills and strengths: 

1. Dedicated skills section 

Use the skills section on your resume to discuss your technical skills and workplace skills. It helps to review a job description, noting the required and recommended skills, so you can list those first (as long as you really do know them). For example, if you have experience working in several different content management systems (CMS), but a job specifically uses one platform, list that platform first before detailing the others. 

Break up your skills section into bullet points that list out your various skills (the first example below) or group your skills by major job function (the second example below).  

Skills

  • Proficient in C++ and Python

  • Experience with Django, Laravel, and Meteor

  • Familiar with Javascript, Kubernetes, Docker

  • Knowledge of network security protocols

  • Problem solving, teamwork, attention to detail

Key skills 

  • Programming: Python, Java

  • Frameworks: Django, Meteor, Laravel 

  • Servers: NGINX and Apache

2. Resume summary or resume objective

Not every resume needs a summary or objective, but they can be useful sections to include when you’re just beginning your career or when you’re looking to pivot to something new. In either case, use that space to mention your workplace and interpersonal skills, including the attributes you think most align with a job description. In the resume summary below, the bolded words are key skills that can suggest your readiness to start a new role. 

Summary: Motivated and discerning brand manager with seven years of leadership experience using data to drive actionable, empathetic insights that lead to higher consumer awareness and engagement.

3. Previous experience 

When you build a chronological resume, each of your previous roles is a space to talk about your experience using action words that can also call attention to your transferable and technical skills. With each bullet point that discusses what you did (and, ideally, the results you achieved), you can reference your wider skill set, augmenting what you share in a skills section. 

Below, you’ll see transferable skills in bold. As you catalog your previous responsibilities, choose words that will help potential employers get a clearer sense of your overall skills. 

Pharmacy technician, XYZ Pharmacy (May 2019—present) 

  • Managed new and refill prescriptions for over 300 patients, regularly reviewing and organizing medical histories   

  • Processed patient insurance, resolving conflicts as needed and ensuring quality customer service experience 

  • Proactively cleaned pharmacy, contributing to the department’s overall order and organization 

3 tips for creating a strong skills section on your resume

There are certain ways you can strengthen the dedicated skills section you include on your resume. Start with the list below. 

Know what you’re working with. 

You may not always list every single skill you have on your resume—in fact, doing so may create a more unfocused document— but you should know the skills you have to offer. In that case, it can help to list everything in one place. Reflect on your technical skills, workplace skills, interpersonal skills, and transferable skills, creating a large “master list” you can work from as you tailor your resume. 

Tailor your skills for each job. 

Your resume should be a focused document that details your ability to do a job. With that in mind, review each job description and align your skills with the necessary skills a company wants top candidates to have. For example, if a job description mentions “attention to detail,” find a way to spotlight that skill as you discuss your personal experience. 

Cut less relevant skills. 

A resume is a finite amount of space. A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume to one page if you have less than ten years of experience and expand it once you have acquired ten years or more. It’s important to be discerning in the skills you need to feature so that you’re including the best ones for each application. As you tailor your resume for each job, cut skills that either aren’t as critical or which aren’t related to the work you’ll be doing. 

Learn more: How Far Back Should Your Resume Go?

Example of a resume skills section

Whether you format your skills using bullet points or categories, your skills section should either appear near the top of your resume or near the bottom. Although there’s no strict rule, it can help to keep it close to your education section and use those sections to supplement your professional experience. Look at the example below for guidance. 

Sample student resume for a high school student applying for a first job.

Explore further

Interested in bolstering your resume? Gain fresh insight with the State University of New York’s project-centered course How to Write a Resume. You can also strengthen your resume with a Professional Certificate from Google, IBM, or Meta, which is designed to help you develop job-ready skills in areas like UX design, data science, project management, marketing analytics, and sales

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