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5 Key Tips for a Stellar Key Skills Section

What is a "Skills Section" and how can you make it shine? [TWEET]

The Skills Section of your resume allows you to showcase, in a bit more detail, what you have to offer a company. A well-crafted Skills Section packs a powerful punch that can also help your resume navigate the applicant tracking systems (ATS) used by a majority of companies to find the right candidates. The more keywords in the Skills Section of your resume, the greater the likelihood your resume will get noticed.

1. Incorporate Keywords.

Technically, a keyword is “an informative word used in an information retrieval system to indicate the content of a document.” In the world of resume writing, a keyword explains to hiring managers what skills you, the job seeker, have to offer.

Today’s job searching world demands a savvy understanding of keywords and their importance in helping your resume leap from a pile and shout “call me for an interview!” from the database.

The best method to identify the ideal keywords to include in your resume’s Skills Section is to review between 5 and 10 employment ads with job titles you’re seeking, and identify the desired skills most often repeated. Then, include them in the resume Skills Section or Technical Skills section.

2. Organize your bullets.

Group like items together. If you’ve got management experience – project management, program management, business management, etc. – keep them in the same column. If you’re highlighting computer skills, group those programs and languages together.

When I write resumes, I prefer the three-column approach and for consistency’s sake, I always include the same number of bullets in each column. I also play around with formatting and wording to ensure that each key skill fits onto one line – again, to maintain consistency.

3. Specify.

The skills section of your resume should avoid bland, vague “skills” such as “motivated” or “punctual,” which all employers expect from any employee, regardless of the position. Hiring managers look for reasons to pass on a resume – don’t make their task easier.

When a job posting lists specific skills and you have those skills and can show how you’ve developed those skills in your previous positions, include them.

It’s better to err on the side of specificity than generalization. When a position requests specific computer skills, for example, and you have them, list them in your skills section!

Instead of “Computer Software Savvy,” say “Proficient in MS Office Suite, Adobe Photoshop”

If you’re bilingual, include the specific languages. For example, say “Fluent in English and French; proficient in Italian.”

4. Keep it relevant, but stay flexible.

It goes without saying that if you have specific skills an employer desires, include them. If you have other skills that don’t match 100% with an employer’s desires but are key to your professional success, include them, and expand on them in your resume’s experiences and achievements section.

If you’re switching fields or reentering the work force after a lengthy absence, look to your other experiences to find transferrable skills. Don’t discount yourself from consideration because your skills don't match the job description exactly.

If you stayed home to raise your children for seven years, you coordinated schedules, planned meals, got everyone to the doctor and other appointments or activities, and assisted with homework, right? That’s a legitimate example of project and personnel management. Your project and personnel may be your family, but unless you’re organized, the kids might not have had lunch for school, a clean uniform, or maybe someone would have been left without a ride to a weekend soccer game.

You worked in sales while finishing grad school and helped your elderly parents, and now you’re ready for an entry-level management position in the finance field. Repurpose your skills in budgeting your parents’ living expenses into planning and overseeing a larger budget for a company.

5. Create a Technical Skills Section.

If you’re working in certain industries that require specialized skillsets, you can create two skills sections in your resume. Use the first skills section, which should immediately follow your professional summary, to highlight the specific technical skills that potential jobs you’re seeking require and that you want employers to notice right away that you have in spades. Technical Skills sections often play a key part in industries including Graphic Design, Manufacturing, Engineering and Medicine.

In the Information Technology industry, for example, where jobs may require proficiency in networking skills, operating systems, and software, creating a Technical Skills section allows you to showcase all things IT, saving project management, client service, forecasting, budgeting, and analytical skills, for example, in a separate skills section which can follow your resume’s professional experience section.

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!