What Your Resume “Skills” Section Should Look Like
What’s a job “skill”?
On a resume, it seems like everyone has their own definition. Some people list “skills” like “effective manager” and “dedicated work ethic.” Others go with “team leader” and “strong communication skills.”
But let me ask a simple question: is “strong work ethic” a skill or personality trait?
The answer is B. Personality traits are not job skills and, in my view, do not belong in the “Skills” section of a resume. Want an example of a “skill” that could set your resume apart from the competition?
Software development. That’s a “skill.”
Resume “skills” are tangible, practical, hands-on, real-world stuff you know how to use or do. I spoke recently with Nimit Maru, co-founder of Fullstack Academy in New York City. Fullstack teaches people to become software developers, one of the most in-demand professions today. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts software development jobs will exceed 200,000 by 2022, and the average salary for a developer today is $90,060.
Maru says he often trains people who come from traditional jobs that aren’t heavy on technology.
“If you have a creative mind and the ability to pick up new ideas quickly, software development could be a great fit,” said Maru. “At Fullstack, we show you how to construct software and websites from scratch so you understand the entire process. It’s a comprehensive education that’s appealing to employers.”
When people leave Fullstack, their resume “skills” section is chock full of goodness. Items like:
- Knowledge of agile project management
- Experience with UX design and open source development
Yes, those are job skills. And the added bonus: super valuable skills and certifications imply you’re “dedicated” and possess a “strong work ethic.” If not, how would you have obtained the knowledge?
I often write about the need to SHOW people what you can do rather than TELL them. It’s why I advocate you lead a cover letter with a short story of success on the job. And why you should also share positive stories in job interviews rather than tell the employer you’re “passionate.”
Not. Good. Enough.
Same goes for the resume “Skills” section. Anyone can claim to be an “effective project manager,” but can you PROVE it? Here are some examples:
- project management tools you know how to use (ex: Basecamp)
- certifications you’ve completed
- social media channels you understand (but it’s not enough to say “Proficient at LinkedIn” — you need to go deeper like “Proficient at LinkedIn advertising” and provide info on a niche topic within the platform)
- data analysis, fundraising, marketing, sales or IT tools/software
- languages you speak
- you can mention “soft” skills if they’re specific to the position; like if the job requires you to work from home, then you can write “Experience with virtual teams” or “Experience working independently” (if you had written “Focused and motivated”…that’s vague and won’t help you)
- DO NOT include “Microsoft Office” — everyone knows how to use those programs by now
And, of course, if you complete a software development course at a place like Fullstack, you’d better devote a chunk of the “Skills” section to what you know how to use/operate/fix/build/design/create on the web.
Let your skills drive your job application. It’s the best marketing tool you’ve got.
How did you obtain the “hard” skills your company needs?
Featured photo: Marco Arment (Flickr)
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