How to Highlight the Important Skills Section of Your Resume that Gets Noticed by Employers

Utilizing the Skills Section in Your Resume

While the job history section of your resume can make up the meat of the document, the skills section offers you a chance to show the potential employer how all of those other experiences add up to a qualified applicant. In addition, you are able to highlight specific skills that may not even be work related but that can be very important.
By the end of this article, you will be able to identify and share your most relevant skills through your resume.
  • What types of skills should be included on a resume?
  • How do you present your skills?
  • How can you uncover your skills?
  • Are there considerations for specialized resumes?
What Skills are Relevant?
It can be tricky to determine just what skills should be included on your resume. Should you mention hobbies? What about basic skills that nearly everyone has? Should you list every computer skill you have, or is that overkill?
The most obvious answer to these questions is that you definitely need to include skills that are directly related to the job at hand. If you are applying to be an administrative assistant, for example, then the employer is likely to be quite interested in what software you feel comfortable using. If you are applying for an electrician position, on the other hand, this information may be far less important than other skills that you have acquired through your work history.
Likewise, including hobbies on your resume is not generally a good idea. That is, unless the skills you acquired can be directly applied to the position. If you are applying for an electrical engineering position, and you build complex robots in your free time, that might be considered relevant to the job for which you are applying. On the other hand, you would probably not include the fact that you are an avid cake decorator. If you possessed all of these skills and were applying to be a baker, however, you would want to mention the cake decorating but omit the robotics aspect of your personal life.

For those who are writing their first resume or who have little job experience, there may not be as much to draw from, so it will be important to figure out how your skills can relate to the job. For example, if you have directed local theatre but are applying for a job with an accounting firm, you may need to relate how your ability to create and stay within budgets is a skill you've mastered.
The need to make your skills relevant can be a challenging one. The best way to ensure that you are doing the right thing is to make a point to always be honest. Sure, you may need to be creative, but if you are never saying something that is untrue, then you will never be called out on your facts and will always be able to support your claims with the actual skills that you have described.
How to Discover Your Skills
We are not always the best people to recognize our own skills and worth. Our culture encourages us to be modest and to avoid being boastful. This practice can make it harder to recognize those skills that should be included on our resume. If you are having trouble identifying your best skills, take some time to answer the following questions. By the time you are done, you should have a very good starting point to help you determine what you want your resume to say about you.
  1. If you had to teach someone else how to do an excellent job in your position, what things would you tell him or her? 
  2. Think of a time when you did more than you were expected to do in your position. What special skills or personality traits were required? 
  3. If you were to overhear your boss and a coworker bragging about you, what would they likely be saying? 
  4. Finish this sentence, "I am really good at my job because I . . . "
  5. What difficulties have you overcome to get to where you are today, and how did you do so? 
  6. If someone were to praise you for your work, what would he or she be most likely to say? 
  7. What qualities or characteristics do you most admire in others? Which of these can you apply to yourself? 
  8. What extra-curricular activities have you enjoyed, and why? 
  9. What thing do you know how to do so well that you could teach it to others? 
  10. Which, of all the skills that you have, would you most want to get to use in your new job? 
Want to learn more? Take an online course in Resume Writing.

Presenting Your Skills on the Resume

You will want the skills section of your resume to mirror the other sections. Not every part has to be exactly the same, but you definitely want a logical flow to the information that shows that it all belongs to the same document.
When it comes to the actual layout, consider what will fit in with the other sections of your resume. Some job seekers will choose to use bullet points and may even use the action verbs laid out in the chapter on writing your job history. In other cases, the skills may be summed up in only a word or two. For example, if you are simply listing the software applications you can use, then it may be unnecessary to go into too much detail for each one. Instead, just the name of the program will be enough.
The functional resume depends a lot upon the skills section, so if you are creating this type, you will want to give a lot more weight to the skills by describing them more fully. Consider that this will likely be the biggest component of your resume, and write it accordingly. What is it about your skills that will impress an employer enough to offer you a job?
As with the job history section of you resume, you should consider offering qualitative examples. The theatre director mentioned above might list skills that include, "prepared, managed, and met $35,000 budgets on four different shows," for example.
Specialized Resumes
Each field may have its own preferred format for resumes, and this can affect the skills that you list. Artists, for example, will have very different resumes than financial advisors. While the more "conservative" position might require adhering to a strict chronological resume, the more artistic folks will have completely different expectations to fulfill. An example is the actor's resume. His skills section might include sports, vehicles he can operate, and even dialects that he can speak. For this reason, it is always a good idea to do a little research to uncover what are the most relevant skills and abilities for your field or industry.

