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Whether you are a junior or a seasoned employee, there is one thing all employers want to see on your CV: your skills.
Your skills are, ultimately, what makes you good at your job. Everything else on your CV matters only because it helped you develop your unique skill set.
According to LinkedIn, there are at least 50,000 professional skills in the world. So which should you add to your CV?
This guide will help to show you:
- Key skills that will have your CV outperforming CVs from even the most experienced candidates.
- Tips and advice on how to add your key skills to your CV to get more interviews.
- Examples on how to list your key skills and how to avoid common pitfalls that could cost you your dream job.
With no further ado, let’s jump right in!
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What Are the Key Skills for My CV?
You can think of skills as the bones of your CV; without them, your CV is just a formless lump of goo. Skills are so important, that they’re the only thing that can be found throughout your CV.
But with only about 8 seconds of the recruiter’s attention per candidate, you really need to know which skills are the most crucial.
What are Key Skills?
Key skills are the work related skills that you need to have in order to do your given job. For example, if you’re a writer then a good working knowledge of Microsoft Word is a key skill.
Sought after key skills are often found in the job description; that’s the first place you should look for inspiration as to what to put on your CV. After all, the question isn’t whether the skill is important to you, but whether it is to employers.
What are the Types of Key Skills?
Not all skills are the same and you’ll see lots of different names being used that can make a muddle of things.
But not to worry, we’ll straighten them out right quick!
Let’s look at the different subdivisions of skills to get a better understanding of what they are and how and where they appear in your CV.
First, let’s consider the most common division: hard skills and soft skills.
Hard skills are technical skills that anyone can learn (e.g. Microsoft Word, HTML, Spanish). Soft skills have more to do with your personality and experience (leadership skills, time management, critical thinking).
One is not more important than the other; they’re equally crucial in convincing the employer you’re the best candidate for the job.
List of the Top 10 Key Hard Skills on a CV
- Data analysis
- Foreign language
- Analytical thinking
- Project Management
- Social Media Marketing
- Team Management
- Software Engineering
- Data Presentation
List of the Top 10 Key Soft Skills on a CV
- Time Management
- Communication skills
- Customer Service
- Conflict Resolution
- Active Listening
- Interpersonal Skills
- Detail Oriented
- Problem Solving
Now let’s look more closely at the three further categories of key skills: transferable skills, job-related skills, and adaptive skills.
Transferable skills are skills that can easily be carried over from one job to another. Some examples are Microsoft Outlook, ability to work under stress, Italian.
Job-related skills are skills that are necessary to perform a given job and are rarely useful outside that given job or sector. Some examples are nursing, welding, Workday.
Adaptive skills are skills you use to adapt or change to situations and surroundings that you experience throughout life as well as in the workplace. Some examples are creativity, teamwork, persuasion.
Remember that these categories are fluid and you can sometimes find that one skill can be listed under more than one category. For example, Spanish is a transferable skill, but if you’re responsible for customer service across Spain, then Spanish is also a job-related skill.
Use these categories more as a guide to help you better understand what employers are looking for and where to place certain skills on your CV.
Once you've nailed your CV skills, how about a skills-based CV? Will it work for you? Read more: Skills Based CV Format [Complete Guide]
List of Key Skills to Put on a CV
If we were to list all existing skills, it would go on for hundreds of pages. Instead, here’s a list of the more well known skill groups and the most popular skills they contain, no matter the position or sector.
Communication Skills on a CV
- Active Listening
- Clarity Communication
- Creating Good Rapport
- Giving and Receiving Feedback
Example of Communication Skills in a CV
Great ability to develop and sustain a good rapport with international clients through continuous interaction and genuine interest.
I get along well with people.
Organisational Skills on a CV
- Mental organizational skills
- Physical organization
- Time management
Example of Organisational Skills in a CV
Proficient at Evernote and Notion in project management and task management.
I really know how to keep things organised and tidy.
Teamwork Skills on a CV
- Conflict resolution
- Active Listening
- Building Good Rapport
- Decision making
Example of Teamwork Skills in a CV
Held weekly team lunches to celebrate group and individual successes for the given sprint.
