Salaries are rising, and competition for skilled talent is heating up as companies expand their teams. Although that means it may be easier to find a job, you still need a top-notch resume to land the position you want most. Here are tips to help you highlight skills on your resume to stand out from the competition.
This post will show you:
- How citing soft and hard skills can set you apart from other candidates
- How using keywords matching those in the job description can help you make it past applicant scanning software
- How to create a skills section and showcase your skills throughout your resume
- Examples of skills to target for different roles
- Do’s and don’ts to check before submitting your resume
Skills to highlight on a resume
There are two main types of job-related skills for your resume: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills, or technical skills, are those required to do the job and are acquired through practice, education or training. Soft skills, also sometimes referred to as interpersonal skills or emotional intelligence, include traits such as communicating effectively and maintaining a positive attitude to achieve your goals. Soft skills are transferrable — you can take them from one task, job or industry to another.
When the hard skills and experience level are equal between candidates, soft skills can tip the balance.
20 examples of soft skills for a resume
To help you narrow down the soft skills to put on your resume, review the various duties of the position and determine which of your personal strengths will help you successfully complete those tasks.
Consider these 20 examples:
- Adaptability — Companies appreciate employees who can quickly acclimate to different environments and are open to new processes and technologies.
- Attention to detail — Mistakes are expensive in terms of time and money. Show prospective employers that you are careful and deliberate in all you do.
- Collaboration — Give examples of how well you get along with others and work with those within and outside of your company or department.
- Communication — This is the ability to tailor your written and verbal messaging to different audiences, from interns to the C-suite, without resorting to jargon.
- Creativity — Businesses cannot grow without a regular infusion of fresh ideas and new approaches to old problems.
- Curiosity — Inquisitive minds thrive on experimentation, which can lead to the next big thing for a company.
- Customer service — An organization prospers when its people are dedicated to delighting both internal stakeholders and external clients.
- Daring — Top performers are the ones who take calculated risks, push boundaries on what is possible and are comfortable with driving innovation.
- Decision making — Employers appreciate team members who can quickly assess a situation and determine the next steps to take.
- Empathy — To communicate effectively and get along with diverse personalities, you should have a sense for how others feel and tailor your approach accordingly.
- Leadership — This encompasses the many positive traits of a great manager, such as integrity, fairness and a strategic mindset.
- Multitasking — In an ideal world, everyone would focus on one thing at a time. But we don’t live in that world, so show off your ability to juggle several projects.
- Passion — Do you love what you do? Are you excited about emerging technologies and the industry’s future? If so, don’t curb your enthusiasm!
- Positivity — The goal here is not to be excessively cheerful or optimistic, but to approach difficulties with a can-do attitude.
- Presentation — More than just communication, this soft skill is about connecting with an audience and delivering your message with confidence.
- Problem solving — This is the ability to resolve conflicts and come up with creative resolutions to challenges big and small.
- Self-motivation — No boss wants to keep lighting a fire under their workers. Give instances of how you’ve taken initiative to solve problems and get the job done.
- Teamwork — Whether within a small group or a large crowd, you know how to work well with others and deliver tangible results.
- Time management — People with this soft skill have the necessary discipline to tune out distractions, meet deadlines and get the most out of their workday.
- Work ethic — Honesty, punctuality, responsibility and reliability are all integral to a strong work ethic.
How do soft skills apply if you’re pursuing a job as a systems engineer? You might note on your resume how your ability to collaborate with coworkers has helped you design software to improve workflow. For a receptionist, empathy allows you to de-escalate tense situations and deliver excellent customer service.
15 examples of hard skills for a resume
Here are examples of 15 hard skills and explanations for why hiring managers look for them in resumes:
- Accounting or bookkeeping — Basic abilities include invoicing, collections, payments, account reconciliation and proficiency in software such as QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero.
- Data analysis — This is the ability to find meaning and gain business intelligence from large data sets.
- Data privacy — Cybersecurity is top of mind for any organization that connects to the cloud for software and data storage. This hard skill is key for anyone who deals with sensitive or proprietary client information.
- Enterprise resource planning — ERP systems such as Oracle, NetSuite and SAP help employers manage their business and automate functions.
- Human resources — Companies rely on HR specialists to not only recruit and hire new employees, but also to onboard and retain them afterward.
- Mathematics — Many jobs, and not just those in accounting, require workers to figure percentages, calculate margins and/or create accurate data charts.
- Multilingualism — Sought-after second languages depend on the industry and city, but some of the top ones are Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) and Tagalog.
- Process automation — Businesses can save resources and improve accuracy by using smart software and artificial intelligence to take over rote tasks. At the same time, companies rely on humans to set up and oversee those systems.
- Product design — Form and function are rolled into one in this hard skill, which optimizes both user friendliness and visual appeal.
- Project management — Office professionals should be familiar with the software and best practices required for seeing a project through from beginning to end.
- Research skills — The information is out there. Whether for eDiscovery or competitor intelligence, the trick is knowing how to use the right tools and methodologies.
