Skills for CV: A Comprehensive Guide with Tips
Written by Mike Potter, Author • Last updated on 2 July 2024

Skills for CV: A Comprehensive Guide with Tips

Your CV is one of your most valuable job search tools. An impressive CV that shows your relevant experience and achievements can make all the difference to your application. The skills section of your CV is a chance to show you have the abilities and knowledge required for the job. In this article, we discuss how to list skills for your CV, with tips and examples to help you craft an effective skills section.

Understanding the Importance of Skills on a CV

The purpose of your CV is to show employers that you’re right for the job. You can do this by referencing your work experience, including duties and achievements in current or previous roles. Another way to show you’re a match for the role is to list your skills.

By including your skills in their own section of the CV, employers can quickly and easily see your strengths and compare them to the requirements for the role. Your work experience section may reference your skills, but it can be tricky for recruiters and hiring managers to pick them out at a glance. A clear, simple skills section gives you the chance to identify and emphasise what you consider to be your best qualities, whether these are hard, technical skills or soft, transferable skills. 

Identifying Key Skills for Your CV

Identifying which key skills to mention on your CV is an important step in creating your document. Think about your best strengths and abilities, and compare these to the job description. Most job descriptions list several key requirements and desirable qualities for the role. If you find a job description is brief or vague about the requirements, you can also search online for more detailed job descriptions.

Once you understand which skills are most important for the job, you can write your CV skills section with these in mind. Make sure you cross-reference your skills with those listed in the job description. If your skills section includes some or all of the essential skills listed in the job description, your chances of success should improve. You may also want to list some skills that best display your unique strengths and qualities, even if they’re not mentioned in the job description. Consider whether these skills are relevant to the role before including them in your CV.

One decision you’ll need to make for your CV skills section, is the mix of hard and soft skills to include. This might depend on the level of seniority and level of technical ability required for the role. You can find out more about hard and soft skills for your CV in the next section.

Expert Tip:

Use the job description to understand the skills the employer is looking for, and make sure your skills section includes these. But remember to also include some unique personal skills that reflect your personality and help you to stand out from other candidates. This can make your CV more interesting and engaging for the reader.

Essential Skills for your CV: Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

Most CVs include a combination of hard and soft skills. Here are some tips on including both in your CV:

Hard skills

Hard skills are technical and specialist skills required for a job. These types of skills usually relate to specific tasks and responsibilities you’ll carry out in the role. You could learn these skills from studying or from previous work experience.

Some examples of hard skills for different roles are:

  • Web design/development: graphic design skills, Adobe Creative Suite, coding languages (HTML, Python, SQL), development frameworks (Angular, jQuery, Django)
  • Accounting and finance: bookkeeping skills, profit/loss reports, financial reporting, accounting software, advanced Excel skills, knowledge of financial regulations and laws
  • Teaching and education: lesson planning, presentation skills, knowledge of safeguarding regulations
  • Project management: risk planning, project management software, budget management, task management, project planning
  • Construction: technical skills (i.e. bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing, plastering, electrical), knowledge of health and safety regulations, knowledge of building standards and regulations

Soft skills

Soft skills are personal character traits and transferable skills that you can apply to various roles. The types of soft skills required by employers will depend on the role, but they’re likely to include something related to collaborating with colleagues, teamwork and managing your workload. These skills may come naturally to you, or you may learn them on the job.

Here are some examples of soft skills for different roles:

  • Engineering: analytical skills, problem-solving skills, organisation, leadership, creativity
  • Law: communication, interpersonal skills, relationship building, attention to detail, analytical skills
  • Food and hospitality roles: creativity, attention to detail, self-motivation, ability to work under pressure, customer service
  • Healthcare worker: interpersonal skills, time management, ability to work under pressure, teamwork, problem-solving
  • Office management/administration: communication, organisation, time management, negotiation skills, interpersonal skills

When to use hard skills vs soft skills

Most CVs tend to include a combination of hard and soft skills. However, the exact mix of hard and soft skills is likely to depend on the type of role and its level of seniority. For junior and entry-level jobs, you might find that employers are more interested in soft skills that show you’re willing to learn and work as part of a team. However, for more senior or technical positions, you may need to include more hard skills or role-specific abilities.

