List of 5 key skills to highlight on your resume (with examples)

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Between applicant tracking systems and a sea of open jobs online, resumes have turned into a bit of a guessing game for candidates. Ultimately, what candidates need to do is paint themselves as the best candidate for the open role at a company.

But in an age when you don’t know whether a machine or a human is looking at your resume first, candidates must learn how to communicate their hard and soft skills, not only during interviews, but on their resume as well.

Ladders put together a guide of how to highlight your skills on your resume, with expert advice from Steven Starks, Senior Manager of Career Counseling Programs & Operations at the University of Phoenix, and Dana Leavy-Detrick, Managing Director of the Brooklyn Resume Studio.

How to highlight soft skills on your resume

“In terms of soft skills…those types of things are important to weave into the resume under the bullet statements of their experience section,” Starks said. “It’s not so much about the keywords…it’s more about telling the story of that skill.”

Instead of adding a bullet to say that you have excellent communication skills, you should instead provide an example of how you use those communication skills in your role to execute successful results.

Here’s examples of soft skills and how you can weave them seamlessly into your own resume.

List of 5 soft skills to highlight on your resume (with examples)

  • Problem solving

A company hires new employees because they are looking to solve a problem, so demonstrating that you have solved issues for your previous employer is important to do on your resume.

Example of problem solving: “Identified error in one of our main traffic streams and reorganized our topics on that platform, which returned our sites traffic numbers to the original standards.”

  • Presentation skills

Being able to give a successful presentation is  important for many job roles. Being that public speaking is a difficult task, if a job role requires it, it’s imperative for you to demonstrate a strong presentation track record.

Example of presentation skills: “Oversaw a customer-facing presentation from ideation to execution in front of 50 potential clients, resulting in 25 new sign ups for our platform.”

  • Leadership skills

Leadership is extremely important for many roles, especially higher level roles. According to Starks, the higher level the role that you’re applying to, the more leadership success stories you should have and specific examples with measurable outcomes.

Starks often sees clients struggling with defining what leadership actually means, especially those professionals  that are looking for their first managerial role.

“They’re looking for examples of what leadership might look like even though they don’t have authority and aren’t in a formal supervisory role,” Starks said.

Starks recommends that professionals begin to think about times when they acted as a mentor, taught a collegue something new, or generally made others in the workplace better. Any time you took initiative to make your company more successful is a great example of leadership.

Example of leadership: “Took initiative to educate the team on better LinkedIn behavior that will draw attention to our company and make professionals interested in working with us.”

  • Adaptability

“Adaptability, constantly learning, and being able to apply that knowledge is really important to highlight,” Starks said.

Oftentimes tasks in your job will require you to learn new skills, whether formally or on your own. Those who are able to dedicate themselves to learning new skills or topics are the most impressive candidates.

You can demonstrate adaptability on your resume by describing situations that required you to do tasks outside of your job description, learn new skills, or thrive during a time of change.

Example of adaptability: “Hired as a writer and served as a junior editor during transitions in the company, handling scheduling of posts, editing copy, and social interactions.”

  • Critical thinking

This skill is important to highlight on your resume because it shows that you put more thought into your work than the average employee. Your example should demonstrate that you attempt to solve issues in creative ways, with no fear of veering from off the way things are typically done.

Example of critical thinking: “Adjusted recruiting process to include a heavy social presence, implementing a new posting strategy that yields 3x more engagement.”

How to highlight hard skills on your resume

“There’s a lot of lists out there that talk about ‘what are the hot skills that everybody is looking for’…but when I’m working with clients, that type of general advice doesn’t seem to work very well for them,”Starks said. “We end up talking more about how to actually get a list of skills that they’re going to need to highlight for the roles they’re targeting…much more specific to a very specific role.”

Starks recommends tailoring your resume skills to the specific type of role that you’re applying to. With applicant tracking systems, resumes with industry-specific skills are the ones that allow candidates to make it through to the interview stage.

In order to do this, Starks recommends reviewing a range of job descriptions and picking out keywords that you see across all descriptions. Instead of including keywords that appear only in the description you’re applying to, Starks recommends reviewing similar job postings and picking out the common language to include on your resume.

Hard skills that are job-specific should appear throughout your resume. Here are the three places that you should include relevant hard skills on your resume:

  1. Skills should appear in your summary. Leavy-Detrick recommends spelling out the five to ten core competencies that are your absolute strengths right at the top of your resume in the summary section. “That’s going to help set the tone for the rest of the document,” Leavy-Detrick said.
  2. You should include skills sprinkled throughout your professional experience section. Make sure you show how you have learned those hard skills, and provide examples of specific projects in your roles that required you using them. If you can provide success stories that show you used those hard skills, your resume experience sections will be a gold mine.
  3. Resumes should have a dedicated skills section. A technical skills section at the bottom will allow you to include those very important skills for the specific role that you weren’t able to to include in any other part of the resume, or ones that you want to reinforce.

“People miss the hard skills,” Leavy-Detrick said. “What are the core attributes needed to do your job? Whether that’s project management, creative direction, strong communication skills…people think that somebody reading it will automatically glean those things, but even just for keyword purposes it’s important to include core competencies and areas of expertise in that summary section.”

How to highlight your skills on a resume in a unique way

Leavy-Detrick encourages candidates to include skills that aren’t directly related to the job, but speak to certain important attributes about yourself.

For example, including that you are a marathon runner shows that you hare able to have extreme commitment and dedication, and listing that you are an Eagle Scout suggests superior leadership skills. Additionally, volunteering can prove to hone soft skills such as leadership, organizing events, and mobilizing people, which are skills that could be very useful in a job setting.

“I’ve seen people put that they’re a sommelier, because the sommelier test is notoriously difficult to pass and requires an ability to memorize tons and tons of information,” Leavy-Detrick said. “Even though it might not be related, it suggests softer skills that could be of interest.”

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