- Software proficiency — Almost all office jobs today require at least a baseline knowledge of Microsoft Office and G Suite apps for word processing, spreadsheets, email, presentations and collaboration.
- Search engine optimization — SEO and its cousin, search engine marketing (SEM), are key aspects of any role that deals with online content — from writers and editors to publicists and HR professionals.
- Typing skills — Medical coders, transcribers, schedulers, clerks, data entry specialists and administrative professionals should have fast and accurate keyboarding abilities.
- Writing and editing — Essential for clear communication regardless of field, this hard skill encompasses a thorough understanding of grammar, word choice, sentence structure, organization, persuasion and readers’ points of view.
Keep in mind that your resume should provide examples of how you’ve used the hard skills that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking.
Use skills and phrasing from the job description
Many companies scan resumes and cover letters for keywords they’ve used in their job postings. Some use an applicant tracking system, which is an electronic filter used to collect, sort and rank resumes in an effort to narrow applicant pools to the most qualified candidates. That’s why you need to write a resume with words and phrases that match the job listing — as long as you actually possess the skills you’re listing, of course.
If an employer is looking for a graphic designer, and mastery in Adobe Creative Suite is required, don’t just include “experience with software for creative professionals.” Likewise, if an employer is searching for an accountant with experience processing daily invoices and credit, use similar language in your resume, rather than “gathering receipts.”
Because every job description is different, tailor the skills and keywords on your resume and cover letter for each position to give yourself the best chance at landing an interview.
Discover skills the company values
In addition to using the job description as a guide, it’s useful to have an idea of the type of person the employer typically hires. How do you find that out? Research, research, research. If you know someone who works at the company or has in the past, reach out to ask what the employer considers important in its workers. Follow the company’s social media feeds and visit the company website. Reading the About Us page is typically a good place to begin.
For instance, IBM lists its “values at work” online:
- Dedication to every client’s success
- Innovation that matters — for our company and for the world
- Trust and responsibility in all relationships
If you were applying for a job at IBM, you might consider soft skills you possess that fit — attentive, detail-oriented, enterprising and loyal, perhaps? — and weave them into your resume.
Here at Robert Half, we focus on and promote our four LEAD principles. They are:
- Leadership by Example
- Ethics First
- An Openness to New Ideas
- Dedication to Excellence
If you’re applying for a job at Robert Half, you might spotlight skills that speak to your leadership, drive and diligence, as well as your confidence and ability to collaborate.
Bottom line: Pay close attention to the type of job candidates employers seek, and emphasize your most pertinent strengths.
Create a skills section on your resume
The general layout and formatting principles when you write a resume include:
- Keep it to one page in length (three pages maximum for senior positions).
- Write clear section headings.
- Use an easy-to-read font.
- Include sections for contact information, summary, professional title, work experience, skills and education.
If you’re applying for a position that requires specific technical skills, you can create a skills section near the top of your resume and above your professional experience. Another option is to add a side column, but the important thing is to make it the most visible, attention-grabbing part of your resume.
Soft skills can also be highlighted in a Skills section, or even combined with technical skills in a more general Key Skills or Areas of Expertise section. If these skills are relevant to the job, make sure they’re prominent on your resume. But also sprinkle your work-related skills wherever you can.
Highlight skills throughout your resume
Write about your abilities in the main Work Experience or Experience section of your resume, too. And show, don’t tell. Rather than simply saying that you’re a good communicator, give concrete details.
Here are some explanations of common skills that applicants put on a resume and examples of how to present them:
- Communication — Focus on your verbal and written communication skills or your sharp active listening abilities. Play up your track record of strong communication with your colleagues, manager, clients and customers, and offer tangible examples:
Wrote a monthly email newsletter to customers that increased leads by 35 percent.
- Multitasking — Handling several tasks simultaneously is the status quo for many employees today. Note on your resume the types of tasks and situations you've handled regularly — and how you did so calmly and efficiently:
Juggled multiple projects and project deadlines, and served as the liaison between clients and colleagues, gathering and implementing feedback from both parties for projects with tight turnaround times.
- Leadership skills — Whether you’re managing a team or positively influencing colleagues, employers often seek leadership skills in potential hires:
Led a 10-person team from different areas of the firm that worked together to succeed in reducing operating expenses by 15 percent.
- Prioritizing — Employees are often tasked with tackling multiple projects at once, and many requests come in on the fly, which requires you to operate with grace under fire. Detail how you prioritize your projects and requests. The last thing an employer wants is an easily flustered employee:
Smoothly and calmly prioritized multiple web design projects for a team of 20 people in a fast-paced environment.
- Initiative and problem-solving abilities — Prove how essential you’ve been to past managers by spotlighting examples of ways you took the initiative to solve problems and take on special projects. Or perhaps you excel at looking at complicated business issues and bringing creative solutions to the table:
Implemented new consolidation procedures for monthly and quarterly close, reducing closing time by 30 percent.
- Dependability — It doesn’t matter what the job is, hiring managers want people on their team who do what they say they’re going to do. Dependability can be particularly important if you’re working with outside clients. Missing a deadline can mean lost business and a damaged reputation:
Completed projects on time or before deadline, and always followed through on work commitments, leading to greater work responsibilities and an eventual promotion.
