How To Write The Skills Section on Your Resume

I’m going to walk you through an exercise and approach that will make adding skills easier than ever.

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One of the most tedious parts of writing a resume is the skills section. People often wonder what to write for this section and what things to put that are relevant.

I’m going to walk you through an exercise and approach that will make adding skills easier than ever. After you go through these exercises you will be able to tailor your skills for each job you apply to and it won’t take you more than 5-10 minutes.

We’re going to start by getting an understanding of your current skills. Then we’ll walk through how to approach tailoring your skill set for the job you’re applying to.

Create Your Skill Bank

First we want to know where you’re at by listing every skill you have in one place. This will be separate from your resume. I call this your Skill Bank

It doesn’t matter if you plan on putting these skills on your resume or not, we just want to take stock of what you have. This will be a resource from which you can grab relevant skills when you start crafting your resume.

We’re going to put down everything from general skills (project management, writing, social media management) to more specific skills (excel, Photoshop, HTML/CSS).

Remember, you don’t have to put all these on your resume, you just need to get it all written down. 

General Skills vs. Specific Skills

You can go about listing skills any way you want, but I find breaking them down into general vs. specific is easier. For example, a general skill is social media management, but a specific part of this skill would be Facebook ads, Instagram posts, or the software Hootsuite. Another general skill is photo editing, and the specific skill would be Photoshop.

Writing Your General Skills

Think about what you’ve done in past positions and the overarching skills you have. There are many things that fall under general skills. Think about the responsibilities in your past positions and how you can translate those into skills. You can even include any languages you speak.

Here’s a list below to get your ideas going:

  • Project Management
  • Design
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Customer Service
  • Knowledge Management
  • Cold Call Sales
  • Leading Teams
  • Content Creation

Writing Your Specific Skills

Now let’s list out any specific skills you have learned at work, a class, or on your own.

What softwares or technology have you used in the past? Remember, you can think professional and personal. You don’t need to be an expert in these. If you took a free course on something, add it! You can decide later whether you should put it on your resume. 

Here are some examples:

  • iOS
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Google Suite (Sheets, Docs, Drive)
  • Google Analytics
  • Slack
  • Zendesk
  • Airtable
  • Confluence
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • HTML/CSS
  • JavaScript
  • SEO Writing

I’m no expert in HTML/CSS, but I know enough to play around with it and have a general understanding of what I’m seeing, so I include it on my resume.

When You Have Trouble Thinking of Your Skills

It’s common to have a hard time conjuring up what skills you have. There are a couple of easy ways to surface all your skills.

First, think about your past jobs. What skills were required for your day-to-day responsibilities? What skills did you learn on the job? What technologies did you learn to use? List out what comes to mind. 

Next, in your education, whether it was traditional school or online courses, what did you learn? Did you take a class on a specific software or maybe a skill like graphic design? 

Last, were there any side projects you worked on or volunteer positions that utilized or helped bring about a new skill?

After answering these questions, you should have a good list of skills to choose from for your resume.

What Skills Does the Employer Wants To See?

Now that you have your Skill Bank filled out, how do you decide which skills to put on your resume? 

This all depends on the specific job you're applying for. Having an actual job you want to apply for makes it a lot easier because you can refer to the job description to know what skills matter to the employer. So you don’t need to worry about putting your skills on your resume until you have an actual position you want that will guide your decision. 

Read The Job Description

Have out your Skill Bank, your resume, and the job description of the job that you are applying for. Read through the job description, and as you identify a skill they are looking for that is also one you have, add it to your resume. 

For example, if the job description points out that you need “strong written communication” ability, you might add “Written Communication” or even “Copywriting” if that’s something you’ve learned.

If the job description says you’ll be communicating through Slack, or using Google Suite, add those if you’ve used them.

While you’re reading the job description you may get ideas for more skills to add to your bank. That's great! Add those too. Your Skill Bank will be your resume-writing companion from here on out, so always be updating it. 

Showcasing Skills Outside of the Skill Section

The skill section isn’t the only place you can communicate your skills to a potential employer. In fact, you might have too many to list in that section.

Another great thing to do is communicate a skill within a job description from your Experience section. If there was a skill you utilized in a position, putting it in the job description is a great way to show how you used that skill. 

So if a skill you have is HTML/CSS, you can write something like “Used HTML/CSS knowledge to suggest specific improvements to the web development team.”

Or if one of your skills is leadership, you can write something like “Lead a team of 3 employees by meeting with them weekly to clarify goals and remove roadblocks.”

Making sure the skills section of your resume is aligned with what the employer is looking for is important. It gets the employer of your resume to feel like you’re a good match.

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