I work well in a team.
Analytical Skills on a CV
- Data reporting
- Problem solving
- Data analysis
- Data mining
- Analytical reasoning
Example of Analytical Skills in a CV
Excellent ability to quickly and effectively research conference venues through searches and then cross referencing results to find the best option.
I am really good at finding things in Google searches.
Leadership/Managerial Skills on a CV
- Strategic planning
- People/Team Management
- Emotional Intelligence
- Project management
- Public speaking
- Team building
Example of Leadership/Managerial Skills in a CV
Good ability to manage teams through use of MBTI scores and in depth knowledge of situational leadership.
I am emotionally intelligent and people respect me.
Computer/IT Skills on a CV
- Social media proficiency (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram)
- General software knowledge (Microsoft Office, Photoshop)
- Email/Calendar management (Gmail, Outlook)
- Use of mobile applications
- Ability to use and sync multiple devices (laptop, tablet, mobile)
Example of Computer/IT skills in a CV
Proficient in several Microsoft Office applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) for both internal purposes and for external vendors.
Highly Computer Literate
Remember that almost everyone writes “proficient in Microsoft Office” on their CVs. Unless you’re truly proficient in the whole Office package, be clear and mention the particular applications you can actually use. Otherwise, it’s a meaningless addition to your computer skills section.
Social Skills on a CV
- Amicable body language
- Eye contact
Example of Social Skills in a CV
Implemented a shout out system for one employee each week which led to a quick rise in team morale.
I’m always positive.
Problem Solving Skills on a CV
- Decision making
- Emotional Intelligence
- Data gathering
- Managing risk
Example of Problem Solving Skills in a CV
Refined business solutions in order to tackle underlying client needs. Resulted in $500K savings for client.
Quick and efficient problem solver.
Additional Key Skills to Put on a CV (Career Specific)
Many times, the general important skills won’t be enough to convince the employer to give you a ring, especially for more senior or specialist roles.
Here are some career specific key skills that you can add to your CV to make the hiring manager dial your number more quickly.
Retail Skills on a CV
- Attention to Detail
- Selling skills
- Ability to work under pressure
- Visual merchandising
- Product rotation
- Product sourcing
- Cash handling
IT Skills on a CV
- Cloud computing
- Coding/Programming (Java, C++, Python, PHP, etc.)
- IT networks
- Configuration management
- Quality testing
- Web design
- Mobile applications
Business Skills on a CV
- Financial management
- Strategic Planning
- Sales and Marketing
Teaching Skills on a CV
- Continuous Learner
- Ability to Empower
Customer Service Skills on a CV
- Product knowledge
- Positive attitude and language
- Personal responsibility
- Clear communication skills
- Being proactive/ going the extra mile
Administration Skills on a CV
- Data Entry
- Office equipment management
- Customer service
- Time management
- Calendar management
- Filing systems
- Order processing
Interpersonal Skills on a CV
- Active listening
- Conflict management
- Openness to feedback
- Creative thinking
Creative Skills on a CV
- Problem solving
- Artistic creativity (design, art, music, writing) Note: in these cases, it’s a great idea to link to your online portfolio or website to demonstrate your creative work.
Always keep in mind that it doesn’t matter what you list if you don’t have the experience to prove it. Only list skills that you can give examples for both on your CV or during interview. Recruiters will definitely ask and no one likes a fibber!
Pro Tip: If you find yourself lacking the necessary skills, learn them! There’s a plethora of different courses and free tutorials online that will quickly teach you the essentials of programs such as Word, Excel, or Outlook as well as more sophisticated tools and software. Use them!
Now that you know what the key skills for your CV are, the next question is where and how do you include them?
So how will your skills section look on paper? Check out these templates: 20+ Free CV Templates to Download Now
Where and How Do I Put My Key Skills in My CV?
You may be armed with a good list of professional skills now, but that doesn’t mean that you can simply give your CV a random sprinkle of them and call it a day.
You need to know where and how to include your skills to set yourself up for success. Just like you can’t catch a fish by asking it nicely to leave the water, you need to set up your CV to hook the recruiter.
