Your CV is a crucial tool to help you find a job, but it's also important to give employers the best information you can too. Ultimately you want to increase your chance of success when applying for jobs while making sure that you don't end up in a job that is not right for you.
The skills you list on your CV are part of this delicate balance. They can give the interviewer an overview of your personality and career experience while touching on some areas that might not be covered elsewhere on your CV.
For example, you may have faced specific challenges across multiple roles in your career history. In such circumstances, it might not feel appropriate to list the skills you learned under just one of your previous jobs when you feel like you have developed a richer, deeper understanding of those skills over the course of several different positions.
In this article, we will look at how to choose the skills you include on your CV, some of the best ways to include those skills so that they stand out to recruiters. Here are ten of the best skills to include on your CV:
- Stress management
- Team work
- Computer skills
- Foreign languages
- Media and marketing
- Research skills
Identifying the right skills to show on your CV
Identifying the right skills to show on your CV might not feel like an easy process, but you can make it easier by taking a methodical approach to it. Ask yourself a few simple questions to decide what's likely to be relevant to the interviewer:
- Do you have personal skills you consider an important part of who you are?
- Do you have professional skills that are essential for specific jobs?
- Do you have transferable skills you can bring to a variety of roles?
List all the skills you can think of that fall into any of these three categories. You can narrow down the list later. To begin with, you want to make sure you don't miss anything out, so you can then shortlist the very best skills to include on your CV.
Keep the long list too. It's sensible to tweak your CV for different roles and vacancies. In some cases, you might want to change which skills you include. For example, communication skills are more relevant to customer-facing and team roles, whereas for jobs that require autonomy, you might want to list your ability to work well alone.
Some skills are important but also very commonplace. Again, communication and teamworking skills are examples of this - you might want to include them fairly briefly, but recognise that the vast majority of other applicants will also mention them on their CVs.
The best skills to include in detail are those that really help you to stand out from the crowd. For example, if you work in computer programming, the ability to learn new programming languages and development platforms quickly could make you a more valuable employee than someone who knows the same programming languages as you but cannot learn new ones as quickly.
Many skills are quite abstract and relate to learning, communication and other interpersonal skills. The challenge is to include these on your CV in a way that makes them more grounded and concrete for the interviewer, with specific examples or past experiences.
How to include skills in your CV
You can include skills in several different parts of a CV. When writing a CV, the most important thing is to present the information in a way that is easy to digest and that highlights the parts you want the interviewer to notice the most.
If you have been in the same industry for some time, your Career History or Employment History section could be a dominant feature of your CV. If so, you can include skills that you learned in a specific role as bullet points under that job title.
However, if you have changed discipline or you feel like your main skills are more general, and not related to just one of your past roles, you might feel like your Employment History section is not a natural place for them to go.
Don't be afraid to list a dedicated Skills section. Here you can include concrete examples of transferable job-specific knowledge you have gained over multiple roles in the past, as well as some of the more abstract personal and interpersonal skills, often called 'soft skills'.
Give examples of exactly what you mean where possible, but be brief. It's better to give the recruiter something to ask about in your interview or give yourself some interesting talking points to raise than to try and include everything in exhaustive detail on a one-page CV.
So to summarise:
- Choose the concrete and abstract skills you are most proud of.
- Decide if they fit well in your Career History or a dedicated Skills section.
- Give examples of each skill, but keep it clear and concise.
Even just by following these three steps, you can build a CV that offers good value to the interviewer, without asking them to spend time unnecessarily reading blocks of paragraph text.
What skills are important to recruiters?
Recruiters look for a combination of soft skills and hard or technical skills, so it's good to include examples of both on your CV. The best skills to include will depend on the role you apply for, but below we've rounded up ten of the skills recruiters value the most, which you can use as a starting point when writing the long list of your own attributes that you are most proud of.
Soft skills or transferable skills are the more abstract attributes we've already mentioned above. They are applicable to a wide variety of roles and are something you should seek to develop over the course of your career if you want to succeed in getting the best jobs in the future.
Communicating effectively with others around you has implications for everything from teamwork to customer service. Almost everybody puts 'effective communicator' on their CV in one form or another, so try to stand out from that crowd.
