Creating a Stand-Out Skills Section on Your Resume

Updated: Nov 7, 2019


The skills section of a resume plays an extremely important role in making you stand out from a crowded field of candidates. The professional resume writers of SoCalResumes preach to job hunters that a carefully crafted skills section is able to convey to potential employers that they possess in-demand skills and abilities. More than merely possessing these qualities, it’s vital for job seekers to communicate to recruiters and hiring managers how their skills will be beneficial in the position that they’re applying for.



Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills


When creating a winning skills section, it’s valuable to understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills.


Hard skills are job/industry-specific skills typically acquired through schooling, job training, programs, and practice. For example, coveted hard skills for a computer programmer might include SQL, JAVA, Microsoft C#, Linux, NET Programming, Oracle, Python, and XML. Soft skills are more universal than hard skills, making them easily transferable between positions.


Often called interpersonal skills, social skills, and emotional intelligence, marketable soft skills for that same computer program might include communication, problem solving, teamwork, research, and creativity.


Eye-catching candidates have a professional resume featuring both hard and soft skills. Certified resume writers encourage job hunters to think of soft skills as complementary to your hard skills—a creative computer programer or problem-solving computer programmer is more enticing to employers than just a computer programmer.



Make a List


A favorite practice of resume writers is to have candidates list all of the hard and soft skills they possess, ranking them with their strongest skills on top and weaker skills at the bottom. Job seekers can then see where their skills and a job’s required skills overlap, and use that information to customize their resume—highlighting their best and most relevant skills—to particular positions.


Self-reflection is difficult for a lot of people; if you’re struggling to create a list of skills, reach out to a former manager or contact an ex-colleague you were close with and pick their brains. If you’re not comfortable leaning on your network for assistance, think of something you excelled at in your old job—what talent or attribute allowed you to shine?



Job-Specific Skills


Even uninformed, cheap resume writers know to tailor your skill section to specific jobs. Using job/industry-specific words tells recruiters and hiring managers you’re fluent in the language of the field and are able to step in and start producing—increasing your appeal as a candidate.


Equally important, using the skills and keywords an employer lists in their job posting increases your chances of getting past an automated tracking system (ATS). ATS is becoming an increasingly common tool used by recruiters and hiring managers to sort and rank job applicants. Consider that 491 companies on the Fortune 500 Companies are currently using an ATS.



Sprinkle In Skills


The skills section is where you want to highlight your strongest, most relevant skills—but don’t limit yourself to placing your skills only there. Be sure to mix other relevant and beneficial skills throughout your resume.


A stand-out resume works skills into the experience section as well. Past work history offers you an opportunity to showcase your skills by providing clear examples of them. For example, the aforementioned computer programmer could display their teamwork by highlighting the time they worked within a group to overcome a complex problem or to meet a tight deadline. Which brings us to…



Show, Don’t Tell


Recruiters and hiring managers sift through piles of resumes per day; to stand out, it’s imperative that you don’t simply list your skills, but use specific examples to give employers an idea of how those skills will benefit them. Numbers are more impactful than words for quantifying skills on a resume, so use them to relay information to potential employers. For example, you didn’t simply raise your sales numbers; instead, you used strategic prospecting skills and a commitment to open communication to beat your sales plan by 20%.


It’s also worth noting that your entire resume is a display of your skills. If you write that you’re detail-oriented, your resume better be free of typos. Similarly, if you’ve claimed to be a great communicator, your resume should be free of grammatical errors.



Keep Clear of Clichés


The opposite of showing potential employers your skills and abilities is using clichés to describe them. These words and phrases are so common that they no longer have any value—other than being a sure way to have recruiters and employers saying next. Instead of using the same tired words cluttering up all the other resumes, opt for action words like achieved, improved, enhanced, trained, and solved, which describe the skills you’ve used.


Wondering if you have hollow words taking up valuable real estate on your resume? Check out the Mental Floss article 17 Resume Cliches That Turn Off Hiring Managers or reach out to the talented resume writers of SoCalResumes—we take “passionate go-getters” who are “best of breed” and turn them into desirable and hireable candidates.


Beware of Exaggeration


While a resume rich in skills is a great way to increase the likelihood of an interview, if a potential employer uncovers a lie or exaggeration about your abilities, and odds are they will, you’ll more than likely land in the pass pile. A 2018 report sponsored by the National Association of Background Screeners (NABS) found that 95% of surveyed employers indicated that they use one or more types of employment background screening.


Even if you somehow sneak through a background check, a call to your references or a simple digital search might reveal your deceit. Play it safe and be honest about your skills and abilities.



Finishing Your Skills Section


A wow-worthy resume highlights your skills in the skill section and continues to spotlight those abilities throughout the resume. Crafting a resume that sparks interest is difficult, which is why so many people seek the help of a resume writing service. After all, a recent study found that job seekers with professionally written resumes land new jobs sooner and earn more money than those who don't use a resume service—68% of job candidates who used a resume service got offers within 90 days!


Contact SoCalResumes today and learn how we can put your job search on the fast track.

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