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Written by Rolf BaxRolf Bax

How to list special skills on your resume

29 min read
How to list special skills on your resume
Tips, formatting examples, and keywords to list special skills on your resume that the hiring manager will love.

When you are making your case for a new job, it is your blend of resume skills that will show a hiring manager whether you are qualified for the role.

These resume skills might be listed in a specific section, described within your work experience , or even subtly implied in the summary, and they are an essential ingredient in your job search story. They are the foundation of your achievements.

The thing is, once you have listed a skill in your resume you have to be able to back it up with the career story that lies behind it. Resume skills are the strengths , talents, traits and wisdom that you have acquired throughout your education and career. The skills are your badges of honour, but it is the achievements that those skills support that are the hero content of any job search. This guide will cover how to go about showcasing your resume skills to the best effect, including:

  • Why skills are your job search currency
  • The difference between hard skills and soft skills
  • How do you list special skills on a resume?
  • Tips to match your skills to the job requirements
  • How to convey your level of proficiency
  • Top ten skills for ten common job functions
  • Top ten skills for ten common professions
Expert tip

Should I include every skill on my resume? It is of utmost importance that your resume is easy to read, so if you leave out some of your more obscure skills, you will still have the chance to mention them during an interview. You never quite know what the hiring manager is looking for, so describing a particularly specific skill when you are not sure whether it is required is a little risky. Make sure that the key skills for the role are all included. Then you can sprinkle some of the minor skill fairy dust.

How to list special skills on your resume - Showcasing your resume skills
How to list special skills on your resume - Showcasing your resume skills
Expert tip

Why skills are your job search currency

When you sit down to consider your next career move, you could do a lot worse than sitting down and listing all the things that you are good at. Then have a think about how these skills have contributed to your achievements and you will be able to sense how you will go about convincing your next boss to give you a job.

Your resume skills are your job search currency because they show a hiring manager whether you have what it takes to do a job. If you can share examples of your skills in action, they are the ultimate objective measure of your ability. But what counts as a special talent or skill? Well, put simply, any ability that helps you to do your job better than anyone else.

Hard skills vs. soft skills: What they are and how to use them to your advantage
Related article
Hard skills vs. soft skills: What they are and how to use them to your advantage

The hard and soft skills that underpin your achievements indicate your suitability for a role. This blog will show you how to highlight them during the recruitment process.

The difference between hard and soft skills

Hard (or technical) resume skills are all the practical, industry-specific tools and know-how needed for a job. Hard skills are quantifiable and usually learned in school, on the job, or training. Hard resume skills can usually be tested and are sometimes verified during the hiring process. 

A modern trend we see across the millions of resumes created with Resume.io is that more job seekers use hard skills to optimize the keywords on their resume. This strategy is an especially important step for candidates applying to larger companies who are likely to use Applicant Tracking Software (an ATS) to automatically filter and score resumes based on a list of keywords in the job description. 

Soft resume skills are usually aspects of your personality, work style, or effectiveness that are harder to measure or quantify. Soft skills are especially important for positions of leadership or positions where you are interacting with customers. When you have two candidates of similar backgrounds and professional qualities, it is often the soft skills that can be the deciding factor in who is hired.

Once hiring managers assess your hard skills to know you can get the job done, they look to your soft skills to know if you can get the job done well. For many modern offices and creative start-ups, a company culture fit could be the edge over someone with the same hard skills. Soft skills speak louder in some situations.

What are interpersonal skills: definition + top examples
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What are interpersonal skills: definition + top examples

Getting on with others is the key to business success, but how are interpersonal skills defined and how might we use these examples in our resume to make it stronger? Which interpersonal skills does the job require?

Statistical insight

Many recent studies have demonstrated the importance of soft skills in today’s job market. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report, 92 percent of hiring managers agree that strong soft skills are increasingly important. A study reported by SHRM, an organization for HR professionals, found that almost half of executives thought a lack of soft skills was the biggest proficiency gap in the U.S. workforce.

Expert tip

Profession-specific examples of hard and soft skills 

Hard skills ( Doctor ): Surgery, Post-Operative Care, Emergency Medicine, Diagnosis. 

Soft skills (Doctor): Team Management, Leadership, Compassion, Empathy. 

Hard skills (Sales Rep): Salesforce, Sales Development, Lead Qualification, Pipeline Management. 

Soft skills ( Sales Rep ):Communication, Decision-Making, Focus, Integrity, Influencing. 

Hard skills (Waitress): Aloha POS, Customer Service , Inventory Management, Bartending, and Food Prep. 

Soft skills ( Waitress ): Positive Attitude, Reliable, Communication, Hard Working, and Responsible.

Blog - How to list special skills on your resume - Profession-specific hard and soft skills
Blog - How to list special skills on your resume - Profession-specific hard and soft skills

Key rules for including resume skills

How do you describe skills on a resume? There is much more to describing your skills on your resume than a few afterthoughts in the skills section. Rare skills may need some explanation, certain skills may crop up over and over again and how do you ensure that your very top skills are most visible?

