A big part of building a successful job application is effectively highlighting your skills. Learn more about what skills to include (and how to include them) to make the most impact.
The skills you put on a job application or resume should depend on what the job is seeking and what you have to offer. Start by looking at the job description to see what kinds of skills and qualities are desirable, and incorporate these in your resume and cover letter. Consider including transferable skills like leadership, research, or critical thinking.
Here’s a closer look at how to decide what skills to include in your resume, and examples of skills you can include.
The job description should be your main guide in deciding which skills to include. Start by finding one or several job descriptions of positions you’re interested in. Note the key desired skills and qualities, especially if they appear in more than one listing. These are the skills you should aim to highlight in your job application.
Ideally, you should tailor each job application to complement each job you’re applying to. This doesn’t mean you need to start a new resume from scratch for every job. But try to adjust your wording to include qualifications a hiring manager is looking for, or highlight certain aspects of previous experiences that mirror the job description.
Transferable skills are sought-after skills that can translate across different sectors and life experiences. Many of these are workplace or “soft” skills, but there are many technical (“hard”) skills that are in demand across sectors too, such as research or management methodologies. Making a list of these skills can help you see where your strengths are, and clarify what skills overlap with the job description.
Here are some transferable skills that can be helpful to have on a resume:
Attention to detail
We often forget that as we navigate our day-to-day lives, we often use many skills that can translate to the workplace. If you’re feeling stuck, start by making a list of your personal strengths or proud moments, professional or otherwise. You should start to get a sense of the qualities and job skills you can bring to a new position. Read more about job skills and how you can incorporate them into your resume.
Technical are the practical skills you need to do the tasks that are required of you. Each job sector will have its own set of technical skills that are required or useful. Take a moment to list your technical capabilities, including tools you know how to use. These might include:
Writing and editing
Microsoft Office tools like Excel, Teams, and PowerPoint
Building and engineering skills like carpentry, plumbing, roofing, or surveying
Design tools like Figma, Sketch, or Adobe Photoshop
Computer programming languages like Python, HTML, C++
Data analysis tools like SQL, STATA, or R
Budgeting and budget analysis
Management and management methodologies like Agile
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
Wondering what’s in-demand in the job market? The following skills were noted as being highly sought-after in the global workplace by the Coursera Global Skills Report published in 2021:
If it makes sense to do so for the job you’re applying to, incorporate these skills into your resume.
Once you have a set of skills you feel can work well in your job application, start including them in your resume. You can do this by including them in your past experiences section, the skills section, or the summary.
Past experiences section: Draw attention to key skills by including them in your past experiences. Start each experience section with an action verb such as “organize,” “manage,” or “analyze” to showcase your abilities.
Skills section: A skills section is generally a list of skills relevant to the job. You can choose to include your ability level in each skill, or organize them by category.
Summary: If you’re including a summary in your resume, pick the top skills you want to draw attention to. You’ll want to make sure that your skills are aligned with job requirements.
Read more: How to write a summary for your resume.
By taking the time to think about what your personal and professional strengths are and comparing them to what a job requires, you can clarify the skills you’ll want to highlight in a job application. Check out our Job Search Guide for even more resources, or enroll for free in Writing Winning Resumes and Cover Letters from the University of Maryland.
How can you bring your resume to the top of the pile? How can you present yourself to prospective employers using the language they already speak inside ...
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