Your résumé is meant to tell a story. Specifically, the story of who you are, what you’ve done, where you are in your career, and how you’ve got there.
But, sometimes, telling your story isn’t as easy as it sounds — particularly when you don’t have a long or steady work history, or when your career goals have changed along the way.
The good news, though, is that (as with most things in life) there’s a solution: the skills-based résumé.
But what exactly is a skills-based résumé, and how does it benefit you?
Well, this article has the answers — and, most importantly, will tell you how to go about writing one of your own.
Its purpose is simple: to call attention to your transferable skills and areas of expertise — unlike more traditional résumés, which place the main focus on your work history. This helps recruiters quickly understand your strengths and how they relate to the job description, without making them weed through your résumé for this information.
Skills-based résumés aren’t for everyone. In most situations, a chronological résumé (which is more universally recognizable among hiring managers) will suffice. But there are specific scenarios where a skills-based résumé is more appropriate and can help you better market your candidacy to potential employers.
- You’re a recent graduate or someone with limited work experience
- You have long gaps in your employment history
- You’ve held multiple similar jobs
- You’ve served in multiple roles at the same company
- You’ve held the same job for multiple years
- You have a history of job hopping
- You’re changing careers or industries and have unrelated work experience
- You’re applying for a job that places more importance on skills than experience
Now that we got the technicalities out of the way, it’s time to get down to business and start writing your skills-based résumé. Here, we’ll walk you through the process — step by step.
Step 1: Start with a header
Just like any résumé, your skills-based résumé needs a header, which goes at the top of the page.
Here, you’ll include:
- Your name (in a slightly larger font size)
- Your most accessible phone number
- Your email address
- Your location (not your full address)
You can also optionally include your job title or a headline, and links to your personal website, LinkedIn profile and social media accounts. In some cases, you can even include some personal details (such as when you’re applying for a job in the EU) and a professional headshot (for example, if you’re an actor).
Step 2: Write a career summary
The career summary section is the first main part of your résumé, and serves as an introduction to potential employers that highlights your qualifications and relevant background.
It’s essentially your entire career condensed into a short paragraph (between three and five lines long), and its purpose is to convince the hiring manager to keep reading. It should be centered around what the employer is looking for and the company’s needs, while providing examples of your achievements and sharing insights into what you can do — and that you do it well.
Many jobseekers replace the career summary with a career objective, a 2–3-line statement that focuses on their career goals. However, you should avoid this, as hiring managers want to know what you can do for them — not the other way round.
Step 3: Craft a skills summary section
Perhaps the most important section of a skills-based résumé is the skills summary, which comes immediately after the career summary or objective.
Here, you’ll highlight three to five of your most marketable skills, and provide a few concrete examples of how you used each one throughout your career. Use bullet points for your examples, and start them off with action words to amplify the impact of the results of your hard work.
Create a master list of your soft and hard skills before you start writing your résumé. This will help you narrow them down and select the ones that best match the job description.
Step 4: Show off your education
The third main section of your skills-based résumé is your education, which — you got it — covers your academic background.
Start with your most recent qualification first, noting the type of qualification (degree, diploma or certificate), the subject, the name of the school and its location, and your graduation date (or expected graduation date).
You can optionally include 3–5 bullet points for each qualification, where you can further showcase your most marketable skills, as well as provide relevant details like course modules and grades.
Do not list your high school education if you’ve completed at least an undergraduate degree program. And never include your middle school, elementary school or, worse, preschool education in your résumé!
Step 5: Outline your employment history
Next up is the employment history section.
Here, you’ll list your most recent position first, working backwards through time. For each position, make sure to add the name of the company and its location, as well as dates of employment.
Unlike chronological and combination résumés, which must include 3–5 bullet points written as accomplishment statements for each position, the skills-based format typically omits this. There are two reasons for this:
- As mentioned earlier, the primary focus of a skills-based résumé is your most marketable skills, not your past (and current) experience.
- You’ve already provided examples of your achievements in the skills summary section, so there’s no need to repeat that information here.
Step 6: List additional skills
Although you’ve dedicated an entire section to the skills that convey your expertise and that best align with the position’s requirements early on in your résumé, you’ll still need to include a more traditional skills section that lists your technical abilities and knowledge.
Step 7: End with optional extra sections
If there’s anything else you would like the recruiter to know but weren’t able to highlight in the main sections of your résumé, you might want to consider using additional sections to rightfully show off that information at the end of the document.
Be warned, though: only add extra sections if you have the space for them and if they will somehow support your application. Don’t create an awards section just for the sake of mentioning you received the “Employee of the Month” award for five consecutive months, for example!
Want to see a skills-based résumé in action? We’ve put together a sample, built from one of our professionally designed and ATS-friendly résumé templates, for inspiration when crafting your own:
Whether you’ve decided to give the skills-based résumé a go or you’ve chosen to play it safe with the traditional chronological format, there are six ground rules you should keep in mind:
1. Rewrite your résumé for every job
This might be time-consuming, but tailoring your résumé to every job that you apply for is imperative if you want to get on the candidate shortlist. After all, taking a generic, one-size-fits-all approach won’t get you far. A neat little trick here is to create a master résumé with all your experience, skills and qualifications, and pick out what you need for the specific résumé you’re writing — and then customize it to the target job.
2. Focus on your achievements
Even on a skills-based résumé, which is designed to highlight your skills over your experience, you should aim to show — not just tell — what you’ve done. You can do this by detailing the results of all your hard work, wherever possible, while quantifying your accomplishments with hard data.
3. Keep your résumé to one page
Recruiters have a short attention span, so you want to give them all the information they need from the get-go. The trick here is to limit your résumé to one page. Of course, if you have a lot of relevant experience and impressive achievements, you can go over one page, but two pages should be the cut-off point — unless you’re writing an academic CV, which is typically three or more pages long.
4. Use a clean and professional design
Avoid complex, fancy designs and layouts, as this will inevitably detract the hiring manager’s attention from what really matters: what makes you the perfect candidate for the position. Use plenty of white space, choose legible fonts, use headings to create clear sections, and be consistent with page margins. If you’re not quite the designer, meanwhile, you might want to check out our ATS-compliant résumé templates.
5. Be honest
If you’re tempted to bend the truth or downright lie on your résumé about your experience and qualifications, don’t. You will eventually get caught, either during the job interview (where you’ll blow your chances of moving your application along in the hiring process) or once you’re hired (which will inevitably tarnish your professional reputation and could get you fired).
6. Proofread your résumé
Before you submit your application, make sure that you proofread your résumé — and then proofread it again. A simple careless typo could, after all, spell disaster for your application. It’s also a good idea to ask a trusted friend or relative to read through your résumé, as they might be able to spot any spelling, formatting and other issues that you missed.
How strong is your résumé? Get valuable feedback with an expert critique.
To sum up, here’s everything we learned about skills-based résumés:
- One of the three main résumé formats, it focuses on your transferable skills over your experience.
- You should only use this format if you have a limited work history or if your experience isn’t directly related to the job you’re applying for.
- Like all résumé formats, it should include a header, a career profile, an employment history, an education and a skills section.
- The most important section of a skills-based résumé, however, is the skills summary, which highlights 3–5 of your most relevant skills, backed up by evidence of how you used each skill in the past.
Got a question about putting together your own skills-based résumé? Let us know in the comments section below!
Originally published on May 25, 2017.