The best resume immediately answers a hiring manager’s most pressing question: “Does this person have the necessary skills?”
You don’t have much time to answer this question, either. Recruiters scan a resume in just seven seconds to form a first impression and decide whether they’ll offer an interview.
You must understand the key skills for each job application and express your proficiency quickly to get ahead. We’ll discuss how to choose skills for a resume and add them effectively.
What is a skill?
A skill is a knowledge, ability, or competency to perform specific tasks or respond to challenges. Each skill is either technical or interpersonal.
Technical skills refer to our ability to perform knowledge-based tasks, like proficiency with a graphic design program.
Learning new skills relevant to your job or reskilling to start a new career is crucial preparation. Every industry and job role requires proficiency in a wide range of job skills, so it’s critical to know the most relevant ones for your profession and target the company and highlight them in your resume.
Types of skills
We recommend including a diverse set of skills on your resume. Choose a couple from each of the three main categories below:
1. Transferable or functional
This covers your competency to perform an action and apply that skill to different tasks, job roles, and industries. Your aptitude to perform a transferable or functional skill is measured by your ability to optimize this skill to various situations.
Transferable or functional skills include:
This covers personality traits, behaviors, or perspectives that guide your approach to a task or situation. These are skills you’ve developed since childhood through different life experiences.
Personality skills include:
- Strong emotional intelligence
- Ability to perform under pressure
This includes a theoretical or practical understanding of a specific task or process learned through consistent work experience or education. These are often industry or career-specific and, depending on the expertise required for a particular position, the most in-demand.
Knowledge-based skills include:
- Computer skills, including programming languages, web development, or experience with specific programs like Microsoft Office, Excel, or Quickbooks
- Analytical skills, including data analysis, strategy, or economic forecasting
- Industry-specific skills, including a content creator with social media apps or marketing skills or a software engineer with specific expertise in Python or HTML
Soft versus hard skills
The above skills can be divided into technical versus interpersonal skills, but they can also be categorized as soft or hard. Knowledge-based skills might fall into either category.
Soft skills are general and apply to various jobs, work environments, and situations. They inform how we approach a task or challenge and are unique personal attributes that make us stand out and succeed as employees and leaders.
Here are a few soft skills you could include on your resume:
- Time management
- Attention to detail
Hard skills are gained through experience, practice, and education. They can be measured straightforwardly by our ability to perform a technical task.
Here are a few hard skills you could include on your resume:
- Foreign languages
- Project management
- Marketing fluency, like SEO or SEM
- Computer skills
- Software management, like CRM
- Coding languages, like CSS or Python
- Design, like Photoshop or Illustrator
- Data analysis
- First aid
Soft and hard skills often complement one another. Speaking a foreign language is a hard skill requiring specific vocabulary, diction, and grammar knowledge. The communication skills needed to speak this language effectively — knowing how to work through a concept, tell a story, and keep an audience engaged — are soft skills.
How to add skills to your resume
There are endless resume templates to choose from when designing your resume, and most offer a skills section. We’ve outlined four tips for adding skills to catch a recruiter’s attention with resume skills examples to help you get started.
1. Choose wisely
Study the company by visiting its website, LinkedIn profile, and other public sources. What values do they promote? Which team members do they highlight and why?
Read through the job ad and take note of the responsibilities, job requirements, and skills listed by the employer. Use this research to choose skills for your resume. It’s a good idea to list skills the job posting specifically seeks.
Here’s an example of how to translate a job responsibility into skills when describing work experience on your resume:
Responsibility: Fact-check, proofread, and edit content for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Skill on resume:
- Eight years of copy and content writing experience with brands and PR agencies
- Wrote objective-oriented, SEO-driven content for brands
- Versed in workflow apps, Google Office, and grammar platforms
2. Include a skills section
If a hiring manager spends just seven seconds on a resume, make sure yours is readable. Design the resume to direct the reader’s eye to critical information, and include a skills section close to the start. Use relevant action verbs to sell your experience and describe your skills from the beginning.
Don’t over-clutter — insufficient white space will deflect the eye rather than attract it. This section should include bullet points with concise information.
3. Subtly mention skills in other sections
Sneak skills throughout your resume, including in the summary and work experience sections. Frequently referencing them will help show the hiring manager you really do possess the skills.
Here are two examples of a writer’s position:
Resume summary with a mixture of transferable and personal skills:
- Curious, creative, and self-motivated journalist and content writer with six years of experience working independently for agencies and publications.
Work experience section with a mixture of technical and interpersonal skills:
Digital Content Writer, [Company name], [time frame]
- Experience in Google Workspace, Surfer SEO, and workflow platforms
- Responsible for writing 10 1500-word SEO and keyword-driven articles weekly
- Detail-oriented and personable — never missed a deadline and facilitated feedback calls with clients directly
4. Be specific about your proficiency level
Always be clear about your level of expertise. You’ll likely be asked to showcase some of your skills in an interview, so it’s best to be upfront.
Here are a few examples:
- English, native
- Spanish, fluent
- Japanese, intermediate conversation and listening comprehension, beginner written
- High-level expertise in Python and Java
- Mid-level expertise in CSS
3 of the best skills to put on a resume
We recommend choosing transferable, knowledge-based, and personal skills relevant to the job description and the company’s values. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong using these three skills on your resume:
1. Managerial skills
If you have any managerial experience, add it to the relevant job description. Good managers can see the bigger picture, organize their teams around a common goal, and demonstrate effective communication techniques.
This experience also shows you’re willing to take on more responsibility and can handle different personalities.
Expressing your management skills might look like this:
- 15 years of experience developing multiple teams to [name accomplishment]
- Ideated and managed [project] and increased revenue by [percentage]
- Certified in Conflict Resolution from [institution’s name]
2. Communication skills
Strong communication skills are essential at every professional level. These skills include actively listening, speaking effectively, observing people and situations, and empathizing and supporting our co-workers, colleagues, and managers.
Expressing your communication skills might look like this:
- Thrives on constructive criticism
- Four years of public speaking experience
- Certified in Non-Verbal Communication at [institute name]
3. Computer skills
Expertise in various technologies or the ability to learn new ones are great hard skills to advertise. These include knowledge of hardware, software, work platforms, or coding languages.
Computer skills might include:
- Type 145 words per minute
- Fluency in CRM and CSM
- Experience with project management softwares like Monday, ClickUp, and Notion
Feel confident about your resume
Building a good resume takes a lot of work. You have to read through the job description and tailor resumes to each post to make sure your profile best aligns with what the recruiter is looking for.
But the effort is worth it. You’ve spent your entire career learning and nurturing new skills — show them off in your resume and you’ll be one step closer to getting the job. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and listing the right skills will help hiring managers see that.