1. Demonstrate an impressively rare skill set

One of the best ways to send a hiring manager to sleep is to include the same resume skills as every other candidate. When they read the words communication skills for the tenth time, they will mentally pigeon-hole you with all the rest of the average candidates.

If they think that you are average because you have included the same average skills as everyone else, it will be incredibly hard to shift that perception if you are lucky enough to be invited to an interview.

2. Avoid excessive resume skill repetition

When you have multiple places to share your skills, it is easy to think that repetition is a powerful way of getting your message across. Believe me, it isn’t. Even if you use different words to describe the same resume skill, you need to realize that your resume real estate is far too valuable to be doing this.

In order to come across as a rounded professional, you should seek to highlight as many different skills as possible in the skills section, employment history and summary. By all means, repeat a couple of the really core resume skills, but variety is definitely your friend. 

The more skills that a hiring manager can read on a resume, the more interesting the potential interview with you might prove.

3. Ensure your top resume skills are the most visible

In the table below you can find the three places to list your resume skills. There are different ways to describe your skill set to a potential employer, but if there are skills that you want to shout about from the rooftops, you should absolutely put them (or describe them) in your summary or skills section.

You might think that a potential employer might read every detail of your work experience, but that may not be the case for many reasons. You can’t afford for critical skills to be lost in your general work experience, so put them at the top of your resume in the summary or in the specific skills section (where they are most visible but have the least context).

Blog - How to list special skills on your resume - Key rules for including resume skills
Blog - How to list special skills on your resume - Key rules for including resume skills
Expert tip

Three places to list your resume skills

Skills section. As a typical skills section contains 6-7 key skills, only the rarest and most impressive skills should get on your list. Mostly include your harder and technical skills here as your soft skills can come across in what you achieved in your work experience and in your summary. Suggested ratio of 2:1 in favour of hard skills.

Work experience. Sometimes your skills speak for themselves if you describe your accomplishments well enough. If you mention that you saved 15% on the annual equipment spend you won’t need to state the obvious and wax lyrical about your negotiation skills. Be smart in the language that you use and what lies behind it.

Summary. The summary section is the most important 3-4 lines on your resume and it should be dripping with your top skills, both described and implied. It is okay to repeat the rarer skills that are in your skill section – you need the hiring manager to read that far, after all. Don’t be afraid to bring out the big resume skill guns.

Critical thinking skills: What are they and why do employers care about them?
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Critical thinking skills: What are they and why do employers care about them?

Thinking through a difficult problem with a logical and unbiased approach lies at the heart of great decision making. Critical thinking skills are highly prized by all employers, so make sure to talk about them during your job search.

Tips to match your skills to job requirements

When adding resume skills, it helps to know your audience. As you apply to jobs, consider three sources to understand how your audience might react to the resume skills: the job description, the company, and the industry. 

Read the job description to understand the important keywords and tone of voice. How does the job description talk about skills? Are there any required skills? Be sure to list and talk about skills on your resume in a similar way the job description uses. 

Research the company to figure out the company culture. Does the company put an emphasis on innovation and learning? Does the company seem like it would have an appreciation for creative skills or like they might put a stronger emphasis on soft skills? Know what type of skills the company values overall and be sure to include those skills on your resume. 

Understand the industry to align the skills on your resume with the expectations of your industry. Demonstrate your experience and industry knowledge by talking about the skills on your resume exactly the way an industry insider would expect. 

Expert tip

How to answer: What are your top three skills? Well, to start with, you need to have an idea of your most suitable skills for each job in priority order. These are your trump cards in your job search sales pitch, so craft the narrative around them with care. If asked for a list of three, I would suggest to start with the best fit skill, then go down to number three and finish on number two. Any sales pitch cannot be full on all the time and in this way you can start off strong and finish nearly as strong. An interview is an exercise in retaining the interviewers attention, so you have to accept that there will be part of the interview that aren't "smash it out of the park" impressive. Just make sure that they aren't clumped together too much.

Resume objectives (+ 15 examples)
Related article
Resume objectives (+ 15 examples)

How to convey your level of skill proficiency

How do you list a skill level on a resume? Well, how long is a piece of string, and how can you compare it to all the other bits of string?

The difficult thing with a resume is that it is difficult to indicate that level of proficiency you have in a certain skill. If your ability with Excel is basic, you might think twice about including it in your skills section, but not including it might mean that the ATS rejects you before a hiring manager has even read a word.

One easy solution for this is including a skills section that has a graphical representation for the level of skill (with bars, stars or some other visual effect). This is quite basic, but it is effective and will allow you to include those must-have skills without having to overplay your experience.

It is true to say that your experiences will give an indication of your proficiency in certain skills, so don’t waste too much resume space in detailing exactly what level of skill you possess in a certain area. That will come at a later stage in the interview.

