7 Key Skills for a Resume (Plus How to Choose Them)

Updated 31 August 2023

In many industries, there are several skills employers want job candidates to have before considering them for their jobs. Regardless of your profession, having these key skills on your resume can distinguish you from other candidates and improve your chances of employment. Knowing the key skills employers want job candidates to have and understanding how to list them on your resume can help you demonstrate your relevant experience and results.

In this article, we discuss the essential skills to include on your resume and share tips on how to choose competencies to include in your job application documents to make the most impact on employers.

Related: Strengths List: 30 Skills to Include on Your Resume

What are the key skills for a resume?

Key skills for a resume are hard and soft skills that enable people to perform their job duties effectively. Hard skills, such as computer literacy, numeracy and job-specific competencies, are necessary for many professions. Soft skills are equally important because they're essential for collaborating with people. Examples of soft skills include leadership, communication, interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence. People acquire these skills gradually as they interact and work with others, and they can improve teamwork, productivity, performance and efficiency in the workplace.

Different employers require specific combinations of these hard and soft skills, and listing the ones relevant to their roles on your resume can make a good impression and increase your chances of getting hired.

Related: 10 Best Skills to Include on a Resume

How to decide what skills to list on a resume

Here's how to determine the key skills for a resume:

1. Research the job and employer

One way to determine the top skills to include on your resume is to review the job ad. In the job description, the employer is likely going to mention qualification requirements, including the skills they want the ideal candidates to have. While some skills are role-dependent, there are several skills employers in many industries desire in candidates. These include communication, collaboration, interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Besides checking the job ad, you can also learn about the skills to add to your resume by researching the employer.

A company's work environment and work culture may require candidates to have specific skill sets. For example, a remote computer programming role may require soft skills, such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills. In a leadership role, an employer might expect you to have conflict resolution, training, management, organisation, problem-solving and performance evaluation skills.

Related: ​​​​12 Skilled Synonyms to Use in Your Resume (With Examples)

2. Assess your skill sets

Assess yourself to identify your skills that apply to the employer's role. Look for hard and soft skills that can help you perform the job functions and deliver results. For example, if the job requires teamwork, being an excellent communicator can make it easier to collaborate with teammates and colleagues. If the work involves writing reports, you can match it to your ability to use word processing software. Match your core skills to each job function so you know how to distribute them on your resume for maximum impact.

3. Ask people in the field

Another way to know the skills to include on your resume is to ask people who are working in the industry. You can ask people working in a position similar to the employers. If you can find someone working in the company, they can tell you the specific skills and personal attributes the employer desires in its employees.

4. Ask colleagues

You can also ask colleagues and people who know about your work experience. While it may be difficult to self-assess yourself, people who work with you can help identify some hard and soft skills you can include on your resume. For example, if you're easy to work with, that might indicate you have good communication and collaboration skills. You may not know this, but a colleague who has had a good working relationship with you can help identify these attributes.

Related: Common Examples of Skills and Steps to Identify Them

7 key skills to include on a resume

Here are some essential skills you can include on your resume:

1. Computer skills

Computer skills allow you to use and learn how to operate software and hardware tools. Hardware skills include the ability to physically operate a computer, such as a laptop and other related machines. Software skills help you use applications and programs to perform job duties. For example, many jobs require employees to know how to use word processing software to create documents.

In technical professions like programming, your job may involve knowing how to code fluently in specific coding languages. Architects, civil engineers and several other professions also use computer-aided design software to create blueprints and technical layouts for structures. Examples of computer skills you can include on your resume include:

  • word processing

  • spreadsheets

  • programming

  • email

  • social media and web

  • networking

  • systems administration

Related: IT Soft Skills for Your Resume: Definition and Examples

2. Communication skills

Communication skills allow you to pass information efficiently. In many professions, there's a requirement to communicate with people, including your colleagues, customers, vendors, partners and other parties. Communication skills allow you to write, speak and listen. It's essential for interacting, getting and giving feedback, observing details, resolving conflicts and empathising with others. Examples of communication skills you can list on your resume are:

  • verbal communication

  • written communication

  • active listening

  • public speaking

  • presentation

  • interpersonal communication

3. Problem-solving skills

Being able to solve problems is another essential resume skill that can improve your attractiveness to employers. The ability to solve problems can include being creative, taking initiative, thinking critically and analysing events with an open mind before deciding on the best course of action. If you can demonstrate how you've used your problem-solving skills to achieve results in roles similar to the employer's on your resume, you may make a good impression on the hiring manager and convince them to consider your application favourably. Here are problem-solving skills you can include on your resume:

  • creativity

  • analytical thinking

  • critical thinking

  • decision making

  • research

Related: Technical Skills for Resume (With Examples and Steps)

4. Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills help you communicate, interact and build relationships with people. This makes the skills essential for workplace collaboration and career growth. Being able to build and nurture beneficial relationships with colleagues can make you an influential and respected person at work, especially if you have leadership roles. It can also make it easy to work with clients and partners, solve problems and motivate people to support your initiatives. Examples of interpersonal skills you can add to your resume include:

  • communication

  • patience

  • adaptability

  • empathy

  • emotional intelligence

  • leadership

  • teamwork

5. Leadership skills

Leadership skills allow you to organise a group of people to achieve a common goal. Even if you're not in a leadership position, having these skills can help you motivate your team members to achieve higher productivity and performance. Leadership skills can help you make difficult decisions, take the initiative, provide constructive feedback and hold yourself accountable. Leadership qualities you can list on your resume include:

  • decision making

  • risk-taking

  • time management

  • flexibility

  • motivation

  • constructive feedback

  • teamwork

  • communication

  • empathy

Read more: 6 Leadership Skills for a Resume and How to Demonstrate Them

6. Management

Management skills are essential for leveraging an organisation's resources to achieve objectives. Whether you're applying for a managerial or entry role, being able to manage people and resources can improve your performance and productivity as a leader or team member. Some management skills you can include on your resume are:

  • active listening

  • organisation

  • planning

  • decision making

  • delegation

  • leadership

7. Time management skills

Time management skills can help you achieve a high level of productivity and performance by completing tasks on time. These skills can improve the quality of your work, help you enjoy a higher work-life balance and improve your chances of progressing in your career. An important aspect of time management is being able to prioritise tasks based on their importance so you can allocate your time more efficiently. You can include these time management skills on your resume:

  • prioritisation

  • organisation

  • planning

  • focus

  • goal setting

Read more: Time Management Skills: Examples and Improvement Strategies

What skills are best to put on a resume?

There's no definite answer to the best skills to put on a resume because each role has specific skills employers are looking for in candidates. That said, some skills are transferable across professions and industries. For example, communication and interpersonal skills are required in many workplaces.

Computer skills are also ubiquitous, as several everyday functions now require using the internet and other digital tools. Problem-solving is also important as it allows people to contribute to team efforts and perform their duties effectively with little or no supervision.

Explore more articles

  • What Are Useful Fitness Instructor Skills and Qualities?
  • How to List Interests and Hobbies on Your Resume
  • How To List Achievements for a Resume (With Examples)
  • Acceptance Letter Samples: Definition and Examples
  • How To Write an Accounting Resume Objective (With Examples)
  • 10 Skills Needed for Marketing You Can Add to Your Resume
  • How To Write Work Experience on a Resume (With Tips and Examples)
  • How to Write a Cover Letter for an Internship With No Experience
  • How to Write a Summary for a Resume (With 12 Examples)
  • 6 Leadership Skills for a Resume and How To Demonstrate Them
  • 12 Account Manager Resume Objective Examples (With How-to)
  • What Is a CRM Cover Letter? (Plus How to Write One)