Even more than experience, employers are looking for the right skills to fit the job. The skills section of your CV is integral to a successful application. We’ve compiled 8 CV skills section tips to help you get that job.
Skilled workers are in short supply.
In 2016 nearly half (46%) of U.S. employers reported having trouble filling jobs this year due to lack of available talent, up from 32% in 2015, according to ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey.
The same is true in other parts of the world. In India, for example, there’s a shortage of skilled professionals, particularly in the IT sector, according to the Wall Street Journal; meanwhile, 69% of UK employers are worried that they will not be able recruit enough high-skilled employees, a recent report by the Confederation of British Industry found.
“Employers appear to be uninterested in people who they will have to train for the job,” says Peter Cappelli, director at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Center for Human Resources. “They want people who are already equipped with the skills that they’ll need to do the job well.” But that might be good news for job seekers.
The growing skills gap has created a high demand for a number of high-paying jobs. As employers struggle to fill these openings, well-qualified job seekers—people who can hit the ground running and don't require a lot of on-the-job training—are in an ideal position.
Nonetheless, it’s ultimately up to you—the job seeker—to prove to a prospective employer that you have the right set of skills. Follow these tips to ace the skills section of your CV and land job interviews with ease.
Before you can start writing the skills section for your CV, take time to do a comprehensive assessment of what skills you currently possess. Think about your recent experiences. What new tasks have you performed? What new software have you been exposed to? What new issues have you had to address? The answers to these questions will help you create a list of skills that you can draw from when crafting your resume.
A sales representative, for instance, might list the following skills:
Hiring managers can sniff out generic resumes from a mile away. Therefore, your resume needs to be tailored to the job that you’re applying for, so be prepared to tweak the content for the skills depending on what each job requires (e.g., the terms “customer service” and “client relations” may seem interchangeable, but your resume needs to reflect the company’s preferences.) You’ll want to draw on the language that appears in the job description. This will help your CV to pass through application tracking systems (ATS), which is the software used by many employers to scan resumes for keywords. (Basically, ATS makes it easier for employers to track the hiring process, sift through resumes, and communicate with job applicants.)
“While you do not want a word-for-word match of the job description, if a nurse job description calls for someone with triage experience or primary care experience, for example, be sure that your resume contains those keywords,” writes Pamela Skillings, co-founder of New York-based Big Interview, an online job interview training platform.
Still, you need to remember that your resume will be reviewed by a hiring manager (i.e., an actual human being) at some point in the process, so make sure that the information is compelling by highlight your most noteworthy achievements to date.
Because hiring managers are strapped for time, your resume needs to be easy to read. In turn, the formatting needs to be not only concise but also eye catching. Having your skills section laid out in bullet points—rather than one large block of text—will enable hiring managers and recruiters to scan your resume with ease. That’s important, since busy hiring managers can sometimes spend as little as six seconds before deciding whether an applicant might be a good fit for the job, a Ladders study found.
Depending on what field you’re in, it might be appropriate to use industry-specific abbreviations or acronyms. Although that bucks traditional resume advice—which adheres to the idea that industry jargon on a resume is an absolutely no—some acronyms, such as R&D (for “research development”), are universally known. Of course, attention to detail is crucial, says Atlanta-based resume writer Robin Schlinger: “make sure every acronym you use in your resume is correct.” In other words: if you aren’t sure what the proper abbreviation is, look it up.
No one doubts that soft skills are important. In fact, a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that employers care more about “soft skills”—such as integrity, reliability and teamwork—than they do technical abilities like reading comprehension and mathematics. However, soft skills are best demonstrated during the job interview stage—not through your CV’s skills section. Therefore, don’t waste valuable space on your resume stating skills like integrity or teamwork; you’ll get the opportunity to demonstrate those qualities when you meet with the hiring manager or recruiter face to face.
Instead, use your CV to highlight your technical skills, such as project management tools that you know how to use (e.g., Basecamp). Also, be mindful of what’s considered implied knowledge in today’s workplace. For instance, “nobody in this day and age should be listing Microsoft Office on their resume if they're going for any job where you have to use a computer,” says Lydia Frank, PayScale.com’s editorial director. Hence, make sure the skills that you include on your resume are skills that will actually set you apart and make you more valuable to prospective employers—not skills that make you seem out of touch with the current workplace.
To fill out your skills section, you’ll want to research what skills are valuable in the industry as a whole. You can do this easily on sites such as LinkedIn: simply search for workers with the job title of the position that you’re applying for and see what “skills and endorsements” they have. (Ideally, these people are currently working at your prospective employer.) From there, you’ll be able to identify what other skills would strengthen your CV.
As more businesses enter the global economy, there’s been a spike in demand for workers who speak multiple languages. What’s more: the skills section of your resume is the ideal spot to highlight what foreign languages you speak. But make sure that you’re transparent with your proficiency level, advises U.S.-based career coach Posey Salem; there’s a big difference between being fluent and having only basic or conversational knowledge. (A good ground rule: if you haven’t spoken the foreign language since high school, don’t include it on your resume.)
This is one area where you’ll want to use metrics to quantify your skill level. For example, pointing out that you have “5 years experience working with French-speaking clients” is a lot more compelling than simply stating that you’re “bilingual in English and French.”
Granted, being able to speak a second language isn’t a requirement for most jobs, but it’s a nice selling point—and could be the thing that sets you apart from other job seekers.
Ben is a writer and customer support specialist with 5 years of experience helping job-seekers create their careers. He believes in the importance of a great resume and the power of coffee.
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