- Technical skills — As mentioned above, play up your technical knowledge specific to the job, whether you’re an administrative assistant or UX designer:
Developed personas and usage scenarios for a variety of clients in fields including finance, entertainment and law.
Depending on the position you’re seeking, you’ll obviously have different skills you want to feature, as the following examples show.
Skills to highlight for accounting jobs
Accountants are expected to crunch numbers, but also to make data-driven conclusions and communicate them to people outside of their department. You should have aptitudes in these areas:
- Software, such as Microsoft Excel
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
- Business and leadership
- Verbal and written communication
- Data analytics
- Revenue recognition
- Risk and compliance
- Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
Send us your resume for roles in accounting, from clerks to accountants to controllers.
Important skills on your resume for customer service jobs
When customers have issues or concerns about a company, they often turn first to customer service departments to provide service or solve problems. Dealing with the public in these roles often requires skills in these areas:
- Data entry
- Attentive listening
- Troubleshooting and research
- Speed and efficiency
- Positive attitude
Search customer service jobs to see job descriptions for various roles in customer service, from representatives to managers.
Skills to list in a business analyst resume
A business analyst wears the hats of data specialist, finance professional and problem solver. Highlight your well-rounded skill set, including:
- Business acumen
- Data mining
- Client relations
- Strategic thinking
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills, including presentation
- Project management
- Change management
- Collaboration with IT, sales, marketing, payroll and other departments
- Critical thinking and problem solving
Check out all our business analyst jobs!
Marketing jobs and desired skills
A resume for a marketing role should show stellar communication skills and various levels of experience with the hard and soft skills related to the position, such as these:
- Content creation
- Market research
- Analytics and search engine optimization
- Critical thinking
- Creative mindset
- Project management
- Digital tools and platforms, such as content management systems
- Social media channels
Job hunting for marketing positions? Check out our available marketing and creative jobs now!
What’s important for web developer jobs
The tech requirements for aspiring web developers might be specific enough to require experience with ASP.NET, CSS, MySQL and MS Access. But it’s often the softer side that helps you stand out. Here’s a mix of what you need in terms of experience and expertise:
- Operating systems
- Applications and databases
- Programming and design
- Search engine optimization
- Web content management
- Project management
Search our open web developer jobs!
Graphic design jobs and the skills to highlight
The field of graphic design is equal parts creative flair and technical mastery. You should be a pro in not just Adobe Creative Cloud, but also Word, WordPress, PowerPoint and Prezi. In addition to curating a digital portfolio that wows, mention these hard and soft skills:
- Writing and editing
- User experience
- Attention to brand consistency
- Eye for photography and images
- Collaboration with users and clients
- Design principles (typography, color theory, composition, scale, cropping)
- Brand and logo development
- Experience in multiple formats: direct mailers, signage, infographics, presentations, annual reports, etc.
- Strong project management skills
- Commitment to deadlines
- Time management and multitasking
- Ability to work independently and in a team setting
Browse all our graphic designer jobs!
Have you compiled your skills on your resume? Before you submit your final version, check over these do’s and don’ts:
DON’T exaggerate or lie about your skills
It can be tempting to include an inflated job title, a certification you don’t have, a college accolade you never earned or an employment history that didn’t last as long as you say it did. But just don’t do it. Making false claims or stretching the truth isn’t worth the risk.
Most companies conduct background checks and call references. In today’s digital world, the truth about your background is bound to surface, so keep your resume clean.
DO spell it out with numbers and facts
You don’t have to work in finance or manage a budget to make a few points using numbers in your resume. No matter what position you’re applying for, you can quantify your value rather than being ambiguous.
Did you successfully implement several projects in a short time? Did you reduce expenses for your company, increase sales or reach target markets? Were you responsible for the performance of team members? Did you respond to customer inquiries or process orders? All of those accomplishments involve numbers that you can play up.
DON’T clutter your resume with clichés
Certain resume words and phrases have become so ubiquitous they do little more than lead employers to yawn and roll their eyes. Hiring managers are so used to hearing from “gurus” who “facilitate” “outside-the-box thinking” that those hollow descriptions are now essentially meaningless.
Here are some power action verbs to use in your resume:
DO proofread your resume
Don’t email your resume until you’ve gone over it with a fine-toothed comb for spelling, grammar and formatting mistakes. Then ask someone who understands your job-search goals to look it over. Review a printed copy. Sometimes it’s easier to catch errors on paper than on a computer screen.
Check for wordiness (“owing to the fact that” is not even close to being as good as “because”), inconsistent tense (past then present then past again) and personal pronouns (I, you, me, our, us).
DON’T submit a generic resume
It takes time to create a unique, targeted resume for each job opportunity that showcases your hard and soft skills, but the effort is well worth it. For one, you’ll have a much better chance at making it through the applicant tracking software. In addition, you’ll be well-prepared when you get called to interview.
The process of truly thinking about what skills you have that best apply to the opportunity will help you make a stronger case for yourself in the job interview.
It’s time to put your skills to work for you!