Here’s an example of a senior sales CV. Notice the highlighted key skills:
Senior Sales Associate
Motivated and highly professional Senior Sales Associate with 10+ years of experience in sales and effective sales management. Maintained 93% positive customer reviews and reduced retail redtape by 17% overall. Seeking to leverage proven skills in sales and customer loyalty to boost L’Occitane as Deputy Store Manager.
Senior Sales Associate
Handbag Clinic, London
- Voted Salesperson of the Year in 2017 and 2018.
- Continuously exceeded monthly sales targets by over 12%.
- Achieved a 42% increase in sales over the past year by building customer loyalty through fostering stronger relationships.
- Handled customer-service including POS, sales, and inventory management.
Key achievement: Developed a new system of internal trainings and knowledge-sharing, helping the team resolve 96% of customer complaints without delegating to senior management (14% increase in 4 months).
Tommy Hilfiger, Regent Street, London
- Resolved all customer inquiries and complaints.
- Exceeded sales targets by 5% in my first year.
- Consistently exceeded sales targets by at least 9% for every subsequent year.
- Brand Ambassador outside the company which boosted sales by 10%.
Key achievement: Trained staff on the use of new digital platforms which cut paperwork by 35%!
Urban Outfitters, Covent Garden, London
- Exceeded sales targets for all years by 7% on average.
- Overall 93% positive ratings from customers in post-sales surveys.
- Helped create new guidelines on loss prevention which dropped losses by 3.7 %.
Level 6 Diploma in Sales and Marketing
London School of Planning and Management, London
- Square Point of Sale
- Shopify POS
- Lightspeed Retail
- Tracking VIP customers
- Excellent communication skills
- Superb at anticipating customer needs
- Excellent ability to work under pressure in a dynamic environment
- French B1
- Proficient in Excel
- Proficient in Outlook
Courses and Certificates
- Sales Coaching and Training (CPD Accredited), Course Gate, 2017
- Level 3 qualification in Sales and Marketing, Institute of Sales Management, 2016
- Level 2 qualification in Sales and Marketing, Institute of Sales Management, 2012
As you can see, the key skills aren’t simply recorded in a long list in one section of the CV. They’re mentioned throughout; they’re in the CV profile, the experience section, and the separate skills section.
Watch that recruiter getting reeled in with every word!
A common mistake most candidates make it that they forget to include their skills through examples of tasks and accomplishments.
Adding your skills through your career experience, demonstrates them at work. This is a definite added benefit as the employer can already see you in the role in their mind’s eye.
But how do you get from the job ad to a professional, eye-catching CV?
It’s of the utmost importance to make sure that the skills you list are relevant to the job. The job ad will serve as the perfect source.
Let’s take a look at this example of a job ad for a marketing executive:
- Experience in digital marketing including CMS management, content, copywriting, blogging, social channels, and email marketing
- B2B or services marketing experience (advantageous)
- Able to work with initiative, manage own workload and prioritise effectively
- Strong communication, eloquent copywriting, and immaculate written English
- Working knowledge of WordPress and website administration. Some HTML/JS/CSS would be useful
- Visually competent with good understanding of design best practices and layout skills
- Experience using CRM systems
- Experience of Adobe InDesign, Lightroom and Illustrator
- Experience working with Microsoft Office Suite
- CIM or Digital Marketing qualification (advantageous)
You look at this job offer and think it’s something for you. But you can’t simply copy and paste all the skills mentioned here onto your CV. Let’s be honest, no one will believe you.
You also can’t simply list random skills you think sound great. That won’t grab anyone’s attention.
Take a step back and think about two things:
- What are the technical skills the employer is looking for? Highlight them.
- What are the soft skills the employer needs? Highlight them too.
These core skills are highlighted in yellow in the above example. Take note that they aren’t always simply written down in a list and can be found scattered throughout the ad.
Now, taking the highlighted job skills from the ad, you can tailor the skills on your CV to match the requirements.
Hard skills are usually best placed in the skills section of your CV as a list; it draws a lot of attention that way.
Example of Key Skills in the Skill Section of Your CV
The right example gives a list of specific skills that are clear as day. The wrong example is as clear as mud.