Honors and Awards

The honors and awards section of your resume allows you to round out the content by giving a little insight into your personal interests, as well as to your leadership abilities and commitment level. When a potential employer reads the honors and awards section, he or she should be able to see what makes you special.
In this article, you will learn about the honors and awards that can be included on a resume to make you stand out from the competition.
  • Should you use school related honors?
  • What work related awards should be included?
  • Can I finally talk about my hobbies?
Why Consider Including an Honors and Awards Section
With the exception of your contact information, there is not really one section that absolutely must be included in every single resume. Job history is usually included, but even that might be left out on a functional resume of someone who is new to the workforce. The honors and awards section is definitely one that is not always included, so it is up to you to determine whether you want to dedicate any of your resume's "real estate" to the topic.

There are reasons both for and against including this section. One of the most obvious reasons for omitting it is that you simply have not received any awards. If that is the case, do not worry too much over leaving out a section that is such an optional one. The potential employer will most likely not miss it.

If you do have something to add in this section, however, it can help you to stand out a bit more than other applicants. Showing that you have experience in the field is great, but showing that you have award-winning experience in the field can be even better. For example, would you rather see a family doctor for a rare illness, or one who has been recognized for pioneering a new treatment for that particular disease?
Choosing Which Honors and Awards to Include

Not all of your awards may be job related, however, so you need to work to make sure that you are including those that are relevant. This may differ depending on your age and your level of experience. In addition, the job that you want can come into play.
If you are a high school student who is looking for his or her first job in fast food, then including your membership in the National Honor Society might be a bonus for you, as it shows the hiring manager that you have been recognized for your academic achievement. He or she will recognize that you are bright and will be more likely to want you on the team. This is also the case with honors such as making the Dean's list. As you get further from school, these items are less likely to be included, but they may be helpful when you are still working to flesh out a new resume.
Job seekers who are looking to change careers sometimes struggle with what honors and awards to include on their resumes. Generally speaking, the awards you win in one field will still look good, even if you are trying to move in a new direction. Someone who has the drive to earn honors in one field is more likely to strive to earn them in their new career, after all.
You can also include awards that you have won or honors you have received that are not work or job related. For example, if you recently held an elected office in a school or social club, this can be used as an example of leadership abilities. As with so much of the content of your resume, however, you want to make sure that whatever you choose to include is there because it is relevant and because it makes you a better candidate for the job.
Unless they are exceptional, you may also want to limit your awards to the most recent, especially those from the last three years or so. That means that placing in the junior high school Spelling Bee is probably not worthy of being mentioned on your resume. Being named last year's "most inspirational" player on your hockey team, however, may be included as it shows your ability to work with and inspire teammates. Therefore, the question of whether to include hobbies still boils down to their relevance to the job you want.

How to Present Your Honors and Awards on Your Resume

If you have fewer than three honors or awards but still really want to include them on your resume, consider combining them with another section. For example, inclusion on the Dean's list, or participation in an honor society could be listed in the education section. Likewise, your leadership role in a professional association could be included in your activities and special interest section.
If you are creating a separate section, determine what you want to call it. "Honors and Awards" is fine, although you may want to only say, "Honors," "Awards," or "Recognitions." It is a matter of deciding what will work the best with your content, as well as with the overall layout of your resume.
If you are including awards bestowed by a specific organization, be sure not to use abbreviations. Rather than saying you were named volunteer of the year by the local ASPCA, for example, spell out American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. You may also realize that you need to explain your award or honor if the potential employer would not easily recognize it. If it was a particularly competitive award, you should consider including a brief explanation. The layout of this section should reflect that of the other sections so you are creating a cohesive document that is easy for the reader to scan.