"You have to measure your successes and your failures within, not by anything that I or anyone else might think."
― Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Creating a separate Skills section on your resume highlights your most relevant abilities in a way that is easy to read quickly. A prominent Skills section can also show what your choice of major has trained you to do, or this section can display abilities that you learned outside of your major. An effective Skills section benefits from articulating both your hard and soft skills, but how to say exactly what you are skilled at doing can be subjective and elusive. My personal definition of a skill is an ability that you practice over time to gain greater proficiency. Developing a hard skill helps you to complete a task. Developing a soft skill helps all the areas around the completion of tasks. Developing hard skills and soft skills means you are not only great at your job, but you are also a great coworker, supervisor, or client manager.
My association of completing tasks with hard skills makes me think of learning a language, using technology, performing laboratory techniques, or constructing a product. You can likely teach these skills to other people. Your progress in gaining proficiency is distinct and measurable. You might choose to specify your expertise as beginner, familiar, intermediate, proficient, advanced, expert, or other words that clarify how ready you are to complete a job responsibility with these skills. If you are wondering if your skill level is good enough to list on your resume, look at a job description to see the skill in some kind of context, then decide if you can use the skill to the extent described in the job posting. You can develop these skills through your classes, job training, and independent learning. Review your experiences and think, “What was I capable of doing?” to brainstorm these skills.
How you go about performing your tasks is likely a combination of your ability to communicate, collaborate, solve problems, and lead others. Soft skills in these areas speak to your ability to interact with people in a work setting. Formal training and assignments may not cover how to work as part of a team or motivate someone. Your ability to relate interpersonally or give a presentation might depend on the context of the situation. The UGA Career Center provides a couple of articles that define soft skills. To think about how soft skills apply to your career, read Five Soft Skills Essential for Success. To reflect on how experiences can develop soft skills, read The Top 7 Soft Skills that Employers Want. Review your experiences and think, “What makes me good at what I can do?” to brainstorm these skills.
On a resume, you can list each skill as single words or short phrases that are either nouns or verbs. I personally prefer the noun version in most cases (organization vs. organizing, teamwork vs. working on a team, leadership vs. leading). If applying to a job, try to echo what you are qualified to do with the vocabulary from the job qualifications so that you look like an exact match. If they say they want a candidate skilled in organizing, use that exact word.
To brainstorm examples of words to use, visit any of these guides:
- Career Readiness Skills - University of Georgia Career Guide
- Your Skills - Finding Your Career Fit
- Skills Checklist - Life After UGA
People read resumes quickly and listing relevant skills draws their attention. Keeping your Skills section uncluttered helps your resume reader interpret your abilities rather than skimming past. When listing a skill on a resume, consider these questions in order to keep your list focused and relevant:
- How did you practice this skill and is that experience also on your resume?*
- Does this skill relate to the opportunity you are pursuing?
*Do you feel like you need to build up your skills? All UGA students have free access to LinkedInLearning with their MyID.
Formatting the Skills Section
Try a tour of these resume examples for different options in formatting your Skills section. My personal favorite for listing many skills is to categorize them in bold and follow that category with a comma-separated list of sample skills. The bold category helps the reader to locate relevant skills, and the comma-separated list fits many skills in a small space. To clarify your level of skill in hard skill categories, use a parenthetical phrase directly after the skill name. To avoid using a parenthetical every time, assume that not having one means that you are proficient enough to complete a task with that skill. You can order the skills and the skill categories from most relevant to least.
Language: Arabic (Advanced), Japanese (Intermediate), English (Fluent)
Technology: Adobe InDesign/Photoshop (Advanced), R (Beginner), Tableau (Familiar), Google Drive, HTML (Intermediate), Microsoft Word/Excel/PowerPoint
Laboratory: Fluorescent Microscopy, Protein Purification, Western Blot
Communication: Public Speaking, Active Listening, Customer Service, Interpersonal, Written
Leadership: Problem Solving, Organization, Teamwork
If you have a skill that does not seem to fit into a category with others, you can try a catchall category that is applicable to your particular field. Categories like Professional, Administrative, Clerical, Clinical, or Technical can house the odd skill or two while staying consistent with your categorization aesthetic. To brainstorm categories, revisit the “Career Readiness Skills” section of the University of Georgia Career Guide. Try using the red text as a skill category (e.g. Intercultural Fluency) and read the description for sample skills (e.g. Inclusiveness). You can also embed your soft skills in the bullet points of your experiences, which increases the likelihood that your reader recognizes those skills and provides evidence that you have put them into practice. For instance, if you want to emphasize that you have written communication skills, you could add a bullet point about “drafting marketing emails” or something similar from your job description.
Listing your skills is a subjective art form that has many options and uses creative thinking to paint a portrait of your abilities. Combine your hard and soft skills into a unique blend that promises a potential match to your next opportunity. If you need any help in the process, find assistance at the Career Center via appointments or drop-ins.
“Flair is what makes the difference between artistry and mere competence.”
― Cdr. William Riker, Star Trek: The Next Generation