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Skills to Put on a Resume

Figuring out which skills to put on a resume is one of the most important parts of the resume writing process. Putting skills on a resume is not just about creating a laundry list of abilities, however. It’s an essential part of the branding process, one that will help you stand out.

Where to Place Skills

You’ll be adding skills in two places. First, you can list skills in the resume summary or resume objective statement. Second, you will be weaving skills into the various accomplishments that you list for the positions that you will be highlighting on your resume.



Types of Skills

There are two types of skills. “Hard” skills are skills that relate to specific training, like the various programming languages that you know, your typing speed, or your training in Six Sigma. “Soft” skills are more general skills, people skills that must be acquired in order to be successful in any position and which are transferrable. This includes leadership skills, problem solving abilities, communication skills, work ethics and even your sense of integrity. Employers typically value the soft skills more because they are much more difficult to train than the hard skills.

Choosing Which Skills to Put on a Resume

There are four criteria you should pay attention to when choosing which skills to put on a resume. First, you should choose the skills that best accentuate the brand you are trying to convey. It’s what comes to mind when someone asks you “What are your strengths” or “tell me about yourself” in the middle of a job interview. A person who is branding themselves as a team oriented leader with decisive problem-solving skills is going to come across very differently from someone who is branding themselves as a flexible, think-on-your-feet creative type capable of juggling many tasks simultaneously. Both are useful to the employer, but both represent very different unique selling points that need to be emphasized on the resume. Don’t try to be all things to all people: there is a huge list of skills that employers value. You can only be credible by emphasizing a few of them.

Second, you need to think about including skills that really set you apart and that are useful anywhere. Foreign language skills are an excellent example. Some companies won’t have use for this ability but few would say there is no situation they can think of where that skill might not be useful. Some companies are multi-national and such a skill will automatically put you at the head of the pack (so long as you are fluent).

Third, you need to choose out the skills that are most in line with the job post. Don’t focus on your sales skills if you’re applying for a programming job or your programming skills while applying for a sales job, unless you are applying for a job selling software and you’re trying to convey your expertise to the employer while noting your ability to make customers more comfortable with the product. No matter how impressive a skill is, it is essentially worthless if the employer is never going to use it.
Finally, you should think about how each skill you highlight is going to pair up with your work history and how you can weave these skills into your accomplishments. For example:

  • Used rapport-building and expertise as a practiced closer to stay in the top 90% of all salespeople at the Northwest office. (Highlighting sales skills and interpersonal skills. Possible brand: Personable communicator with an aggressive work ethic).
  • Used planning and organization skills to execute the Spring Training event, an annual event which saw to the continuing education of over 400 employees. (Highlighting event-planning, general planning, and organization skills. Possible brand: Meticulous organizer and big-picture strategist unafraid of tackling big tasks).
  • Operated calmly under pressure to lead a team of 15 through high-risk military engagements. (Highlighting: management and leadership skills, ability to stay cool under pressure. Possible brand: Decisive leader capable of handling high-risk situations with precision).


You’re only limited by your creativity and your ability to sell yourself as you highlight both skills and accomplishments. The skills you put on a resume should always help you paint a picture of how you’re going to contribute to the organization you are applying for while getting the employer excited about the possibility of working with you. Doing this is a skill in and of itself!

Examples of  “soft” skills you could use:

Able to Concentrate

Able to Manage Stress

Accurate

Adaptable

Aggressive

Ambitious

Assertive

Attentive to Detail

Calm

Careful

Clear-thinking

Competitive

Confident

Conservative

Consistent

Diplomatic

Easy- going

Efficient

Emotional

Empathetic

Enthusiastic

Friendly

Good-natured

Helpful

Honest

Humorous

Imaginative

Independent

Intelligent

Inventive

Kind

Likeable

Logical

Loyal

Mature

Methodical

Meticulous

Modest

Motivated

Open-minded

Optimistic

Organized

Outgoing

Patient

Persistent

Persuasive

Poised

Practical

Precise

Progressive

Punctual

Quick Quiet

Rational Adventurous

Realistic

Reflective

Reliable Analytical

Reserved

Resourceful

Responsible Businesslike

Risk-taking

Self-confident

Self-controlled Cautious

Sensible Cheerful

Sensitive

Sincere Competent

Sociable

Stable

Supportive Conscientious

Tactful

Teachable

Tenacious Creative

Thorough Curious

Thoughtful

Tough Discreet

Trusting

Trustworthy

Understanding

Versatile

Witty


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