Resumes & Cover Letters

Selecting the Right Resume Skills in 5 Simple Steps

December 16, 2020

By: Indeed Career Coaches

Jamie Birt, Jennifer Herrity and Emma Esparza are career coaches at Indeed with a combined 17 years of experience in career guidance. They help others navigate the challenges of their job search, identify opportunities for career growth and find fulfilment in their unique paths.


The economic downturn caused by the spread of COVID-19 may have inspired you to upskill so you can position yourself for a different role in the future. Regardless of the industry that you work in, skills that are preferred by employers can change frequently, and it might feel challenging to stay up-to-date with what is in demand.

Whether you are searching for a new job, changing career paths or looking to accelerate in your field, it is important to identify the right skills to show employers you can succeed in a role. In this article, we explore ways to determine top skills in your industry, including ways to develop and communicate them in your job applications.

Why finding the right skills to learn is important

When you apply for a job online, your resume is most likely sorted and filtered by an applicant tracking system (ATS). An ATS will scan your resume for the skills required by the employer or hiring manager. If these skills are not included in your resume, you could be identified as an unqualified candidate.

Showing an investment in upskilling can also signal to employers that you value professional growth and ongoing education. Your current company may offer opportunities to upskill or you could pursue educational opportunities outside of the workplace. Doing so can demonstrate personal drive and provide the opportunity to build your resume.

When you interview for roles, most employers will test your knowledge of the skills required in the job description. It is common for interviewers to look for confirmation of your skills throughout the process by asking you behavioural or situational questions or by giving you technical aptitude tests. Choosing the appropriate skills to build can set you up for success in interviews such as these.

Selecting the right skills to build and include on your resume

To help you decide which skills you should focus on learning, consider your future goals and identify the roles you are interested in pursuing.

1. Decide on the role you want

A good first step is to take some time to reflect on what a new role could offer you — like more challenging projects or exposure to emerging technologies — then take steps to understand the strengths and skills you would need to be successful in that role.

If an increase in salary is a motivation for you to gain new skills, Indeed Salaries: can help you explore compensation by role and location. To use the tool, enter a specific company name or job title and your location. A salary report will be generated with a list of corresponding job openings in your area. Companies may use different titles for a similar set of responsibilities, so you should also search related job titles to get a more accurate estimation of an expected salary.

2. Identify the industry you’re interested in

After you’ve identified the type of role you want to pursue, refine your research by determining the industry or business sector you would like to work in. It’s important to research industry or sector-specific requirements because it can help you narrow down the list of skills you should focus on gaining. Technical skills differ by industry — healthcare may require experience with electronic medical record software, whereas design and photography may require experience with Adobe software.

In addition, requirements for the same role may vary depending on the industry. For example, a java developer working for a tech company might have the same skills as a java developer at a government agency, but a government agency may additionally require their java developers to have security clearance.

3. Find job descriptions to compare

Once you’ve identified the job title and industry you’re interested in, find and compare job descriptions for the role you are seeking. You can use the Indeed job board to begin your search, and if you are targeting a specific company, then you can also refer to their internal careers page on the company website.

As a best practice, find three to five job descriptions for the industry role you want. Compare the descriptions and pay close attention to the required skills for each job. Make a list of the skills that the job posts share. For example, if most of the jobs require advanced knowledge of Excel, then you should include it on your list. This kind of comparison can provide a good representation of commonly required skills you would need to be successful in the role and stand out as a qualified candidate.

As you review the job descriptions, you might notice that employers often require a combination of hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills or technical skills, refer to the technical knowledge and training needed to perform the functions of the role. Soft skills are personal qualities and traits such as effective communication, organisation and critical thinking.

When your list of common skills is complete, identify any gaps in your skillset. In other words, determine if knowledge or skill that you don’t yet have is required for the role you want. These might be the skills you should consider learning first. Bridging a skills gap can be especially impactful if you want to grow or transition in your career.

4. Decide how you want to upskill

Now that you have defined which skills to focus on improving or gaining, consider which learning option is best for you.

Explore Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Massive open online courses, or MOOCs, provide a flexible learning environment for you to advance in your career and gain new skills. These courses are often free or low cost and may provide certifications upon completion. Use websites with extensive course catalogues like Udemy, Coursera and edX to search for relevant offerings by category or by skill type.

Upskill at work. If you’re currently employed, consider talking to your manager about ways you can upskill at work as part of your professional development. This can include shadowing colleagues in a role you’re interested in growing into or taking on additional projects that allow you to gain or practise skills. You might also ask your human resources representative if your company offers tuition or educational reimbursement as part of an employee incentive program.

You might also talk to your manager about career growth. You can schedule a meeting specifically to discuss the topic or you could talk about it during a regularly occurring one-on-one meeting or in a performance evaluation. Regardless, it can help to notify your manager that you would like to have a focused conversation about growth before the meeting. This gives your manager time to gather resources or consider available opportunities for upskilling which can make the meeting more productive.

Volunteer within your community. Look within your own community to identify opportunities for upskilling. For example, some organisations ask for volunteers to help with responsibilities like website design, social media management or event planning. Volunteer work might also help you refine soft skills like time management, creativity and teamwork.

5. Show off your new skills

Make your upskilling efforts known to employers by including them on your resume, even if they’re still in progress. Your new learning can be listed under a 'skills' or 'education' section, or you could create a 'projects' section with in-depth descriptions of what you have done to upskill.

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