Skills to Include (and Not to Include) on a Resume

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Not sure which skills to include on your resume—and which to leave off? Including relevant skills helps to strengthen your candidacy.

However, some skills don't belong on your resume, and including them could actually hurt your chances of getting chosen for an interview. Be selective and specific when choosing which skills to highlight.

Hiring managers want to know why you’re a strong candidate for the job, not everything you’ve been qualified to do for your whole working life.

They also don’t want to know about all the things you can do which have nothing to do with the job for which you’re applying.

The person who screens your resume cares about the value you can offer the company, and that means being a good fit for the job requirements the company lists in its help-wanted ad.

Skills to Keep Off Your Resume

Skills You Don’t Have: This may seem obvious, but many people fluff up their skills or put skills on their resume that they don't have. A CareerBuilder survey reports that more than three-quarters of human resources managers (75%) have caught a lie on a resume.

If you don’t have any of the skills the employer is seeking, reconsider applying for the job.

Don’t fabricate skills or experience just to get hired. It will come back to haunt you in the long run.

Imagine the awkwardness and embarrassment of getting grilled about your qualifications during a job interview, and not being able to respond because you don’t actually know enough to give a solid answer to the question.

Even if you’re a quick learner, you may not have a good grasp of what you need to know if, by some chance, you do get the job. If an employer hires you and finds out you can’t do the work, you could get fired.

Obsolete Skills: If you are, or were, a pro at working with outdated software or technology such as MS-DOS, Lotus 1-2-3, or Vista, for example, don’t put it on your resume. If you know how to backup files onto a floppy disk, keep that skill to yourself.

Many technologies have become obsolete, and knowing how to use them isn’t an asset other than in rare circumstances. In fact, it might make your knowledge seem very outdated, and the employer might think you're a tech dinosaur.

If you have been out of the workforce for a while, take the time to ensure you have current skills listed on your resume that employers demand and value.

Skills That Aren’t Relevant to the Job: Leave off any skills you have that are not related in any way to the job. If you are applying to a number of very different jobs, consider creating a unique resume for each job type. This will help you avoid including skills that are not relevant to a position.

General and Overused Skill Words: LinkedIn published a list of buzzwords that people overuse in their profiles. Some of these words don’t belong on your resume either. Before you use them, consider if there’s another, more specific term that would better describe your abilities. Here’s a sample of some words on LinkedIn’s list of overutilized words:

  • Specialize
  • Experienced
  • Skilled
  • Leadership
  • Passionate
  • Expert
  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Strategic
  • Focused

Be careful not only with the skills you list but also with how you word those skills and weave them into your listed experience. This list of 30 words that will make or break your resume can spark some ideas.

Skills That Everyone Should Have Already: Some of the overused buzzwords listed above are skills or traits that employers already expect job applicants to have as a minimum requirement.

Employers expect that you’ll be focused, have some experience (unless you’re applying for an entry-level position), and will do an excellent job if they hire you. You don’t need to spell out these basic assumptions on your resume for the employer.

On a similar note, don’t list things like Microsoft Word, email, or web searching. Employers have an expectation that everyone knows the basics required for almost every office job in today’s workplace.

Revise Your Resume to Highlight Your Skills

While there are skills you should avoid putting on your resume, there are a number of skills you should include.

Focus on the skills that show why you’re qualified for the jobs you're seeking. You can include your top skills in a separate “Skills” section and work them into the job descriptions you write for the positions you’ve held. You can also incorporate them into your resume’s summary statement, if you have one.

Before you submit your resume to apply for a job, take the time to review and refresh your resume so that it's going to give you the best opportunity to get the interview.

In particular, tailor the skill words you include to match the requirements of the job.

Take the Time to Decode the Job Ad: How can you tell what the employer wants in a perfect applicant for the job? You can pick up a lot from the job posting, and it would help to also invest some time researching the job and the company to learn more details.

Here’s what to look for when you’re reviewing the job ad, including how to evaluate the job title, qualifications, requirements, responsibilities, and required experience.

Make a Match: Now that you’ve learned what the employer wants, match your qualifications to the job. Make a list of the skills in the job posting in one column. List the skills and experience you have that make you a contender for the job in the second column. In your resume, include the skills that are the closest match to what the employer is seeking.

The skill words you include will act as keywords to help your resume get selected by the ATS (applicant tracking system) the employer uses to screen applications. If you’re a match for the position, your qualifications and skill set show the hiring manager that you’re a viable candidate for the role.

Be Specific: Don’t list general skills, especially if you’re applying for a tech role. For example, avoid saying you have “computer skills,” and instead include the programming languages, hardware, software, apps, and other skills you possess that qualify you for the job. If you have certifications, be specific when you list those. For example, list QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor, AWS Certification, SQL, iOS, or Java.

You can also categorize your skills into subcategories to be more specific. For example, if you might have a subsection that lists the languages you speak, and another subsection that lists your specific computer skills. Of course, only include subsections of skills that are relevant to the job.

Tailor Your Resume to the Job: Job postings may seem similar, but every employer has a different set of requirements. Even when the job looks the same, each employer may be seeking something different. Take a few minutes to tweak your resume, so it matches the position you're after.

Key Takeaways

Be Selective: Highlight your skills that match the requirements listed in the job advertisement.

Be Honest: Don’t lie about your qualifications or stretch the truth to fit the job description.

Be Specific: Avoid listing general skills. Emphasize specific technologies and abilities.

Be Invested: Take the time to tailor your resume to the specific job listing.

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