Expert tip

Soft skills are great, but is it compassionate skills that truly make a difference? Soft skills such as time management and attention to detail are important on an individual level, but for me it is the "compassionate" soft skills that make more of an impact. Skills such as active listening and empathy allow us to show compassion to others - that is what truly lies at the heart of a great team.

Top ten skills for 10 common job functions

Scroll to the right to view more job functions.

education administrative medical accounting & finance business & management hospitality & catering sales real estate retail engineering
Ability to Work in a Team Customer Service Ability to Work in a Team Customer Service Adaptability Excellent Customer Service Skills Customer Service Communication Skills Customer Service Analytical Thinking Skills
Communication Skills Multitasking Skills Strong Communication Skills Leadership Microsoft Office Communication Skills Ability to Work in a Team Project Management Skills Fast Learner Design Skills
Fast Learner Excellent Communication Skills Communication Skills Communication Skills Communication Skills Ability to Work in a Team Communication Skills Microsoft Office Ability to Work in a Team Mechanical Engineering
Strong Organizational Skills Microsoft Office Ability to Work Under Pressure Adaptability Customer Service Customer Service Fast Learner AutoCAD Communication Skills Project Management
Excellent Customer Service Skills Fast Learner Excellent Communication Skills Ability to Multitask Leadership Ability to Work Under Pressure Ability to Work Under Pressure Adobe Photoshop Ability to Work Under Pressure Microsoft Office
Customer Service Communication Skills Customer Service Interpersonal Skills Interpersonal Communication Skills Fast Learner Adaptability Ability to Work in a Team Adaptability Creative Mindset
Adaptability Ability to Work in a Team Fast Learner Microsoft Office Ability to Work Under Pressure Multitasking Skills Ability to Multitask Multitasking Skills Ability to Multitask Complex Problem Solving
Advanced Computer System Skills Ability to Work Under Pressure Adaptability Ability to Work in a Team Multitasking Skills Adaptability Effective Time Management Customer Service Effective Time Management Creative Problem Solving
Ability to Work Under Pressure Computer Skills Leadership Skills Management Ability to Work in a Team Ability to Multitask Communication Excellent Communication Skills Communication Ability to Work in a Team
Effective Time Management Adaptability Ability to Multitask Time Management Problem Solving Skills Advanced Communication Skills Computer Skills Ability to Work Under Pressure Computer Skills Decision Making Skills

Top ten skills for 10 common professions

Scroll to the right to see more job functions.

teacher customer service registered nurse accountant internship student cna college student high school student administrative assistant
Ability to Work in a Team Customer Service Patient Advocacy Leadership Teamwork Skills Strong Organizational Skills Communication Skills Ability to Work in a Team Strong Organizational Skills Administrative Support Skills
Communication Skills Ability to Work in a Team Teamwork Skills Interpersonal Skills Motivated Attitude Excellent Customer Service Skills Ability to Work in a Team Customer Service Excellent Customer Service Skills Scheduling Skills
Excellent Communication Skills Communication Skills Strong Interpersonal Communication Skills Management Ability to Work in a Team Communication Skills Ability to Work Under Pressure Communication Skills Advanced Computer System Skills Microsoft Office
Adaptability Fast Learner Knowledgable in Medical Terminology and Procedures Recruiting Honesty and Integrity Ability to Work in a Team Customer Service Fast Learner Communication Skills Customer Service
Classroom Management Ability to Work Under Pressure Trauma and ER Experience Communication Skills Fast Learner Advanced Computer System Skills Adaptability Adaptability Ability to Work in a Team Editing and Proofreading Skills
Effective Time Management Computer Skills Effective Time Management Microsoft Office Communication Skills Fast Learner Fast Learner Ability to Work Under Pressure Fast Learner Inventory Control Skills
Fast Learner Ability to Multitask Ability to Work in a Team Microsoft Excel Interpersonal Communication Skills Customer Service Ability to Multitask Communication Leadership Skills Event Planning
Ability to Work Under Pressure Adaptability Ability to Work in a Team Effective Time Management Adaptability Ability to Work Under Pressure Communication Microsoft Office Adaptability Dictation Skills
Computer Skills Effective Time Management Ability to Work Under Pressure Ability to Work in a Team Microsoft Office Adaptability Effective Time Management Leadership Friendly and Outgoing Attitude Communication Skills
Curriculum and Instruction Microsoft Office Communication Skills Ability to Work Under Pressure Ability to Work Under Pressure Effective Time Management Leadership Skills Computer Skills Multitasking Skills Effective Time Management
How to write work experience on a resume
Related article
How to write work experience on a resume

Learn exactly how to describe work experience on a resume. There are specific formats that hiring managers and recruiters prefer, here they are!

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Build your resume in 15 minutes
Use professional field-tested resume templates that follow the exact ‘resume rules’ employers look for.
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