For example, you could include an instance of when communicating with another person - whether they were a customer or a colleague - was difficult, but you were able to find an effective way forwards. That may have been a language barrier, a hearing impairment, or something similar. The important thing is how you made sure you communicated with the individual to get the job done.
If you want to climb the promotion ladder, leadership skills are a must, as the higher you get in a company's hierarchy, the more people will be below you. For obvious reasons, this is especially true in managerial roles, where leadership skills help to maintain a team's motivation while taking action on any disciplinary issues.
Be concrete about past experience in this area. Give examples of how many employees you have led in the past, and try to also include evidence of how your effective leadership guided your team towards success while achieving any goals or targets set by your own line manager.
Forward-thinking is a hugely beneficial soft skill, and is transferable across different disciplines, all the way up the management hierarchy. There are also many different ways to demonstrate your ability to plan ahead.
You could include examples from your career of times when planning ahead helped you to achieve a specific objective - ideally one of benefit to your employer. Or you might have examples from your personal life, such as a strong performance in strategy games or victory in a chess tournament, which you could use as a way to talk about your skills in a job interview.
Many jobs are stressful, and the way you cope with this can impact on everything from your productivity, to meeting targets, to how long you stay in the role. If you thrive under pressure or you feel you have an innovative approach to coping with stress, say so.
Often interviewers will ask about this anyway, so if you have mentioned it to any extent on your CV, it's an opportunity for you to refer the recruiter to a past role where you had to handle pressure and did so successfully.
Teamwork is an attribute that is broadly applicable to many roles, and it encompasses the way you work with your managers, your co-workers and those below you on the hierarchy. This obviously brings in aspects of leadership and communication too.
Don't be vague on this one. Recruiters receive endless CVs that promise to 'work well as part of a team'. Be clear about when you have done this in the past: how big was the team, what was the hierarchy, and how did your effective teamwork help to achieve your goals?
Technical skills tend to be more restricted in scope than soft or transferable skills. They may be quite career-specific, or even limited to just one discipline or managerial level. However, this also makes them extremely relevant when applying for certain jobs, and means fewer applicants are likely to have the same skills as you, so make the most of them on your CV.
Computer literacy ranges from word processing to databases and spreadsheets, computer programming and building websites. Computer skills can be online, or limited to a single offline workstation. Even just knowing how to set up a new workstation can be a useful skill in some jobs.
Almost every career now includes computers in some form, but the specific computer skills you need will vary widely depending on your chosen career path. As such, make sure you update your CV to include the most relevant IT skills for the particular vacancy you apply for.
The ability to speak any second language to a good level - especially if you are a fluent, native or bilingual speaker - can be a major benefit to your employer, especially if you work in an international or global sector.
Foreign languages are easy to include on a CV, but be clear about how well you can speak the language. Intermediate language skills might allow you to read and understand printed text, but not a full-speed conversation. This can still be very valuable to an employer, so be honest about your grasp of the various languages you know.
Media and marketing
Marketing is a soft skill in the sense of communicating with media outlets, but it is also highly technical in many ways. Digital marketing is one example of this, where you might need to understand search engine optimisation and social media marketing, including how to use hashtags and other platform-specific features.
If you have experience dealing with other types of media, from radio and television to industry and mainstream print outlets, these can all be worth including too. Show your future employer that you have the expertise needed to get their message to a wider audience.
Mathematical ability might not be necessary for all roles, but it shows an ability to process information in your head. However, we're not just talking about basic numeracy and mental arithmetic, but specific examples of when you have worked with numerical information in the past.
Data processing is a broad field, so try to give the interviewer some instances of your analytical work from the past, plus the kinds of transferable skills you have picked up in this area. That can include statistical methods like regression analysis that you can use to analyse future research data.
A methodical approach to research can be useful in many different jobs, whether you work in market research itself, or you need to give compelling reasons why your employer should follow a particular course of action. That could be launching a new product or service, redeploying specific resources, or anything else you feel could help achieve the company's goals.
Research skills are surprisingly diverse. Quantitative research relies on a deep understanding of numbers and patterns, whereas qualitative research depends on interpersonal skills and empathy - this really is one that bridges the divide between soft and technical skills, so be clear about exactly where your own abilities lie.
Now that you know how to decide what skills to include on your CV, check out these other useful resources to help to make yourself stand out to recruiters: