You’re applying for a job, and you need to pull together a resume that showcases all of your impressive skills.
But here’s the problem: You’ve been staring at that blinking text cursor for five minutes, and the page is still totally blank.
You know you have a ton of different skills. You make the best pie crust you’ve ever tasted. You’re weirdly good at committing song lyrics to memory. You still have the high score in skee-ball at that corner pub.
Unfortunately, you also know that those aren’t necessarily the job-related skills employers are looking for. When it comes to generating a long list of competencies that will prove you’re a no-brainer fit for that open role, you’re coming up short.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’re breaking down everything you need to know about business skills for resumes that hiring managers want, so that you can showcase all of the relevant know-how you bring to the table.
How can you know which skills are the most relevant?
Yes, we could give you a list of skills that employers are hoping to see on your resume (and we’ll do that a little later!). However, it’s important to note that what hiring managers want to see can vary from company to company and from job to job.
That’s why this is an important first step when crafting your resume for a specific job application: take a fine-tooth comb to the job description.
Keep your eyes peeled for words and skills that the employer seems to emphasize. Are there any key terms that crop up again and again?
For example, do they emphasize being a “strong communicator” in a couple of different places? Have they called a lot of attention to the fact that you need to be able to collaborate with a team? Do most of the responsibilities have to do with Microsoft Excel? Those are skills that you’ll want to inject into your own resume (provided that you honestly possess them, of course).
Remember that the goal of your resume is to prove that you’re a relevant fit and draw obvious parallels between what the job requires and what you possess.
That means you’re going to need to invest some elbow grease into tweaking your resume for each and every position you apply for so that it's clearly relevant to the job.
What’s the difference between hard skills and soft skills?
As you’re digging into some different skills that you could include in your resume, you’re bound to come across these two terms: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are the more technical or job-specific competencies you’ll need in order to do a job. Maybe you need to be an expert in Photoshop, or perhaps you need to know how to write in HTML. Those are hard skills, because they’ll be necessary and valuable in a very specific type of position. They’re also easier to quantify, demonstrate, and prove.
In contrast, soft skills are more general competencies that could benefit you in a variety of positions. These could be things like organization, teamwork, communication, and more. They’re important, but they’re also tougher to measure—since they’re essentially a demonstration of how you function in the workplace.
Soft skills get a bad rap as resume fluff or buzzwords that hiring managers don’t pay any attention to. However, these types of skills really do matter. In one survey conducted by LinkedIn, 92% of talent professionals said that soft skills matter as much as hard skills when they’re making hiring decisions.
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Where should you include your skills on your resume?
Here’s the short answer: everywhere. Your entire resume exists to showcase your skills, so you’ll want to incorporate them anywhere you can. But, below are a few places that you’ll want to make sure to showcase your most relevant capabilities.
1. Your professional summary
Not every resume needs to include a professional summary. But, if you’re making a career change, have been out of the workforce for a while, or even just want to provide a little more detail about your work experience beyond the confines of bullet points, a summary can help offer a little more context and fill in the gaps.
The professional summary has replaced the objective statement of the past, and it’s your chance to call attention to some of your most valuable and relevant attributes right upfront—especially since the summary goes right at the top of the document.
Here’s a peek at what a very simple professional summary could look like:
Self-motivated and driven sales professional with eight years of experience and a knack for prospecting new clients and cold calling. Passionate communicator, active listener, and expert in Salesforce. Ability to thrive independently and in a team environment.
A summary like this one calls attention to a mix between hard skills and soft skills.
- Hard skills: Prospecting new clients, cold calling, Salesforce
- Soft skills: Self-motivation, communication, active listening, teamwork
It’s only three short sentence fragments, but goes a long way in shining a spotlight on some of your best, most impressive skills.
2. Your key skills section
Duh, right? But seriously, a key skills section is one of the easiest places to tweak with different skills that are being asked for in the job description. So, you’ll definitely want to have one on your own document—because you can tailor your resume without having to re-do the whole thing!
Your key skills section is simply a bulleted list of the traits and expertise you’ll bring to the job. If you picked out certain important terms when you were evaluating the job description, you’ll want to include those here exactly as they were listed in the description. This is helpful if the employer has an applicant tracking system (ATS) in place that’s scanning for pre-set keywords.
You can use a key skills section instead of or in addition to your summary (again, a summary isn’t required!).
If you were going to opt to use a key skills section instead of the summary example we listed above, then it might look like this:
- Client Prospecting
- Cold Calling
- Active Listening
3. Your employment history
There’s a big difference between saying that you possess certain skills and actually proving that you do. That’s why the bulleted responsibilities you include under your previous positions is a great place to showcase what you’re capable of in a less straightforward (but equally impactful) way.
For example, if you wanted to prove your knack for cold calling, maybe you’d include a bullet under your most recent position that says something like:
- Successfully researched and cold-called up to 20 prospective per month, increasing our total client revenue by 45% in a three-month period.
See? You’re still calling attention to an important hard skill (cold calling), while backing it up with some quantifiable evidence that you really are good at that.
5 of the best soft skills to put on your resume
Alright, so we’ve laid the groundwork and now your wheels are turning with all sorts of hard and soft skills you could incorporate into your own resume.
If you need some more creative inspiration, we’ve pulled together some more impressive business skills for your resume here.
But first, an important note: these skills are impressive, but only if you’re truthful about what you do and don’t possess. If you don’t consider yourself a particularly skilled communicator, then don’t list it on your resume just because you see it included here.
As with anything, honesty is always the best policy—especially when hiring managers will quickly see through any fibs you’ve told or exaggerations you’ve made.
You’ve heard that communication is key, and hiring managers think so too. In one survey about what employers were looking for in business school graduates, communication skills were cited as the most important skill. So, if you’re a strong communicator—whether it’s written or verbal communication, or both—make sure you all attention to that on your resume.
2. Teamwork and collaboration
Nobody works in isolation, which is probably why 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important.” Whether you’re in a traditional office or in a remote work environment, you’re going to need to collaborate with others. Make sure to point out that you not only can work with other people, but that you actually enjoy doing so.
Wouldn’t the working world be a dream if everything went according to plan and you never hit any snags? Unfortunately, that’s hardly ever reality. Surprises crop up in the workplace, and you’re going to need to be able to problem solve and make decisions. This is a skill you’ll definitely want to back up with examples—whether through your previous job responsibilities or by talking about times you overcame challenges in job interviews.
4. Time management
When you’re on the job, you’re going to need to be able to juggle numerous priorities and manage your own time effectively. Leaders don’t want to feel like they need to constantly monitor and micromanage you in order to make sure you’re getting your work done—which is why they tend to look for candidates who are strong time managers.
Even if you aren’t applying for a management position or supervisory role, employers still look for applicants who have leadership skills. These types of candidates are able to spearhead their own projects, follow through on their goals, and overall serve as positive examples for the rest of their team members.
Move your resume to the “to be interviewed” pile
Applying for jobs is nerve-racking, and you want to do everything you can to separate yourself from the competition and increase your chances of scoring an interview (and hopefully the job!).
Well, your skills are a big piece of that puzzle. But, knowing just what relevant skills to include on your own document (you know, besides that skee-ball high score) can be a challenge.
Use this post as your guide, and you’re one step closer to landing on the right competencies that will prove you’re a no-brainer fit for that open role (and keeps your resume far away from the recycling bin).
Once you've got your skills down, try our selection of free Word resume templates for a professional, stylish resume sure to impress potential employers.
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