A big part of building a successful job application is effectively using your resume to highlight your skills. Learn more about what skills to include (and how to include them) to make the most impact.
When you're preparing a job application, your resume should feature the technical skills, workplace skills, interpersonal skills, and transferable skills that you've developed throughout your career. However, as you apply for jobs, it's a good idea to tailor your application and highlight, where possible, the skills listed in the job description.
In this article, we'll go over the top skills you should put on your general resume and how to tailor that resume for every job application.
There are four main types of skills that you should integrate into your resume: technical, workplace, interpersonal, and transferable. At times, these can overlap. You'll notice that active listening can be an interpersonal skill and a transferable skill.
Let's review each one in more detail.
Technical skills: Specialized knowledge used to complete tasks specific to a role, such as using a content management system (CMS) or conducting data analysis.
Workplace skills: The behaviors you use to complete your work, such as critical thinking and empathy.
Transferable skills: The skills you take from job to job, no matter the type of work you do. These overlap with workplace skills at times and tend to include skills like teamwork, problem-solving, and attention to detail.
Depending on how long you've been working, you may also want to highlight:
Management skills: The ability to lead others and produce cohesive, unified work. These can include delegation, project management, and communication.
Take time to sit down and reflect on each role you've had. What technical skills did you need to perform your work? What workplace or interpersonal skills did you develop to be successful as a team member and employee? If you need help creating this list, search for job descriptions that match the roles you've held for inspiration.
Getting clear about your skills—your strengths—will help you as you set about adding these skills to your resume.
Here are some technical skills that can be useful to feature:
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
Here are some transferable skills that can be helpful to have on a resume:
Attention to detail
Wondering about in-demand skills? The following were noted as being highly sought-after in the global workplace by the Coursera Global Skills Report published in 2021:
Because of applicant tracking systems (ATS), which often scan resumes before they make it to a recruiter for further review, it's a good idea to make sure your resume aligns as much as possible with the language used in the job description. That's because ATS algorithms are set to filter applicants based on how closely they appear to fit the job description.
In that case, you will want to feature the various skills you've listed out when they closely align with the job description. And you will want to include other skills that strengthen your application by showing your work ethic, impact, or other successes.
The job description should be your main guide when it comes to deciding what skills to include. Start by finding a job description you're interested in. Note the key desired skills and qualities: These can be part of a lengthier paragraph describing the role or bullet points that synthesize the ideal candidate.
These are the skills you should aim to highlight in your job application.
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 a resume action word 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, such as "technical" and "workplace."
Objective: A resume objective tells recruiters what you hope to achieve in your next role. It's a great way to detail what you've already done and your long-term career goals. And it's also an idea spot to slip in a few skills, such as "problem-solver" or "empathetic."
Summary: A resume summary explains who you are and what you've done without thinking too specifically about your career goals. It can be a great use of resume space when you're just getting started or you need to synthesize a less straightforward career path. In that case, pick the top skills you want to draw attention to.
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.
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