How to Showcase Skills on a CV or Resume

Part of: Employability Skills

Resumes, or CVs, have historically been used for summarizing one’s professional background. Job seekers would use them to communicate their professional pedigree to prospective employers.

Both parties assumed that skills used in similar positions overlapped, and the job title and the esteem of the employer sufficed to signal one’s competence.


There are numerous in-depth guides on how to write resumes. As an active job hunter, you’re surely familiar with basic CV guidelines.

What you might not be familiar with is how to make the most of your resume to showcase your skills, rather than merely creating a list of previous employers.

If you don’t pay attention to skills on your resume, you might be sabotaging your job-seeking efforts.

In this article we’ll guide you through the whole process of rethinking your resume, in particular how to:

  1. Choose what skills you should list.
  2. Talk about your abilities and traits.
  3. Create a section to show off your transferable skills and more general employability skills.
  4. Decide on the most appropriate resume format.

Skills to Put on a Resume

Stating that you worked as a brand manager at Company X is no longer enough to secure a job interview — even if you’re applying for the same position at another company.

Professional resume services report that recruiters are looking for particular skill sets and traits, not just seals of approval.

So, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what skills should be listed on your resume. Resumes and cover letters have been known to showcase one's professional career. A typical resume is more than a flyer that contains surface-level aspects of your career story. This is important to showcase, but these features also fail to position you in a good career or high-level executive jobs. Having a successful resume or cover letter is key to a job search.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what skills you have to show off in your application.

1. Transferable Skills

Transferable skills are universal abilities we can make use of in various jobs.

The most sought-after skills recruiters want to see include:

  1. Teamwork
  2. Leadership
  3. General Organization, Motivation, and Time Management Skills
  4. Communication Skills
  5. Creativity
  6. Analytical or Critical Thinking and Numeracy Skills

These are skills we’re all pretty familiar with. You could argue how many people actually possess them. However, the fact you’ve held a job is indicative of some grasp of these skills.

At the same time, not everyone can do the same things as well as others.

Take public speaking for example. Not everyone can handle the stress of standing in front of an audience, especially that of skeptical clients or stakeholders. That’s why you should provide examples of what it looks like when you use that skill. Put the skill in the context of an achievement to show hiring managers the impact you have when you’re in action.

2. Job-specific skills and ATS

Companies are turning to applicant tracking system (ATS) software to sieve through large numbers of resumes. This software crawls through applications in search of specific words and phrases, including skill keywords.

Here’s the problem — the algorithms behind the software understand only as much as you tell them. You can’t depend on them to infer your skill set from the jobs you’ve held.

What’s more, ATS ranks resumes by how much they compare to a list of words. More words = higher rank.

So, how can you improve your chances of having your skills recognized by a semi-competent robot?

You’ll need to optimize your resume for ATS.

First of all, you’ll need to carefully read the job ad. Highlight any phrases suggesting skills or traits.

Here’s an example of this process. Let’s say you see this in a potential job ad:

Candidate must be able to speak in front of larger audiences and explain the advantages of the company’s payment plan.

This is a prime example of communication skills. What’s more, it’s clear that experience with public speaking is a must, as is persuasiveness, and, to some degree, analytical thinking.

So, you’ll want to list those skills somewhere on your resume.

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Getting a Job

Develop the skills you need to get that job.

This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.

How to Talk about Skills

Now that you know what skills to add, we’ll show you how to do it.

Be careful though, you don’t want to just list your skills one-by-one in the skills section.

For one, you should be specific about what you can do. If you lead a team of sales representatives, don’t just add “leadership” to the list, share more details.

Here’s an example:


  1. Leadership


Leadership Skills

  1. Lead a team of 4 sales representatives who generated 25% of total sales revenue and outperformed 7 remaining teams.
  2. Motivated team to increase their productivity by 17%.

Leadership is a skill everyone might need and everyone can assume they possess. So, to stand out from the crowd, try to be specific.

Also, being explicit about your abilities isn’t limited to general skills like communication skills, teamwork, or leadership. You should be doing the same for technical skills as well.

Instead of mentioning Microsoft Office in your list of skills, explain what it is exactly you can do. People won’t assume you’re good with Microsoft Access if you just type up “proficient at Microsoft Office” — you have to be specific about each piece of software and provide further explanations. If you know how to make pivot tables and macros in Excel, say that.

So, here’s what one of the job descriptions in your resume’s experience section could include:

Sales Manager at MegAuto (2015–2017)

Communication Skills

  1. Conducted webinars on how to approach new clients for freshly-hired sales representatives.
  2. Presented sales reports to management board.

Leadership Skills

  1. Lead a team of 4 sales representatives who generated 25% of total sales revenue and outperformed 7 remaining teams.
  2. Motivated team to increase their productivity by 17%.

Skills Section

In all likelihood, everyone has a skills section by now. However, few job seekers make appropriate use of it.

A skills section should be the mainstay of any resume.

This is where several factors come into play:

  1. You can list relevant abilities you acquired elsewhere.
  2. You help your resume get ATS-ready.
  3. You provide the recruiter with a convenient checklist.

To optimize your resume potential, you can’t limit yourself to just throwing in a skills section on the last page. Add skills from the job ad and embellish them with details and numbers. That’s how you make your skills section stand apart. Ideally, the hiring manager should glance at your skills section and see a list of skills they requested in the job offer.

Most Common Resume Formats

Most of us are used to the fairly generic resume format, i.e., the reverse-chronological format. This template will suit the needs of most job seekers as it’s easy to navigate, coherent, and efficient.

However, the reverse-chronological resume format isn’t your only format option. Those of you who are interested in all the available templates can read up on the topic of resume formats in more detail.

But for those who want to focus on skills, your best bet is the combination resume format.

Combination Resume Format

You can think of the combination resume format as a variation on the classic reverse-chronological format. The crucial difference is that you showcase your skills by using them as subheadings in your experience section instead of making a random list of old roles and responsibilities.

It’s pretty clear that this is the best option available to anyone interested in creating a resume optimized towards showing off skills.

Although optional for some, the combination resume format is the go-to template for career changers.

As a career changer, you are actively trying not to do what you once did. You don’t have the exact experience required, so you can’t depend on previous positions. What’s more, you need to be explicit about any appropriate skills you’ve acquired throughout your career, as it won’t be obvious to the recruiter if your resume is even in the right pile.

Take-home Points

  1. To fully capitalize on your skills, switch to the combination resume format and add a skills section.

  2. Sprinkle your skills throughout your resume.

  3. When you write up your abilities and traits be sure to provide examples, the more specific the better.

About the Author

Bart Turczynski is a content creator at Zety, a popular career advice website. He shares best practices in resume writing with job seekers worldwide. In his spare time, he’s a connoisseur of the absurd.