How do I write the skills section of my CV?

CV Skills

The ‘skills’ section of your CV template provides an opportunity to tell prospective employers that you have both the hard and soft skills required of the role you’re interested in. Here, we look at what information to include in the skills section, and how best to format it.

Hard skills and soft skills: what’s the difference?

Skills can be divided into hard and soft skills – and it’s best to keep the two separate. Hard skills are tangible skills where it is easy to say if you do or don’t have them. For example, the ability to code a website using HTML is a hard skill. This skill is easy to assess by testing how much knowledge of HTML a person has.

Hard skills may involve knowledge, or they may be physical. For example, if you can build a wall, paint a room or sew on a button, these are all hard skills.

Soft skills by contrast are much less tangible. Some examples of soft skills include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Communication
  • Conflict resolution
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Facilitation
  • Influence/persuasion
  • Learning
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Multitasking
  • Negotiation
  • Networking
  • Organisation
  • Patience
  • ‘People’ skills
  • Persistence
  • Presentation
  • Problem solving
  • Resilience
  • Self awareness
  • Self confidence
  • Stress management
  • Teamwork/collaboration
  • Time management

This list is by no means exhaustive.

Know the importance of soft skills

Although soft skills will be more important in some roles than others, few roles could be performed efficiently without at least a handful of these skills. For example, bricklayers don’t just need to be great at laying bricks – they also need to be organised and self-managed with good communication and interpersonal skills, problem solving, innovation and creativity and good attention to detail.

As today’s companies increasingly need to become more dynamic, interconnected and flexible, soft skills are critical. Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report revealed that executives now consider soft skills important to fostering employee retention, improving leadership, and building a meaningful culture. In fact, 92 percent of Deloitte’s respondents rated soft skills as a critical priority (Source: Forbes).

Discover your hard skills

If you’ve little experience with writing CVs, you may struggle to come up with an initial list of hard skills. Fortunately, we’ve made a start for you! Our list of hard skills can help you identify skills that you have which you might not have considered previously – check it out here: Skills for CV – a list of hard skills for your CV or resumé

 

List skills relevant to the job

You may well be an expert in cooking up the perfect bacon cob, but not every skill is relevant to your position. Rather than listing everything, it’s important to read the job advert carefully and tell employers about the skills you have which they are looking for.

HOWEVER – keep in mind that job adverts are often written as minimal requirements. Further, the prospective employer might not be particularly adept at writing job adverts and may have left out skills which are very important for the role. It’s worth reviewing job profiles (for example on Prospects.ac.uk) to get ideas for relevant skills you may have which aren’t listed in the advert.

You may also have skills which could benefit the employer which aren’t directly relevant to your role.  For example, if you’re a lawyer looking for a new role, most of the person specification will focus on legal skills and good communication. The advert won’t mention skills such as marketing or IT literacy – but these could be a huge advantage to the firm.

In summary, when you’re considering which skills are relevant to the job, make sure you include:

  • Skills you have that are mentioned specifically in the job advert
  • Skills you have which are mentioned in a typical job profile for this role
  • Skills you have which aren’t directly relevant but could benefit the employer

Don’t just tell – show

Employers will quickly switch off if you simply list the skills they’ve asked for without evidence.

When it comes to soft skills, it’s better to give employers examples of where you’ve actually used the skill in question. You can work these examples into your employment history if you want to. Try to cover:

  • The background: How you found yourself in the situation where you needed to demonstrate the soft skill.
  • The task: What goal you were trying to achieve.
  • The action: What you did to achieve the goal.
  • The results: What you achieved.

If you worked as part of a team, try to avoid taking all the credit for what was achieved – doing so makes you look arrogant. You’ll also miss the opportunity to show that you work well with others.

Grade your ability

Prospective employers will want to know the level of your skill, particularly where hard skills are concerned. Unless there’s a common way to express the level within your industry, you can use beginner, intermediate or advanced to indicate your abilities.

Be honest

It may be tempting to inflate your abilities in order to get a job interview – but this could land you in trouble down the line. A prospective employer would much rather know you are intermediate level and provide appropriate training, than find out later that you’re not an expert and lied on your CV.

Place and format properly

Typically your skills are listed after your personal details, employment history and qualifications. So the structure of your CV template will be:

As noted above, it’s worth splitting out hard skills from soft skills and this would be expected by prospective employers. You could format your CV template by creating two lists, side by side: one for hard skills and one for soft skills.

There’s nothing wrong with listing a few relevant soft skills but remember to incorporate examples of where you’ve demonstrated these skills elsewhere in your CV.

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