Which Key Skills Should You Include in Your Résumé?

Résumé Key Skills

Sure, your qualifications can be a great selling point on your résumé, but it’s the skills and experience you bring to the table that employers really care about. A brilliant first degree, or even a PhD, will only get you so far, and will not necessarily be enough to secure you a job.

Recent research shows that 58% of employers value work experience among graduates more than their grades or the university they’ve been to.

So, whether you’re writing a skills-based résumé or a traditional document, the skills you’ve developed through your participation in societies, voluntary work and sporting achievements should take centre stage if you want to impress employers.

But the question remains: which key professional skills should you include on your résumé to boost your chances of job search success?

Job-specific skills

Job-specific, or job-related, skills are exactly that: the specific abilities you need to effectively and efficiently perform a particular job. These will typically be highlighted in job descriptions as ‘required skills’ and can also be referred to as hard skills. They are generally acquired through on-the-job training and promote employability.

A well-written résumé will have been tailored to the job you’re applying for, which means that including good examples of job-specific skills is essential.

On a side note, when listing job-specific skills on your résumé, make sure you only list those which are currently used and recognised in your job. Avoid including old programming languages and old machinery, for example, as it indicates that you do not keep up with your industry’s trends.

Some examples of job-specific skills include:

  • Auditing: For auditors who check an organisation’s financial records and procedures for accuracy
  • Technical writing: For writers who produce technical documentation that helps people understand and use a product or service
  • C++ programming: For software developers and programmers who research, design, programme and test computer software
  • Driving: For various professions where driving is essential to carry out the job, such as truckers, couriers, bus drivers, delivery drivers, etc
  • Forklift operation: For forklift drivers who load and unload goods in warehouses, airports and ports
  • Surgery: For surgeons who specialise in caring for patients who need an operation – after all, you wouldn’t exactly trust a web designer to perform a craniotomy on you now, would you?
  • Mechanical engineering: For mechanical engineers who develop and design the components and machinery used in manufacturing, construction, transport, etc
  • CAD (computer aided design): For architects who design new buildings and spaces, and restore and conserve old buildings

Transferable skills

Transferable skills are a core set of skills, aptitudes and personal attributes which can be transferred and applied to a wide variety of jobs, irrespective of industry. They’re typically picked up over time through previous jobs, volunteer work, sports, hobbies and other life experiences – or even at home! A stay-at-home mum, for example, could highlight her multitasking skills (toggling between cooking, cleaning and helping the kids with their homework) and coordinating skills (planning kids’ events and activities) if she’s considering going to back to work.

Adding these skills to your résumé can help you to show employers what you bring to the role and what you’ve learned from previous jobs or experiences. This is especially useful when you lack experience in the field you want to work in (for example, if you’re changing careers or you’re applying for an entry-level position).

Here are some great examples of transferable skills you can include on your résumé:

  • Leadership: Showing initiative and leadership abilities; motivating, taking responsibility for and leading others to meet objectives and goals – if you’ve managed people before, then you can transfer this experience to benefit another employer
  • Analytical: Gathering, interpreting and analysing information – you’ll likely have analysed data in some capacity, whether it was for a school project, in a previous job or even looking at how many ‘likes’ a personal post on Facebook got
  • Oral and written communication: Being able to express yourself clearly and articulate your ideas in an organised and logical way, preparing reports, explaining specific information, etc
  • Numeracy: Accurately and effectively working with numbers
  • Computer literacy: Effectively using computers and technology – familiarising yourself with up and coming software and workplace tools can go a long way
  • Time management: Organising your work and meeting deadlines – at uni, you’ll no doubt have had to turn in an essay or two, or complete other projects to strict deadlines
  • Interpersonal: Inspiring trust, listening effectively, as well as being tactful, diplomatic, discrete and easy to get along with
  • Prioritisation: Organising, prioritising, working under extreme pressure and a heavy workload – for recent graduates, this could stem from your balancing classes with sports or an extracurricular activity
  • Motivation: Being committed to personal growth and learning, looking for more responsibility, being determined to get things done, etc
  • Budgeting: For example, managing a household budget demonstrates fiscal responsibility, financial planning and budget reconciliation – all important business skills

Adaptive skills

Adaptive skills are quite simply the individual personality traits and characteristics that you possess which determine your work style. They’re not necessarily acquired through learning or experience, which is why it makes them so hard to substantiate. Essentially, they’re the qualities that make you, well, you.

While you might not think they’re as important as your job-specific or transferable skills, they can add great value to your résumé and set you apart from the competition, marking you out from another candidate with the same qualifications or work experience as you.

A great place to add your adaptive skills is your résumé's personal statement, though you may also choose to use your cover letter to outline your skills more clearly or in your employment history section if your prefer.

Some of the best adaptive skills to put on your résumé include:

  • Team working: Working effectively in a group to achieve goals, sharing credit with others, expressing appreciation, etc
  • Loyalty: Remaining in a job for a long time through thick and thin – employers will typically be able to glean this information from your employment dates
  • Creativity: Thinking outside the box and coming up with innovative solutions
  • Adaptability: Being open to change and willing to expand on your knowledge – this could be helping out in a different department or taking on extra duties
  • Positivity: Having a positive and enthusiastic attitude – after all, nobody likes working around Mr Grumpy
  • Hardworking: Going above and beyond to get the job done and meet the needs of the business and clients
  • Tenacity: Taking ownership of problems and finding ways to solve them
  • Honesty: Being honest and having the ability to make responsible and ethical decisions
  • Reliability: Being dependable and punctual, meeting work standards without supervision, etc
  • Productivity: Completing tasks and projects in a timely and efficient manner

Things to remember

Before you set out to write your skills section, check out these final tips and tricks to help you create a job-winning résumé.

  • Mine the job description for must-have skills: There’s a good chance an ATS, or applicant tracking system, will read your résumé before a human does. These systems are designed to look for keyword skills from job descriptions, and will filter out the CVs that don’t meet the requirements. In other words, beat the bots and add keywords.
  • Research the people who already have the job you want: Go to LinkedIn to research (read: stalk) the profiles of professionals who already have the job you’re after, and identify any shared skills and accomplishments you can include in your skills section.
  • Organise skills into categories: For example, a web developer’s skillset could be divided into programming languages, design, software and soft skills.
  • Rate your skills: You can do this by ranking your skills on a 10-point scale, for example, but it’s generally best to use a clearly understood metric that will demonstrate your proficiency, such as:
    • Beginner, when you understand basic concepts but lack experience
    • Intermediate, when you have experience but don’t understand advanced concepts
    • Expert, when you have solid experience and understand advanced concepts
  • Don’t list all your skills: Instead, pick 10 to 15 of your strongest, most desirable skills. Sometimes less is better.
  • Show, don’t tell: Avoid creating a boring bulleted list of your skills, and instead provide examples of how you used each skill!

What skills have you included on your résumé? Join the conversation down below and let us know!

Don’t forget to check out our collection of tips to make your résumé stand out!