CV Breakdown: Writing up the Skills Section
Putting together a well crafted CV can be a little bit like baking a perfect cake (now, bear with us here). Whilst your core ingredients are covered in your work experience, education, responsibilities and personal statement, think of the skills section as the cake decoration that brings the whole piece together.
Your skills won't just come from one particular job, but from a lifetime of experience in multiple roles as well as personal triumphs. This means your skills section is going to draw on every other part of your CV and is the perfect section to highlight the best of what you can be.
Sure, you could just bake a cake without the decoration, but it might be a little bland and won't stand out. By adding that extra something though you create the perfect whole. If our cake analogy hasn't confused you too much, then read on for some advice on how to write your skills section.
What to include
Group skills together in categories
You'll find a lot of your skills being applied slightly different across different roles. For example, in one job you may have developed excellent verbal communication skills through regularly presenting, whilst in another role you could have excelled in written communication.
The trick is to group related skills together and summarise them in your skills section into what an amazing overall communicator you are. Or, if you're limited on space, just highlight the strongest skill in that category.
Each job will have different categories and themes you can draw on. For example, customer service, team working and leadership could be a separate category each and you will have specific examples covering them all. Find what works well in your profession and highlight your strongest examples.
Be specific and relevant to the role you're applying to
You'll hear us champion this a lot when writing your CV. Employers always want to know how your skills will relate to them specifically. Make sure each skill you put down matches back to the job description from the employer. If problem solving is important to them, make sure you find an example and add his to the list.
Add your strongest skills first
It always helps to lead with what you're most confident in. Your strongest skills will be the easiest to describe and you'll have the most specific examples for them. Pick your best and put it front and centre.
What not to include
Don't make it too simple
You might see a lot of CVs that have five or six simple bullet points that just read, "Good communicator" or "Computer skills". This is a definite no. It doesn't tell an employer anything about your skills and are points every other candidate is going to be putting down. Make sure you stand out with specific examples.
Don't list every single skill you have
Remember, this is about summarising your best skills and drawing out the top five or so most relevant. You can always expand on your skills later in the work experience section, but for the skills section, find your best and keep it short.
Don't include non-relevant skills
If a skill is something an employer isn't looking for, for example something you picked up in an unrelated industry, don't put it down. You'll be taking up valuable space to tell a recruiter something they're not at all interested in. Only stick to skills relevant to the job.
Tips to make this section great.
Experiment with the format but be succinct
Putting your skills into bullet points is a good starting point as it makes things clear for employers and easy to read. You might want to put the name of the skill in bold then a quick specific example as seen below:
- "Excellent communicator - Gave X number of presentations all with excellent feedback"
- "High IT proficiency - Qualified in the use of XYZ software packages"
These examples also get straight to the point, you don't want to add a lot of detail here, just get the key points across.
However, if a job is looking for a particular category of skills then feel free to expand that section a little with more examples, as seen below:
Customer service skills
- Resolved X number of customer complaints with satisfactory outcomes
- Able to quickly identify customer needs and have high customer retention rates
The Format will change a little depending on the job your applying for and what skills they're looking for.
Show how your skills have been an advantage
This can be showing both an advantage to your previous employers as well as to you personally. This is all the better if you have specific statistics those skills up and show how improvements were made as a result of your expertise.
Don't forget to mention skills throughout your CV
We mentioned at the start of this article that skills are a theme that runs through every section of a CV. So once you've got an excellent skills summary at the top, don't neglect expanding on those skills in later sections.
You can go into greater detail on more specific skills in the work experience and education sections, and even draw out your absolute number one skill in your personal statement. Always be constantly reminding the recruiter of your skills and how well matched you are for the job.