Top Skills Any Employer Looks For

Here’s a list of some of the most in-demand skills to put on your CV:

  • Management/leadership: the ability to manage a team is essential for senior positions. Leadership and management are similar but not the same, with leadership including more personal qualities such as the ability to motivate a team, critical thinking and vision.
  • Communication: communication skills can be verbal or written, and both are essential. If you can prove written and verbal skills, such as report writing, presentation and negotiation skills, you’ll improve your chances of success.
  • Adaptability/flexibility: one of the keys to success in the modern world of work is flexibility. Technology is evolving and work is constantly changing. Your ability to change, flex and adapt to new challenges can make all the difference.
  • Critical thinking/problem-solving/analytical skills: these skills showcase your ability to take a problem or challenge, think about it from a new perspective and create solutions that give your company a competitive edge. The ability to ask difficult questions, and come up with answers, can be an incredibly powerful asset.
  • Emotional intelligence: your emotional intelligence levels affect your ability to work with your colleagues and the way you form relationships with suppliers, partners, customers and clients. If you can recognise the emotional needs of others and adapt to make them feel comfortable, you have an extremely valuable workplace skill.
  • Project management: the ability to plan, organise, run and deliver projects is transferable to many roles. Project management skills can serve you well throughout your career.
If your skills section includes some or all of the essential skills listed in the job description, your chances of success should improve.

How to Effectively Showcase Skills on a CV

Most CV structures and layouts have a dedicated skills section, but you can also showcase your skills throughout your CV. You might choose one or two key skills to mention in your CV statement. You can also use your employment history section to provide evidence of using your skills in the workplace. The bullet points under each job entry offer a chance to mention various skills and abilities, and how you’ve used them in your work. This section can be a showcase of how these skills have contributed to achievements and success in your career.

The skills section of your CV provides space to show your most significant skills. Depending on the role, you might create the section as a single list, or you could split it into hard and soft skills. Make sure the skills you add to your CV match those in the job description. It’s best to use the same language and phrases where possible, and avoid using synonyms, (for example, don’t write ‘people skills’ if the job description asks for ‘interpersonal skills’).

Example of a skills section on a CVYou can prove your skills throughout your CV, but if space allows, you could also add a brief explainer of each skill in your skills section. This could take the form of a bullet point underneath the name of the skill, explaining what it is or how you’ve used it. If you don’t have space to add extra lines to your document, you could include them in the main text (for example, write ‘producing monthly financial reports and presenting them to senior board members’ instead of ‘financial reporting’ and ‘presentation skills’).

Additional Key Skills to Put on a CV

Any relevant skills you can add to your CV will help your chances of success. You could add these to your skills section or include them in other places, such as your CV summary and work experience sections. You may also decide to mention several key skills in your cover letter, particularly if they’re critical to the role and you have great examples of how you’ve used them in your career to date.

While it’s essential to tailor the skills on your CV to the job description, some skills are likely to be valuable whatever the role. These tend to be skills that combine numerous other qualities or abilities together into one highly effective and useful skill set. Project management, for example, showcases various valuable workplace skills, such as organisation, planning, management and teamwork. Interpersonal skills are also a valued commodity, as they include communication, emotional intelligence and collaboration skills. Other skills that demonstrate a mastery of various qualities include customer service, finance skills and computer skills.

Remember the importance of soft skills on your CV, and consider how these evolve as you gain experience. The soft skills you used in your early career may well develop into far more powerful and effective skills as you become more senior. Consider this when you’re writing your CV, and update it accordingly.

Key Takeaways for Showcasing Skills on Your CV

Your whole CV is a great opportunity to showcase your skills and prove you have the necessary experience and qualities for the job. Make sure you read the job description and tailor any skills you include in your CV to the requirements, paying particular attention to any skills the employer deems ‘essential’. Your skills section is the perfect place to reference your skills, but, you can also mention skills in your CV statement and work experience sections. You could even use optional sections such as voluntary work, or your cover letter.

The layout and structure of your CV play a big role in your ability to showcase your skills. CVwizard has a wealth of tools to help you design and write a winning CV. Sign up today to access CV templates and other resources that can help you prove your skills and experience to employers. 

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Mike Potter
Mike Potter
Mike Potter is an experienced copywriter specialising in careers and professional development. He uses extensive knowledge of workplace culture to create insightful and actionable articles on CV writing and career pathways.

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