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Tips for Adding Skills to Your CV

The skills section is one of the most important sections of your CV. It’s a reflection of your skills (abilities acquired), the specific knowledge you have and your competencies (the combination of your skills, knowledge and personality traits). When tailored to the job description, it lets recruiters and employers know at a glance that you’re a suitable candidate.

Skills vs. Competencies

As you can see from the above description, there are different types of skills that you can add to your CV. Some can be related directly to your professional experience (hard or professional skills) while others are closely connected to your personality traits (soft or personal skills).

Skills are also often synonymously referred to as competencies, but there is a difference:

A hard skill is something you can learn, but is easily forgotten if you don’t practice it regularly, e.g. French.

A soft skill is not associated with a particular job or industry, but rather your character traits, e.g. communication skills.

A competency is a combination of the skills, knowledge and behaviours you need to be successful in a job. For example, your ability to learn coding languages demonstrates analytical skills.

Hard skills

As mentioned, hard skills are ones that you have learned either on the job or in education. They refer to the professional knowledge or training that you picked up in your career or education. For example:

  • If you’ve worked in customer service, you know how to use a cash register.
  • If you’ve lived in France, you may be able to speak French fluently.
  • If you’ve studied law, you’re familiar with legalese.

Hard skills show employers what you can do. They’re usually dependent on the job or industry, although some are transferable, e.g. the ability to manage a budget.

Some of the most sought-after hard skills are:

  • Blockchain
  • Cloud computing
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • UX Design
  • Business analysis
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Sales
  • Scientific
  • Video production

Soft skills

While hard skills are the set of abilities to perform in a job, soft skills are the personal traits or the natural abilities that you possess. They usually relate to your emotional intelligence and the way you interact with people.

Unlike hard skills, soft skills are transferable across all industries and job types.

It can be hard to prove that you possess a particular soft skill, but it’s not enough to state that you’re able to adapt to different situations, for instance. Instead, try to find examples of times when you demonstrated adaptability and include these in your CV.

It’s important to list a good mix of hard and soft skills in your CV so that employers have a well-rounded picture of you. In some industries (e.g. sales or human resources), your soft skills may give you the edge over other candidates.

The top soft skills desired by employers are:

  • Creativity: you can bring new ideas to the table.
  • Persuasion: you can bring others round to your way of thinking.
  • Collaboration: you’re able to work well with others.
  • Adaptability: you can adapt quickly to new situations.
  • Emotional intelligence: you can evaluate and respond appropriately to others’ emotions.

Competencies

Competencies can be best described as the set of skills, knowledge, abilities and behaviours that enable you to be successful in a job. While skills let employers know what you’re good at, competencies explain how you apply the skills to a job.

For example, if you’re a data analyst, it’s a given that you need Excel skills. But to apply those Excel skills effectively, you also need attention to detail and the ability to communicate findings clearly and concisely. These are competencies.

To put it all together:

Skills (the ‘what’): advanced Excel skills

Competencies (the ‘how’): Excel skills + attention to detail + communication skills = analytical ability

Examples of competencies:

  • Analytical: how you can gather information and draw conclusions from it
  • Decision-making: ability to make decisions quickly and efficiently
  • Leadership: ability to lead a team
  • Problem-solving: how you find effective solutions to problems
  • Commitment to excellence: attention to detail

Skills to leave off your CV

You don’t need to list every skill you have, especially if they’re not related to the job or you’re not particular proficient at it:

  • Language skills

Only include these if you truly feel confident that you can use them in a professional environment. You may have an intermediate understanding of Spanish, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t hold business conversations in the language.

  • Microsoft Word and computer skills

Nowadays, everyone has these skills. Stating that you can use Microsoft Word or a computer is the same as saying that you can read or write. It also gives the impression that you don’t have any special skills and so, you need to pad out your CV with skills that everyone possesses.

An exception would be if you have mastered Word’s advanced features and have taken an Advanced Word certification exam.

  • Irrelevant skills

    Being a pro at bungee-jumping is impressive, but if you can’t connect the skill to the job description, leave it off your CV.

  • Social media

    You might have thousands of followers on social media, but there’s more to being a social media specialist than posting engaging content. Unless you’ve also earned significant revenue from your followers or have managed social media campaigns, it’s best not to mention your Facebook or Instagram skills.

  • Outdated tech skills

    While technology is evolving at a rapid pace, it’s still important to keep on top of the relevant tools and software used in your industry.

    Listing outdated technology in your CV makes you look out of touch and vulnerable to ageism. Employers may also think that you’re not able to adapt to changes.

How do you add a skills section to your CV?

Start by reading the job description carefully to identify the skills required by your prospective employer.

Make a list of your own skills including soft and hard skills and try to match these to the skills in the job description.

If you’re unsure which skills you possess, you could ask former colleagues and managers or review past performance reviews. Also, try to remember all the times when you received praise for a job well done.

It may be tempting to lie about or exaggerate your skills, but avoid doing this, as you’ll most probably be asked about them in interviews.

You have a few options for listing your skills in your CV:

  • Functional or skills-based CV: particularly useful for job-hoppers or career changers
  • Dedicated skills section: beneficial for those who have extensive experience but want to highlight specific chills
  • Professional experience section: Alternatively, you can weave your skills in with the description of your job responsibilities.

However you decide to list your skills, make sure you keep them relevant to the job you’re applying for.