10 tips to describe your professional skills in your resume

Writing professional skills on your resume seems a very straightforward task at first. But there is more to it. Yes, it is straightforward to embellish your resume by listing every skill you have learned since you were born. However, doing that will only hurt your chances of landing the role that you are applying for.

The skills section is an important part of your CV. Rarely does a resume go through the thorough scrutiny of a recruiter – on average, a recruiter spends only six seconds screening a resume. Hence, the skill section serves the purpose of succinctly and conspicuously listing your abilities.

They are also a good way to get the dreaded applicant tracking system (ATS). So, you must include the right skills and include them in a way that is natural and discernible.

In this article, we will offer elite guidance on how to and what skills to put on the resume that could promise you your next job.

Hard skills vs. soft skills

When it comes to CV, there are two types of skills:

  • Soft skills are indicative of one’s personal traits. They are acquired from your past experiences and the environment you were brought up in. They are also called transferrable skills because they can be used or ‘transferred’ in many other jobs and career paths. Their examples include:
    • Problem-solving
    • Negotiating
    • Communication
    • Leadership
    • Multitasking
    • Time-management
    • Presentation skills
    • Diligence
    • Punctuality
    • Critical thinking
  • Hard skills, on the other hand, are learned through voluntary effort. Such skills are inculcated through education or extensive training programs. Unlike the soft skills, these are coachable, meaning anyone can learn them. They are also job-specific skills, which means that they are required for a specific job. They are not necessary or even required for other jobs, but for that one job, they are crucial. Examples of hard skills are:
    • Accounting
    • English
    • Turkish
    • Python
    • C++
    • Data analysis
    • Search Engine Optimization
    • Banking
    • Construction Engineering

Your resume should contain both hard and soft skills. Employers pay great attention to both sets of skills when they want to discern the best fit for the role.

Now that we have some idea about the professional skills that go onto a CV, let us get right into 10 ways you to describe your professional skills in your resume effectively:

1. Figure out your skills

The best skills to put on your resume are the ones that you already have. Conjuring a set of abilities out of thin air and writing about skills that you don’t have will only hurt your cause.

You may have most likely learned your skills from your school or job or any volunteering work you did. If you have never worked before, think about any activities or interests from which you may have gained skills such as:

  • Playing sports or being in a sports team
  • Taking part in debates or theatre performance
  • Belonging to your school clubs such as book reading club, entrepreneurial club, music/performance art club, etc.
  • Being a part of your school’s student council.

Do not forget to mention any relevant job-specific skills that you learned from the courses at school, such as:

  • C++, Java, Python, or any programming language
  • Construction Management
  • Mathematics
  • Problem Solving
  • Machine Learning
  • Regression Analysis

You may even have to dig out your college transcript to see if there are any skills you learned there worth mentioning.

2. Recognize the skills employers want

To know what skills employers demand, read the job description carefully. Mark out any competencies and skills they are looking for. Consider this job description for Retail Sales Specialist for instance:

“Retail Sales Specialist is responsible for all sales activities and duties from greeting customers, answering their queries, offering suggestions, and providing product information. The job of Retail Sales Specialist entails outstanding customer service, keeping the selling area stocked with retail items in an organized manner.

A Retail Sales Specialist will process payments through cash and store, credit cards, checks, or other means. He must be able to deal with customer demands respectfully and professionally. Have an excellent command of the English language. Be punctual and enthusiastic in undertaking his tasks. He must be dutiful in keeping up product knowledge.”

The skills and proficiencies the employer is looking for, according to this job description, are:

  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Excellent Verbal and Written Communication
  • Time Management
  • Diligence
  • Product Knowledge
  • English
  • Problem Solving
  • Organization

At many online job portals such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor, the job application will also have keywords for skills listed alongside the job description to help you figure out whether you are a suitable candidate.

3. Compare your skills to what the job requires

Now that you have figured out your skills and found what skills your employer wants, the next step is to compare them and include them in your CV accordingly. Your employer will only look for the skills in your CV that he is concerned with. Hence, there is no need to boast about any other skills that have no relevance to the job you are applying for.

If you are applying for jobs online, the applicant tracking system (ATS) will find a match between keyword skills from the resume and the job description. The more matches it finds from both, the more likely your resume will get shortlisted for round two.

4. Prove your skills using examples

For each skill you have listed on your resume, try to show how you used It or how you learned it.  Under the work experience section or extracurricular activities section, you can mention how you implemented these skills. For example:

  • Diligence – Ran a café for 16 years. Served customers, managed books, and prepared beverages from 09:00 are till midnight on weekdays.
  • Sales – Worked in the role of client acquisition associate for 2 years. Was responsible for customer service, payment processing, and merchandise inventories.
  • Teamwork – Was a part of the executive committee on the student council. Worked with people to make decisions about student issues. Was a part of the college basketball team for 3 years.

5. Add some broadly-used hard skills

Listing some hard skills that are ubiquitous among the professionals, such as Microsoft Office, is a good way to strengthen your resume. Here are some of these technical skills that you should consider writing in your resume:

  • Language proficiency – English, French, and Mandarin are the most important languages in business.
  • Computer skills – Microsoft Office 365, Adobe Photoshop, etc.
  • Writing – Technical writing, blogging, copywriting.
  • Advertising – SEO, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics,

6. Teamwork

Most jobs will require you to work with other people, and your ability to work well within a team is valuable to almost every employer. Showing that you can work with different people harmoniously and collaborate on tasks together is an encouraging sign for your employers to hire you. Listing this skill on your resume will make you look good in front of your employers.

7. Communication

One of the best skills to put on a resume is the ability to communicate effectively. Both written and verbal communication are important in building relationships and are hunted by virtually every employer. If you have good communication skills, you can explain your work to others, amicably present opposing views, and speak confidently in a room full of people.

Employers want to know how you express yourself in front of your subordinates and your boss. Whether it’s the CEO or a junior copywriter, hiring companies expect their candidates to know what to say and how to say it.

8. Problem solving

No business, firm, or individual is infallible. Sometimes things do go wrong. So, employers are looking for the ability in their candidates to find quick and successful solutions to a problem. As with other soft skills mentioned before, try to substantiate this skill with an example from your work experience or other extracurricular activities.

Example: As the yearly budget fell short for our entrepreneurial club, we arranged a music event to cover up the budget deficit from the event’s ticket sales.

9. Organization

Often jobs require juggling multiple tasks or business simultaneously. Therefore, hiring companies are looking for their candidates to be good at organization. Organization must apply the tips to manage time, adherence to deadlines, prioritizing, and planning. One way to establish this skill in the minds of your employer so to make a very structured resume with great attention to detail.

10. Leadership

No doubt that the hiring firms need prospective leaders. Someone who possesses good knowledge about his work understands people and can motivate them to carry out their duties.

An effective workplace leader is well-versed in both pieces of knowledge of his work and interpersonal skills. A leader is ineffectual if he lacks any one of the soft skills mentioned before. A good office leader is:

  • Clear when communicating with his peers
  • Recognizes his workers’ talents so they can work efficiently
  • Promotes productivity and professionalism
  • Inspires everyone to do their best
  • Maintains harmony at the workplace and resolves conflict and disagreement effectively.

The best way to let the employer know that you embody all the leadership characteristics is to mention the leadership roles you were in when you were working at a job or during other activities.  It is the topmost skill to list on your resume to persuade your employer to consider you for the role immediately.