But wait, the right example has some technical skills that weren’t mentioned in the job ad.
Yes, but they are still relevant.
They are either variants of tools often used in marketing or tools that demonstrate an ability (e.g. knowledge of JIRA suggests you can manage your tasks and workflow well). They all demonstrate general marketing experience and knowhow which is what the recruiter is looking for.
ProTip: Many tools tend to be similar. They need Outlook, but you’re a master of Lotus Notes? Add it. They need a whiz at Photoshop, but you know every corner of Gimp? Include it. You don’t have Microsoft Office, but you work in OpenOffice or Google Suite? Mention it. Chances are that differences between the tool versions aren’t enough to disqualify you and it demonstrates you can learn a new tool faster than someone who’s completely green.
Now, you have the hard skills done and dusted, but we still need to sort out the rest.
Soft skills are always trickier to cover in a CV, but it’s not impossible!
Example of Key Skills in the Experience Section of Your CV
Planned, budgeted, and developed online marketing campaigns that led to both a 15% rise in conversion and 35% rise in sales of OTechno’s SEO tool.
Collaborated with sales team to update company-wide branding which resulted in 20% rise in visitors to landing page.
Worked on email campaigns and company branding for SEO tools.
The right example proves you have services marketing experience and know exactly what makes email marketing tick.
The wrong example? That person could be anyone and is as likely to be found as a stray dog in a legendary Victorian London fog.
So now you’ve mentioned skills in the skills section and the work experience section, but let’s not stop there!
Another great place to mention your skills is in your CV profile. Given this is one of the first section employers see, it’s prime real estate for your core skills.
Example of Key Skills in the CV Profile
Knowledgeable marketing executive with 5+ years’ experience in copywriting and digital marketing in the service marketing sector. Seeking to leverage expertise to raise sales and brand awareness for InkDigital.
Marketing executive with more than 5 years’ experience working in digital marketing looking for new challenges.
The candidate in the right example has managed to add three key skills into the CV profile (copywriting and digital marketing experience, raising sales, brand awareness knowhow). That’s starting your CV with a bang.
The candidate in the wrong example hasn’t added any skills at all. That’s starting your CV with a whimper.
Well that all looks pretty fine and dandy now, doesn’t it?
Perhaps, but there’s still more you can do!
Take a look at any courses, certifications, or extra accomplishments that you may have and if they’re relevant to the given role. If they are, definitely add them in for a bit of extra zing.
But what if you don’t have any or limited work experience?
Don’t worry, you still have relatable skills that you can put on your CV.
Here’s an entry level example of the necessary skills for a junior office assistant:
- Good Microsoft office skills including Excel
- Must be numerate
- Strong attention to detail
- Good telephone manner
- Ability to work with staff at all levels
- Flexible approach
- Keen to progress
These are all skills that you could have acquired from general life experience, part-time work, volunteering, or freelancing.
Follow the same format as mentioned previously and you should be able to create an entry level winner.
Working knowledge of Microsoft Office, good knowledge of Excel (pivot tables, V look-ups).
Volunteered twice a week on the Silver Line to help combat loneliness among senior citizens.
Coached local youth basketball team every other weekend and helped them reach the quarterfinals in their category.
Gets on well with people
Pro Tip: If the employer mentions a “package” skill like Microsoft Office, but then mentions one particular program separately, you can be sure they’ll be putting their emphasis on that one program. Make sure you do too.
Now you know how to include your skills, make sure you've got the right CV format: Best CV Format for Job Application Success
Knowing the skills employers are looking for and listing them correctly is the best way to get your CV noticed. Otherwise you might as well be on the Bakerloo line during ‘minor delays’—you’re not going to get anywhere.
To do that, always bear in mind that:
- Job ads are a rich source of the key skills necessary for the given position.
- You should only mention relevant career skills in your CV.
- You should include skills throughout your CV. Add hard skills in the skills section and soft skills everywhere else via experience and accomplishments.
With all that advice, all that’s left is to go and get cracking!
Still not sure what skills to list in your CV or how to do it properly? Drop a line in the comments and we'll help!