Getting Started Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Use the Skills Section on Your Resume

Written by Miranda Pennington

Personally, I like a tidy resume. I like my job descriptions to pull their weight, my education to speak for itself, and my cover letter to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to describing the soft skills and experience that make me the best candidate for the job. But Danny Rubin over at may have convinced me that a separate “Skills” section is worth its weight in resume real estate!

First off, Rubin clarifies, personality traits are not skills. Your work ethic, your diligence, your optimism—these are terrific qualities, but they don’t belong in a list alongside technical expertise with Word, Photoshop, or Content Management Systems. Skills are “tangible, practical, hands-on, real world stuff” you have to learn how to do.

The best part is that skills involving certifications or hours of practice show hiring managers that you’ve got a strong work ethic and time management skills!

Consider featuring these types of skills:

  • Project management tools you know how to use (ex: Basecamp)
  • Certifications you’ve completed
  • Social media channels you understand (but it’s not enough to say “Proficient at LinkedIn” — you need to go deeper like “Proficient at LinkedIn advertising” and provide info on a niche topic within the platform)
  • Data analysis, fundraising, marketing, sales, or IT tools/software
  • Languages you speak
  • You can mention “soft” skills if they’re specific to the position; like if the job requires you to work from home, then you can write “Experience with virtual teams” or “Experience working independently” (if you had written “Focused and motivated”…that’s vague and won’t help you)
  • DO NOT include “Microsoft Office” — everyone knows how to use those programs by now*

(I actually disagree with this last one—there are plenty of people lost in GoogleDocs or Pages who still don’t know how to make the most out of Excel, but use your best judgment.)

Remember to make your cover letter show what you can do, rather than just describing what you’ve done. Have compelling anecdotes and success stories ready to deploy in your letter or your interview, so they know you’re not just a list of skills, but a reservoir of professional experience they want on their side.

Here’s What Your Resume “Skills” Section Should Tell an Employer

Read More at The Savvy Intern

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.