9 Steps for Figuring Out Which Skills to Include on Your Résumé

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By Rachel Gillett

If you're sitting in front of your computer, wracking your brain trying to come up with skills to add to your résumé, fear not.

With the help of some career experts, you can easily — and honestly — pad out your résumé with key skills recruiters look for.

Here's how:1. Consider some of the most common skills recruiters search for.
"The most common skills people forget to showcase are the transferable skills that recruiters use general search terms to find — things that can be measured," says J.T. O'Donnell, a career and workplace expert, founder of career advice site, CAREEREALISM.com, and author of "Careerealism: The Smart Approach to a Satisfying Career."

These include:
  • Software you are proficient in (MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Office)
  • Project Management
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Budgeting
  • Recruiting
  • Management
2. Specialize your skills.
The skills recruiters look for when they scan through résumés depend on the type of position they're trying to fill, says Rita Friedman, a Philadelphia-based career coach.

For example, if you're applying for a position that requires technical knowledge, include specific examples of technology or equipment you use, even if it could be reasonably assumed you must know these things, Friedman suggests.

3. Scan through a ton of job postings.
"To ensure that you're including relevant information on your résumé, carefully review job postings and highlight the parts that make you say, 'Oh, I do that all the time!'" Friedman suggests. "When you're writing your own resume, it can be hard to be objective, and you may forget about things that you're so good at doing they come to you automatically."

4. Research people with the jobs you want.
Friedman and O'Donnell both suggest checking out the LinkedIn pages of people whose jobs you'd like. Check out their "Skills & Endorsements" section and identify which ones you could justify putting on your profile too.

5. Diversify your list of skills.
"When evaluating a résumé, recruiters are looking for two big qualities: hustle and curiosity," says Kate Swoboda, creator of the Courageous Coaching Training Program.

She says employers today are looking for résumés that demonstrate the person takes initiative and is motivated by curiosity.

"These days, coders are now expected to interact with clients, and the person in charge of crafting the company's next great tweet might also be called upon to help with some aspects of visual design," Swoboda explains. "Recruiters are looking for people who are curious enough and motivated enough to go beyond their technical job description because that adds more value for a company."

6. Don't be afraid to make it personal.
"I'm very much in the camp of not hiding your personal life, skill set, and interests from a prospective employer," says Michelle Ward, a creative career coach and co-author of "The Declaration of You!"

She suggests including skills you've learned from outside passions, whether that includes owning an Etsy shop or planning your best friend's wedding.

"I think, more and more, companies want to see a well-rounded, inquisitive, personable candidate that is right for the job and would be someone interesting to have in the office," she says. "Just make sure to relate that experience back to how it'd be value for the company/position you're applying for."

7. Consider what you're proud of.
Friedman suggests you make a list of the things you're especially proud of accomplishing in your jobs and then think about what skills you used to accomplish these.

"If you reduced the amount of time it takes to complete a task, you may have strong skills revolving around process improvement or automation," she says. "If you got back the business of a former client who left, you may have a talent for repairing damaged relationships."

Ward adds that you should ask yourself, "What do people thank me for? What do I get complimented on, repeatedly?"

8. Quantify your skills.
Before you add any skills to your list, O'Donnell suggests you ask yourself a number of questions like:
  • How many projects have I led?
  • How many people were on the team?
  • How many customers were affected by my work?
  • How many people did I train?
  • How much money was involved?
  • What kind of results/savings did I get?
"If you ask yourself enough of these, you find your way to validate and quantify your experience in a way a recruiter can understand," she says.

Friedman agrees and says it's always better to show rather than tell on your résumé.

"For example, if you're in sales, you don't just need to hit keywords like 'business development' or 'consultative selling;' you need to have quantifiable examples of your skillset in action: 'Increased sales over previous year by 63%.'"

9. Talk it out.
In determining if you have the skills necessary, when creating a résumé, talk about your experiences out loud with someone, preferably a professional or someone who has work experience," suggests Alyssa Gelbard, founder and president of Résumé Strategists.

"They hear things differently and can help you translate your internships, jobs, extracurricular, and educational experiences into important skills for a potential job."
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