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What are good skills to put on a resume? Advice from a recruiter

A piece of orange paper is ripped out of a larger piece of orange paper and within the ripped part are the words, "Make your resume stand out."
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August 19, 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

When applying for jobs, the only thing usually more dreaded than writing a cover letter, is figuring out what to put on your resume. Listing your past experiences, education, qualifications, etc. isn’t so bad, but figuring out what skills to put on your resume can be a challenge.

If you find yourself wondering, “What are good skills to put on a resume?”, it’s important to first understand what the different types of skills are and when you should be listing each type of skill on your resume.

Once you have this figured out, making your resume application-ready will be a breeze!

Soft skills versus hard skills

There are two different types of skills you could put on your resume: soft skills and hard skills.

Soft skills

These are skills that cannot be measured, or usually taught. They are part of your personality and make you who you are.

Examples of soft skills:

  • Strong work ethic.
  • Detail-oriented.
  • Good time management.
  • Critical thinker.
  • Great team player.
  • Excellent problem solver.

Hard skills

These are skills you learn through experience. They can be measured by your level of success when using them. Examples include things like speaking a foreign language, knowing how to use Excel, being able to code, etc.

Whether you should list soft skills or hard skills on your resume is dependent on what type of job you are applying for.

Examples of hard skills:

  • Microsoft Office skills.
  • Mechanical skills.
  • Writing skills.
  • Graphic design skills.
  • Cooking skills.
  • Finance skills.
A person wearing a plaid shirt sits at a table and works on their resume on their laptop.

If you are applying for an entry-level role ...

You most likely don’t have a lot of previous experience in that line of work, which is why you are applying for something that’s entry-level. When this is the case, you often don’t have many hard skills you can showcase on your resume that are related to the job.

This is a time when it is OK to highlight your soft skills. This is because employers know they will be able to teach you the necessary hard skills to perform the tasks of the entry-level role.

How to determine which soft skills to include on your resume:

1. Talk to your current manager and coworkers.

One of the best ways to decide which soft skills to include on your resume is to ask those around you about what makes you a good employee.

For example, if you are currently waitressing at a restaurant to pay your way through college and are applying for your first job post-grad, sit down with your manager and ask him/her what your strongest skills are. Take notes and include these on your resume.

2. Look a previous reviews and pull skills from those.

Another way to determine your soft skills is to look through previous reviews you had at former or current employers.

For example, if you were a counselor at a summer camp throughout college, there’s a good chance you had end-of-summer reviews with your boss. Think back on what he/she said you did well while in this role. These could be skills you list on your resume.

3. Think about the job application itself.

Reread the description of the job you are going to apply for; it should lay out what the responsibilities of the role are. Think about the soft skills you have that would be useful for that role. Add those skills to your resume.

For example, if you’re applying for a customer service job, the application probably says you’re going to talk on the phone with customers most of the time. In this case, it is logical to list something about your communication skills on your resume.

A zoomed-in shot of a resume focuses on someone's, "Major Accomplishments" section, which has many bullet points under it.

If you are applying for a role that requires previous experience ...

If you’re applying for a job that requires previous industry experience, then you most-likely already have hard skills from your previous experiences. When this is the case, it is critical to highlight those hard skills on your resume.

This is because employers want to ensure you have the skills necessary to perform the job successfully. You will be able to demonstrate your soft skills during an interview.

How to determine which hard skills to include on your resume:

1. Focus on the job application.

The job application should lay out the responsibilities of the role. Within your skills section, showcase you have the needed skills to complete those responsibilities.

For example, if you are applying for a website developer role and the job description states that part of the responsibilities includes coding, include coding in the skills section of your resume.

2. Highlight your most mastered skills.

If you’ve included skills on your resume that pertain to the role’s responsibilities and still have room on your resume for more, consider adding a few skills you’re a master at or could set you apart from other applicants.

For example, maybe you’re applying for a sales role, and you did an internship in college that focused on marketing. Since marketing-related skills can overlap with sales-related skills, you could add a bullet or two in your skills section that highlight something marketing-related you learned how to do during your internship.

This could give you a slight edge over another applicant.

A few additional tips about what skills to put on a resume

Keep these points in mind when determining the top skills to put on your resume.

  • Don’t focus on the number of skills you include. Instead, focus on including enough skills to demonstrate you would be able to do the job well.
  • Qualifications are different than skills. Your qualifications are not the same as your skills. Qualifications are things like having a bachelor’s degree, having five years of work experience, etc. They are things you should be able to weave throughout the experience portion of your resume.
  • Be honest about your skills. One of the worst things you can do on your resume is lie. If you put skills on your resume that you don’t actually have, it will be obvious to the hiring manager when they ask questions about them during the interview or once you start the role.
  • Put your skills at the top of your resume. By putting your skills at the very top of your resume, you make it clear to the hiring manager you have what it takes to do well in the role. Use bullet points to make them easier to read.
  • Make your resume stand out. Anyone can list, “hard worker” or “strong team player” on their resume. Dig deep to think of skills that make you stand out among other applicants.

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About the author
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Tom is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He has worked in the staffing industry since 2015 and joined Schneider in May 2021 as a Corporate Recruiter who focuses on the Driver Recruiting and Security teams. Tom is your typical Wisconsinite – cheering on the Packers, Badgers, Bucks and Brewers in his free time.

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