Over the years, we have seen some pretty ridiculous skills sections on resumes, like when the skills take up half the page and don't correlate logically to a previous role, or list every software known to mankind. We blame the internet -- a lot of generic resume advice you'll find online includes listing as many keywords as possible so you'll get past the evil ATS robots. On the other hand, we also find that many resumes are missing relevant skills that would be helpful to a hiring manager. Here are some tips for crafting the skills section of your resume:
1. Avoid intangible, "soft" skills. "Self-starter," "strong communicator," and "detail-oriented" all sound interesting, but you can't prove them out of context. Instead, illustrate those skills in your bullet points.
2. List relevant software/tools. If the job posting calls out a specific software, make sure you list it (even Microsoft Office -- don't get weeded out by an applicant tracking system for a role because you left out such a basic skill). And if you're applying for very technical roles, it's even more crucial to list the requested software on your resume. But also think about what programs might be useful in a role, even if they're not listed. If you're applying for a writers' room support staff position, you should include knowledge of Final Draft, as it shows you understand the requirements of the job. Any design or post-production position should include the design tools you're proficient in. You should also include cameras or lighting equipment if the position requires that knowledge. But don't list every tool you've ever used -- you might know Jira, but the development executives considering you for a coordinator role likely don't know what that is and don't care.
3. Don't list anything too basic if it's not specified in a posting. Everyone knows how to use Zoom by now. Most people can organize their files with Box, DropBox, or Google Drive. Unless the posting specifically calls out these everyday tools (or you're applying for a job at one of those companies), leave it out! Same goes for social media -- unless the job is related to social media (i.e. digital marketing, account management, or influencer talent representation), at a social media company, or you're an influencer yourself, you can leave it off.
4. Include any foreign languages you speak. Many Americans don't speak more than one language, so it's pretty impressive and a great talking point if you do. Definitely include any language skills that would help you in the job you're applying for (i.e. fluency in Spanish or Mandarin is almost always helpful, and you'd want to highlight your command of Japanese if you're applying for a job in anime), and strongly consider including a language skill that isn't as relevant if you have the space (For example, you likely won't be using Latin at work, but listing it makes you memorable!). You don't need to be fluent to list a language, but if you're not fluent, make sure to indicate your level, like conversational Spanish, advanced French, or basic Italian.
Remember: Your skills section is an important footnote for your resume. It's there to illustrate relevant qualifications that don't fit properly anywhere else, but it shouldn't overwhelm your overall story. Oh, and make sure it's all true.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan