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Andrew Arkley|October 16, 2020

Skills for your CV: what to include and how to do it

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What are skills and why do I need them?

Wondering how to choose skills for your CV? 

In simple terms, a skill can be defined as the ability to do something well, such as a job, sport, hobby or other activity.

Identifying key abilities should impress your prospective employer, showing them you’re qualified, able and of value to the company. 

Note the word should.

It’s not just about identifying the relevant skills for your CV, but also demonstrating them with examples and presentation. 

Considering hiring managers typically spend around seven seconds scanning a CV at first glance, there’s no room for error when perfecting this section. 

CV skills and applicant tracking systems

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a digital software which allows employers to manage their applications efficiently.

The ATS will rank candidates in order of suitability; filtering applications based on specific criteria. This is done through keyword scanning.

Choosing the right skills for your CV is vital as it provides a great opportunity to include keywords that an ATS will pick up on.

Different types of CV skills

There are a variety of different categories for grouping proficiencies. Some terms are unique and some are used interchangeably. 

Employers look for a combination of skill types on CVs.

Hard skills - otherwise known as professional or technical skills and often found in the education section. These are quantifiable, specific and often necessary for the job. 

Examples: degree qualifications, online courses and foreign language experience.

Soft skills - also known as personal skills. They should have their own dedicated skills section and refer to individual characteristics, qualities and traits. These are much harder to teach.

Examples: teamwork, confidence and leadership.

Transferable - can be used across multiple different jobs and occupations.

Examples: Microsoft Office knowledge and customer service skills. 

What soft skills should I be including?

The job description is absolute gold dust when it comes to choosing skills for your CV. 

In fact, 88% of recruiters agreed that including specific keywords from the job description is of high importance.

To provide some inspiration we have plucked out five of the most commonly demanded traits:

  1. Communication
  2. Leadership
  3. Time-management
  4. Multi-tasker
  5. Creativity 

It’s crucial to stress the importance of only including these terms if they are well-evidenced. Simply dropping cliches on the page might actually put employers off so it’s not always a case of the more the merrier.

Combining with examples

It’s important to back up your soft skills with examples. Hiring managers on average receive 118 applications per role so it goes without saying you need to stand out. 

Generic statements such as “I work well individually or in a team” or “I’m a proactive strategic thinker” doesn’t quite cut it. 

The following are much more likely to impress:

Leadership - In my previous role I managed a team of six sales operatives and we were able to exceed our sales target by 20%. 

Multi-tasker - I helped a client increase conversions by 200% in four months by focusing on website optimisations, content creation and social media output. 

Skills to avoid including

When deciding on skills for your CV there are some definite don’ts.

While you want to sell yourself to the hiring manager, avoid doing this at the cost of honesty. Sounds obvious, however, 85% of people tend to lie on their CV

For example, claiming fluency in a language you only studied briefly at school - imagine the recruiter testing you on this in an interview!

Don’t waste space listing abilities you’re expected to have, such as basic computer competencies. After all, CVs written in less than two pages have a higher success rate.

The same goes for obsolete competencies. If a software you used is no longer relevant, it’s best to write about something more current.

Only put down items that are relevant to the job. That diploma in cookery is not really going to hold much sway in that accountancy job you are applying for.

Lastly, unless you’ve used social media as part of a previous role and have some evidence to back up what you are saying, steer clear of claiming you have strong abilities in this area.

In a job setting, social media is more than just posting about what you had for dinner. Often, there are elements of data analysis, trend management and specialised softwares at play. 

Skills for your CV: Summary

So now you not only know the importance of a well-presented skill section but also how to apply this to your own CV. 

Remember, you may have the most well-rounded and relevant skill set, however, you need to effectively get these across on paper to get noticed.

Looking for more information on anything relating to skills for your CV or after a professionally written CV? Get in touch, we’d be delighted to help.

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