October 24th 2019
There are very few reliable rules for resumes and really the only way to figure it out is by messing up a few times. This series exists to save you one or two of those mess ups — because we've probably already made that mistake and we can tell you, no, you don't need to put any charts on your resume...but you can if you want to.
In this article, we're taking on the quietly tricky skills section: what goes in there, what doesn't and how do I organize it anyway?
Writing a resume is mostly about resisting the urge to put in unnecessary things. You probably have a lot of skills, you want those to shine and it can be tough to know where to stop. Your guiding principal should be what am I comfortable working on right now (yes, right now) and what can I do that makes me a good fit for this job (not this type of job, this specific job).
This can be broader than just listing technical skills. You can and should include those so called “soft skills” and technical knowledge from outside your work that informs what you do. Does your hobby mean you have to organize large groups of people? Include it! Did you learn InDesign to make a community cookbook? Include it! Just because you don’t do it at work doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your resume. Hard work doesn’t always produce a visible final product or shiny certification, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable and the people reading your resume know that.
Hard work doesn’t always produce a visible final product or shiny certification, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable and the people reading your resume know that.
What you don’t want is a long unnavigable list on your resume. Instead, you probably want to organize your skills into categories. You can start this process by making one big list of everything you have done and are currently doing. Once you have that list, narrow it down to the core skills that apply to the job. Take the time to organize your skills into meaningful groupings based on the position. If you are applying for developer work, you might want sections like “Templating”, “Scripting”, “Frameworks” and have a catchall for your other skills. But if you are looking at a hybrid role that same long list might break down differently into sections like “Web”, “Design”, and “Animation.”
You want to organize your skills in a way that mirrors the kind of work you want to do and how that field thinks of those skills. This is another small, quick way you can be tuning you resume for specific work and it’s worth taking the time to do it.
As a rule, you want your skills to be practical and relevant. When wording them, try and match the language to that of the demands on the listings you’re seeing. This might mean making a few different resumes for different kinds of positions! Remember, you want to beat those keyword searches so this is the place to hit those buzzwords without going too wild with it. That being said, tools change all the time and you’ll want to balance those buzzwords with core skills that prove that you can learn the next big thing that shows up in two years and makes the current big thing obsolete.
This, rather than aesthetic reasons (well maybe also aesthetic reasons), is why we recommend you delete those little skill graphs. When you add those you’re framing yourself very specifically in terms of a journey towards mastery of these specific things. Whether they’re a tool or methodology, you don’t want to box yourself in like that! Toolkits change constantly, we all know that, so while it’s great list your skills in React or Agile or Figma or whatever it is today, you don’t want to position yourself as on a singular track with those tools. Rather you want to sell whoever’s reading your resume on the idea that, yes, you did learn this thing, but that’s just a stop on the road and of course you can also learn the next thing.
Toolkits change constantly, we all know that, so while it’s great list your skills in React or Agile or Figma or whatever it is today, you don’t want to position yourself as on a singular track with those tools.
And a special aside for project managers: definitely include project management tools but also drop in any skills you might have that relate to the product you’ll be working on! These skills can be rare for project managers and can really make you stand out.
In our next installment we’re talking a few more questions you might panic over in the last two hours before an application closes: How far back to go, do I need a summary, and what order do I put it all in? See ya then!
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