The resume skills section is always a challenging one. List qualifications that the employer doesn’t care about and you are wasting your time and loosing valuable resume real estate. Fail to add skills because they are ‘soft’ and you could be missing what the employer is looking for in a candidate. The worst offence though is neglecting to tweak the resume skills section so the information included matches the skills cited in the job description.
Though if you get it right, you’ll have an awesome resume skills section that gets straight to the point, says all the right things and doesn’t bore the reader with unnecessary information.
When Not to List Qualifications
If you are straight out of school, listing all your qualifications and grades can help to fill a resume lacking in work experience. However, if you have been out of school for a while, prospective employers are going to be far more interested in what work experience you have gained than in some state syllabus courses you took when you were young.
Because of this, you can condense down low-level qualifications (e.g. what you picked up in high school) from individual entries into single sentences, thereby saving you space for more information that perspective employers want to see. After all, no potential employer is going to care you have a low-level Art qualification when you are applying for a data entry role.
The possible exceptions to this are Maths, English and job relevant courses. Maths and English are possibly the one thing every job needs a basic level of competence in. And if you are applying for a science role, feel free to make reference to your early chemistry qualification as well. Or maybe your computer course if you are going for a technical role. Though if you are short on resume real estate and have higher level qualifications, you can skip the individual low-level stuff and jump straight to the big boys.
If you are lucky enough to have high level qualifications (degrees, doctorates, PhDs, etc), always list them even if they are not relevant to the job description. Regardless of subject, having any of these shows the employer you are capable of learning new things at a high-level.
Whereas hard skills are easily defined and measures specific abilities, soft skills are less tangible. Some good examples of soft skills include: communication, teamwork, leadership, etiquette, problem solving and negotiation.
Because they are picked up rather than taught, many people don’t think they have value when it comes to putting them in their resume skills section. However, soft skills are often the very skills an employer is looking for, because hard skills can be easily taught to you on the job.
The great thing about soft skills is that you don’t need to have picked these skills up in the workplace. Soft skills can come from helping out at your local charity, participating in team sports, or even just interacting socially with others. They can be found in the most unlikely of activities, so sit down with a pen and paper and really think about what soft skills you may have acquired. This is especially important when it comes to tweaking your resume skills to fit the job description.
Tweaking Your Resume Skills to The Job Description
The resume skills and qualifications section is the most important thing to tweak to fit the job description. This is because it is a list of easily identifiable abilities that the reviewer can quickly tick off any against any skills criteria they have. So, if you need to submit your resume at short notice and only have time for a quick and dirty edit, prioritise this section.
Identify what skills you may need to tweak by taking your copy of the job description you are applying for and go through it with a highlighter pen marking all the required skills for the job. Now make sure your resume has these skills listed. Where necessary change the wording of existing skills to better fit the requirements of the job, but do so without compromising the fundamental meaning of the skill itself. And if you are missing a skill or two, this is where soft skills come in; think hard about what you might have picked up that fits the missing requirement.
If all else fails and you are still missing skills listed in the job description, try adding the skill: “Proven ability to quickly pickup and master new skills.”
Before you go…
Have you checked out the extra resume writing advice on these pages?