Several months ago I was discussing with a client the importance of the SKILLS section of a resume. She was lamenting that she really didn't know what to put in that section because she wasn't looking for a technical role and didn't know any computer languages.

The SKILLS section can be one of the most powerful parts of your resume whether the role you are seeking is technical or not.

When I review resumes as a hiring manager I go through two rounds of reviews. The first pass is a quick scan where I am looking for anything that catches my attention and makes me feel the candidate could do the job. This first scan is less than ten seconds and I usually weed out half the candidates in this round. Having an area on your resume that is easily scannable and tailored to exactly what I am looking for makes it easy to put you into the pile for a second round review.

This is where the SKILLS section comes in. When done right, the SKILLS section can answer enough of the questions a hiring manager has to move you into the second round for further review.

The SKILLS section also proves affective as a key word list for those resumes that are digitized and put through a matching software before ever getting to a recruiter.

So how do you utilize the SKILLS section effectively and get you quickly to the second round? I recommend 3 things to do to write an effective SKILLS section.

Do an inventory

Before your write your SKILLS section, take an inventory of what skills are typically asked for in the role you are looking for. For now, don't worry if you have a particular skill, just focus on an inventory of skills you see employers asking for. I would review at least 10 job postings and create a quick matrix. When I have done this, the finished chart has between 30 and 50 skills listed.

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Don't prep-populate the skills section. Begin this process with a completely blank template and add new skills as you find them. Start by looking for these skills in the MINIMIUM QUALIFICATIONS section of the job posting and capturing the skills you find there. Then move to the CORE JOB RESPONSIBILITIES and pull out key skills the role will be asked to perform. As you go from one posting to the next you will begin to see a pattern.

Go back and highlight skills you have

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There you have it. A more targeted list of skills for your SKILLS section.

Group by functional areas

After you have your targeted list, I recommend, when possible, grouping by functional areas with 4-6 skills per section. A functional area might be "Leadership" and skills beneath it might include; business acumen, setting vision, budget management, and strategic partnerships. Another example might be "Technical" and skills beneath it might included; C++, data analysis, system design, and data modeling.

Grouping by functional areas does two things. First, it makes this section even easier to scan. Second, it begins to tell a high level story about what your do, the kind of role you are looking for, and the overarching experiences you have had.

Customize for each resume

To make things even more targeted, customize your list for every resume. I remember early in my career the first time I heard "you should customize your resume for every job you apply for". While I understood the reason for the advice, and it certainly seemed like a logical thing to do, the practicality of it seemed ridiculous. I had spent a month perfecting my resume ensuring it had great content, no misspelled words, fit perfectly on two pages, and on and on and on. No way was I going to do a new one for every job I applied for. I would never hit any job posting deadlines. I would be in a constant state of resume writing. No thanks! I would take my chances with a less targeted approach.

If you are feeling that way, I GET it. That is the beauty of the SKILLS section. With very minimal effort it allows you to customize every resume to highlight how your skills directly match what that specific employer is looking for.

Simply do a quick skills inventory from the job posting and update your list. Voilà, a simple way to customize your resume. Updating a list of skills is SO much easier than trying to word-smith a sentence to perfection.

There you go. Some tips from an insider on how to utilize the SKILLS section for maximum effectiveness.

Good luck,

Let me know how I can help!

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