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Should you use a skills-based resume?

Should you use a skills-based resume?

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is a skills-based resume?
  • When to use a skills-based resume?
  • How to create a skills-based resume?
  • Key takeaways

So you think you have skills? Great. How do you get that across on your resume? Learn what a skills-based resume is and when to use one.

If your job search seems to be going nowhere, and you suspect your resume is just not up to par, then what can you do? Look at your resume format. Does your professional experience not stand out? Do you have a lot of skills that you need to showcase? A reverse chronological is the standard and is the most used resume format. However, depending on your situation, you may want to use a different style of resume. Maybe you should use a skills-based resume.

The other most common way of writing a resume is the functional or skills-based resume.  We’ll focus on this type of resume and how to use one. 

This article will give you useful information and guidance on

  • What is a skills-based resume?

  • When should you use one?

  • How do you create one?

  • Example resume

  • Resume template

What is a skills-based resume?

A resume that puts your skills up front and focuses on them is what is referred to as a skills-based resume. This type of resume still has all the other traditional elements of a resume such as job experience, education, training, etc. The key difference is that the majority of the resume will be about your skills.

When to use a skills-based resume?

Skills-based resumes are superb for people that have a lot of education, formal training, and certifications. Putting your skills up front makes your abilities the focal point of your resume. This is especially important for people with other backgrounds, such as

  • Limited work experience

  • You are changing careers

  • Many varied jobs with short durations (job-hopping)

  • Contract work, similar to job hopping, but longer time frames per role

If you find that your career profile or strategy falls into any of the above scenarios, then a skills-based resume may be beneficial to you.

There are two types of skills, hard and soft. Hard skills are specific things you have knowledge of and are more objective and quantifiable. Soft skills are related to your personality, how you work, and how you interact with others. 

You should be tailoring your resume to a specific job you are targeting, so your list of skills should be applicable to that role. You don’t need to include anything else. In general, if you have a separate skills section on your resume, then five to ten skills is a good range to shoot for.

Expert Tip 

The top 8 most listed skills in job advertisements:

Communication skills - Number of jobs listing the skill: 6.1 million

Customer service - Number of jobs listing the skill: 5.5 million

Scheduling - Number of jobs listing the skill: 5 million

Time management skills - Number of jobs listing the skill: 3.6 million

Project management- Number of jobs listing the skill: 2.8 million

Analytical thinking - Number of jobs listing the skill: 2.7 million

Ability to work independently - Number of jobs listing the skill: 2 million

Flexibility - Number of jobs listing the skill: 1.3 million

Source: CNBC

How to create a skills-based resume?

When writing a functional or skills-based resume, include all the typical things any resume will have, but the structure and type of content will be a bit different. The standard elements are

  1. Header (Contact information: name, phone number, e-mail, city, title)

  2. Summary (a short introduction paragraph about your qualifications and abilities)

  3. Skills (this is the focus of a skill-based resume)

  4. Experience (work history, brief descriptions)

  5. Education / Certifications / Training (very short, one or two lines each)

  6. Awards and achievements (keep these relevant to the job)

  7. Additional sections - optional (volunteer work, professional affiliations, hobbies)

Determining which skills to put on your resume is key. You want to include only the skills that will make you stand out to employers. Don’t put anything irrelevant or boring.  Here are some things to consider:

  • What are your strongest skills?

  • Identify the skills your potential employers want.

  • Demonstrate how you used your skills in your work experience descriptions.

  • List all your tech skills, but don’t include outdated technology or things you have not used professionally.

Focus on things that will make your experience stand out from the crowd. Always use strong action verbs when describing your experience and accomplishments.

Expert Tip

Some examples of skills for a resume:

- Conscientious

- Self-starter

- Proficient in Google Analytics and Adobe Photoshop

- Teamwork

- Passion for learning

If you are describing a hard skill you have, such as languages, specific technologies, or education, then there are often certifications or degrees associated with them. Some hard skills and almost all soft skills do not have discrete measurements to use. On a resume, it is always good to quantify or put some type of measurement on your abilities.

A typical way to gauge knowledge (that does not have objective rankings) is to use levels. There are some accepted ways to do this, but all are subjective. You can break it down to a number of levels, such as

  • Awareness: You have some basic knowledge, but no training or experience.

  • Trainee: You are learning the skill, but it is new to you.

  • Beginner or Novice: You have an understanding of the basic concepts and some exposure, but you lack experience.

  • Intermediate or Proficient: Between a beginner and an expert. Limited experience.

  • Advanced: You have significant experience and full knowledge of all the concepts.

  • Expert: A highly developed skill. Lots of experience. You are an authority.

Key takeaways

  1. A skills-based resume showcases your abilities.

  2. Make sure all of your best skills are out front (in your summary, skills section, and job experience descriptions).

  3. Customize your resume and skills to specifically match each job you apply for.

  4. Research examples and use templates to make your resume pop.

  5. Format your resume to focus the content on your skills, but always keep your resume clear and concise.

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