Putting together a strong resume that stands out from the pack and lands you an interview can feel a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle, especially when it comes to the skills section. In this day and age, when a computer algorithm is perhaps more likely to comb through your resume before it ever lands in front of human eyes, how does a person know what work skills are must-haves?
The skills that will help push your resume to the top of the pack fall into two distinct categories:
- Hard skills
- Soft skills
Employers are going to want job-seekers who have the right mix of both, so highlighting a healthy balance of each is essential.
Hard Vs. Soft Skills
Before we jump into the specific work skills, let’s clarify the difference between hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those technical skills that you’ve gained through educational courses, internships, and previous jobs. Software programming, Photoshop, campaign management, foreign languages, and dental surgery are all examples of hard skills.
These are skills that can be clearly defined and will vary greatly depending on your particular career field.
Soft skills, on the other hand, are going to be those skills that are more universal and would be just as useful for a CEO to have as they would for a social worker. Things like critical-thinking, adaptability, organization, and other skills that involve interacting with people are going to be soft skills. While your hard skills might help get you in the door, your soft skills will play a major factor in your promotability.
5 Soft Skills to List on Your Resume
Here are five soft skills that are always going to be in demand.
No matter what job field you work in or how high you climb on the career ladder, you’re going to run into problems along the way — and probably quite often. Employers want employees who don’t get deterred by problems, but who meet them head-on and work to find a solution. The better you are at problem-solving, the more capable you’ll be in each job.
Active listening is simply giving your full attention to the person talking to you. Here’s a secret: Employers love active listeners. It means better communication, fewer mistakes, and improved productivity all around. No matter what career field you’re in, being an engaged active listener is always an asset. Being a good active listener can take some effort, but it’s worth improving upon.
Ah, teamwork…this soft skill probably doesn’t get the respect it deserves because “team player” is such a common resume work skill. Back up this skill with real examples in your work, however, and it will shine. People who really do have a good teamwork ethic move up more quickly in organizations and become the ones who other employees look to for guidance and leadership.
Ask any biologist and they’ll tell you that a species that fails to adapt is doomed to extinction. You’re very likely going to have managerial changes at some point in your job, and they may want to do things differently than the last one. How you handle adapting to those changes will determine your future in that position.
5 Hard Skills to List on Your Resume
As far as hard skills that will stand out to an employer, that’s a bit more complicated since there are literally thousands of different jobs out there. That said, having one or more hard skills that fit into these categories will apply in a wide range of occupations.
Yes, good “communication” is often one of those work skills that lands in the soft skills category, but so many hard skills fall under this umbrella. Copywriting, graphic design, technical writing, digital storytelling, and foreign language skills all fall into this category.
Are you the person who can write a press release for your company’s new product or come up with a brilliant logo? These are all various forms of communicating a message to the customer and will be of value across many industries.
Sales and Marketing
Even if “salesperson” isn’t in your job title, this category covers a pretty wide range of hard skills. Data analytics, SEO, and social media management, are just some of the hard skills that are related to sales and marketing.
So how could somebody applying for a job at a dog grooming salon or real estate company, for example, benefit from knowing some SEO or social media? Well, that dog grooming salon will have a constant need to acquire customers. In real estate, being able to market and sell homes quickly to potential clients will make yourself a more valuable agent.
A lot of jobs require different project management work skills, such as scheduling, risk management, budgeting, and negotiation. The higher you climb in your career, the more likely you’re going to be tasked with project management as you take on more responsibilities. Knowing how to plan out and see a project through from start to completion using the various technologies in your industry is a vital hard skill to have.
You’re never going to run into an employer who says that they prefer employees who are unorganized. Yes, some jobs allow for a little more disorganization than others, but being organized goes a long way towards being efficient and effective in your work. This is one work skill where it’s going to become apparent pretty quickly to your employer if you possess it, so if you list it, demonstrate it.
The list of occupations out there that don’t involve some sort of computer technology seems to be getting smaller by the day. This is obviously a pretty broad category and could include everything from Excel to Photoshop, Slack, and programming languages such as Python and Java.
Depending on your chosen occupation, you may want to list several technology hard skills by breaking them up into various technical fields.
These are going to be work skills that very likely may fit into some of the categories above, but are directly specific to your industry. Something like an accounting software program such as QuickBooks or knowledge of a specific skill in the healthcare or legal fields, for example, would fall into this category of hard skills.
How to Get an Employer’s Attention
Before you pull up your resume for a complete rewrite, there are a few things to address before padding it up with all these new skills that you’ve suddenly acquired. Your resume only has about five seconds to capture an employer’s attention before they hit the “delete” button, so it’s important that you leave skills off that you really may not be all that skilled at.
Some “skills” may not be applicable skills at all.
Remember that mention of “foreign language skills” in the communication category above? Yeah, if you haven’t spoken a word of French since high school, don’t list it. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of a hiring manager who is fluent striking some small talk and you’re left looking like a deer in the headlights.
Listing off social media skills should also be taken into careful consideration. If you’re applying for any type of marketing job and really do know the ins and outs of Instagram, then, by all means, list it. If the job you’re applying for isn’t in the marketing, advertising, or social media fields, then it may be better to leave social media platforms off if you haven’t directly used them in a professional capacity before.
With both hard and soft work skills, the best approach is to identify which ones are your strongest successes and most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Remember, the skills section of your resume should align with the job description and your previous work experience. If you start there, you can’t go wrong.