You probably have more than one question about what to put in your résumé. It’s a popular topic! Let’s see if I can hit on your favorites. (If I don’t, feel free to ask.)
What skills should I list on my résumé?
You will want to put in those skills that are most relevant to the job you’re targeting—that will help make you an attractive candidate to employers or, in other words, to hiring managers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the skills are aimed toward one specific opening at the moment, although they could be, but for that kind of position. Of course, they also need to be skills you’re good at or they won’t help your job search!
The important point is to draw ideas from sources such as job postings for relevant skills you should emphasize on your résumé. Note the word “relevant.” It doesn’t do any good if you’re an expert bean counter when the job doesn’t call for bean counting as a key skill. In other words, you shouldn’t include a laundry list in hopes of hitting all the possible skills.
What are my top 3 skills?
Again, take a good look at the skills employers seem to need and want most and compare those with your best skills. Your “top 3” will be not only among your very best but also popular with employers. For example, if the job posting specifies someone who’s great at cross-functional partnering in an organization and that’s one of your best skills, by all means show it as one of your top three. If it sits farther down in your ranking, don’t include it as one of that top group. So you look at two things—your situation and the employer’s—and find three that you’re good at and want to do and that the employer says they need.
How do I list my skills on a résumé in 2021?
You can compile a list of skills for your résumé in 2021 in much the same way as you would have in 2020. The point is, you must speak to the perceived needs of employers. If those needs change in some appreciable way, your approach to the types of skills you list and how you present them might need to adapt accordingly.
For example, the pandemic caused many people to work from home who had never or rarely done it before. The new routine caused people to make a lot of adjustments, and the same was true for companies. If you proved to be highly effective while working from home, you’d probably want to let employers know that on your résumé. Of course, if you would rather not work in a home environment in the future, you could choose to deemphasize that aspect of your experience.
How many skills should I list on a résumé?
The number of skills to include in a list can vary. You want to use enough to highlight your strengths, your best value-added areas, but without overdoing it. Typically, for instance, I might use a 3-column by 3- or 4-row block of skills in a section near the top of the first page. However, you can and should also weave relevant job-specific skills throughout the résumé, not just limit them to a small section. Why? Employers will skim quickly through your experience, and if they don’t see evidence of the skills you’ve listed at the beginning, they might wonder how you came up with them.
What are the most important types of skills employers and hiring managers are looking for?
That’s the payoff question, isn’t it?! I think I can safely say that your skills need to answer the employer’s question about what you can do for them, how you can make a contribution. That could include hard or technical skills but also the so-called soft skills—so things like problem solving, interpersonal skills (relationship-building, communication, etc.), and time management.
We used to say that soft skills weren’t important on a résumé, but that has changed in recent years. This means you need to pay close attention to what employers include in the job description, because previously unimportant skills could now make a difference.
To give you an example of the types of skills you might need to consider, let’s view a partial online job posting for an executive operations leader at a fulfillment center. I’ve highlighted in yellow many of the hard and soft skills this employer is seeking:
We are looking for a large people leader with manufacturing operations experience to join our Worldwide Operations Organization across many geographies in the United States!
The Executive Operations Leader leads people, process and systems that deliver important products to our customers as promised. This role is challenging and appeals to people who have a pioneering spirit and a founder’s mentality.[This center] is a highly complex operation which requires a leader who has experience in a quality/safety focused, high-volume manufacturing environment along with advanced people leadership skills. You will lead a dynamic team of Operations and Area Managers to achieve operational excellence through coaching and mentoring the team and drive employee engagement within the Fulfillment Center.
A successful executive will be able to provide strong vision and direction for the team, while fostering bottoms-up participation in process improvement from all levels of the organization.
- Own and deliver the operational budget for functional area, including safety, productivity, financial planning, labor planning, and operational goals
- Responsible for providing strategic level/long-term planning (3, 6, and 12 months out) including labor planning, rate forecasting, and peak season planning
- Drive continuous improvement projects to optimize operations and improve productivity to meet and exceed business objectives; work on strategic projects that have total building and network-wide impact.
- Establish objectives and metrics for safety, quality, productivity, and customer experience
- Engage all levels of the organization to remove waste from operations processes employing Lean/Six Sigma practices
- Oversee product flow and implement new processes as required in order to improve efficiency and to support growth in new product lines
- Advanced Degree preferred in Engineering, Analytics, Operations Management or other STEM subject
How do I handle a job search that requires skills I don’t currently have?
That’s a reasonable question, because it’s seldom that you will match all the requirements 100%—dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s in a job posting, for instance. Every job requires skills. That’s a given. The question is, can you offer the employer’s “must have” skills? If you don’t have a required skill, can you acquire it in the near future? If so, and it’s important to you, you should probably take steps to do that! If not, you might have to adjust your target or look at other opportunities.
As a job seeker, you need to take a realistic view of your chances. Don’t try to fool yourself or the employer if you don’t really have what it takes. However, in some situations, the requirement might have a little wiggle-room, and you can make a good case for your value in other important areas. In such situations, you might decide to “go for it” anyway, even with a missing qualification.
How can I illustrate project management, time management, problem solving, and interpersonal skills on my résumé and in job interviews?
Skills such as project management, time management, and problem solving don’t actually require you to have held a title that includes those terms. You can review how you’ve used relevant skills in various circumstances and frame them appropriately, both on your résumé and in job interviews. Be prepared to offer examples to help make your potential value clear and show how it applies easily to the employer’s job opening. As much as possible, you need to demonstrate that you’re ready to hit the ground running—not expecting them to teach you the ropes when you get there! Whatever you do, stick to the facts. Resist any temptation to include skills you can’t make a good case for (legitimately transferable, for instance). Remember that you hope to eventually get calls for interviews, during which you will be expected to back up any claims you made in your résumé.