How to Write an Effective Resume Skills Section

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An article by contributor Rudeth Shaughnessy.

Your resume is your ticket to attracting the recruiter’s attention and getting them to determine you are a viable candidate for their role. In the few seconds they scan your resume, you need to convince them that you are a candidate with the potential to fill their role. One of the most important sections of your resume to persuade them is your skills section.

You may be thinking that the person reading your resume can just infer your skills by reading the other content in your resume. Or isn’t the skills section just a filler in the resume? While this could be the case, by ignoring the skills section you are wasting an opportunity to help the reader easily see the skills you bring to the table. Adding a skills section will help showcase the skills you want potential future employer to affiliate with you. It is like a business card with your most important features.

Why use a Skills Section?

A skills section is also a great place to add in keywords from the job description you are applying to. Scan the job description you are applying to for ideas of skills to include. Why take the time to match your skills to the wording in the job description? Adding in skills that coincide with the language in the job description will help your resume when it is being scanned by the applicant tracking system that the company is using. Many programs will rank your resume compared to the job description for the recruiter to view first. That means you have to think about what the computer will be looking for.

This will help the recruiter easily see you have the qualifications for the role and will aid in landing you a phone screening. If your resume is one of the first resumes listed in the ATS then your chances of being reviewed increase dramatically!

Once you get that opportunity, use it to persuade the recruiter what a great candidate you are. Failing to do this may result in your resume being passed over despite the fact that you have what they are looking for.

This also helps you show up more in searches by the recruiter on resume sites like Indeed and Monster. If your resume includes popular keywords for the job type you are looking for, the more you use them in your resume the more you will match the search criteria recruiters are likely using.

Where should you put your Skills section?

Now that you have an idea of what to include in the skills section where should you list them? The location of your skills section will depend on your tenure. For candidates with several years of experience, you will want to include a Qualifications Summary. This will be showcased at the top of your resume and will be detailed and comprehensive of your skills and abilities.

Due to your expensive experience, you will have a different set of skills than someone who has only been working a few years. Copy My Resume recommends you think of your “greatest hits” when writing this section focusing on authority, creativity, efficiency, recognition, management, and communication. As the site suggests, try to think of an example of each of the jewels to make a comprehensive qualifications summary. This will give employers a clear picture of the results you have provided in the past and what you can help them achieve in the future.

For entry and mid-level candidates, you should include an Additional Skills section which will be more of a list of your skills and is typically placed at the bottom of the resume. Not sure what skills to include? Check out this list of essential skills from Career Sherpa. Include any skills that you feel are relevant to the job you are applying for. Even if they aren’t specifically listed in the requirements section, you never know what will stand out to an employer. Skills like languages and project management certifications are universally appealing, so if you have them make sure they are included! For more transferable skills, has a great article on how to recognize your transferable skills.

Make sure you are as specific as possible when adding skills. As with the other areas of your resume, you want to quantify your skills as much as possible. This means listing the most current versions of software you know how to use, or most recent training/certifications you’ve attained.

What Skills should you include?

Wondering what type of skills should you include in the skills section? While it is extremely important to show employers the hard skills, employers need to see you are a person too. The fact is hiring managers are looking for people who work hard, are easy to get along with, flexible, and easy to train. Managers want someone who is going to hit the ground running and work well with other team members.

Not only do you want managers to see that you have the technical capabilities to perform the role, you want them to want to work with you. Show employers you have the soft skills they desire like leadership and communication. Need more on hard vs soft skills? Read this article from Huffington Post for key differences.

Accreditations and certifications are something employers absolutely want to know about. This information will help future employers see the areas that you have evidence of your skills. To showcase these qualifications include them at the bottom of your skills section.

Formatting is another aspect to consider. Make your skills section noticeable to the recruiter and easy to read. If you have several skills listed, organize them with bullets or columns so that recruiters and managers can clearly see the skills you are efficient in.  For a guide you can print out, The Campus Career Coach offers a great downloadable PDF on resume writing, including formatting.

Every section of the resume is extremely important and the skills section is no exception. Take the time to make sure your skills section shows employers all the aspects that make you perfect for their open role. Take the ideas laid out in this article to improve your skills section and start seeing an improvement on the amount of call backs you receive!

Rudeth Shaughnessy is a retired MARCOM professional and HR expert, part-time Editor at Copy My Resume and full-time grandmother of two.


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