10 Most Important Work Skills to List in a Resume

Putting together a strong resume that stands out from the pack and lands you an interview can feel a bit like solving a jigsaw puzzle, especially when it comes to the skills section. In this day and age, when a computer algorithm is perhaps more likely to comb through your resume before it ever lands in front of human eyes, how does a person know what work skills are must-haves?

The skills that will help push your resume to the top of the pack fall into two distinct categories:

  • Hard skills
  • Soft skills

Employers are going to want job-seekers who have the right mix of both, so highlighting a healthy balance of each is essential.

Hard Vs. Soft Skills

Before we jump into the specific work skills, let’s clarify the difference between hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those technical skills that you’ve gained through educational courses, internships, and previous jobs. Software programming, Photoshop, campaign management, foreign languages, and dental surgery are all examples of hard skills.

These are skills that can be clearly defined and will vary greatly depending on your particular career field.

Soft skills, on the other hand, are going to be those skills that are more universal and would be just as useful for a CEO to have as they would for a social worker. Things like critical-thinking, adaptability, organization, and other skills that involve interacting with people are going to be soft skills. While your hard skills might help get you in the door, your soft skills will play a major factor in your promotability.

5 Soft Skills to List on Your Resume

Here are five soft skills that are always going to be in demand.

Problem-Solving

No matter what job field you work in or how high you climb on the career ladder, you’re going to run into problems along the way — and probably quite often. Employers want employees who don’t get deterred by problems, but who meet them head-on and work to find a solution. The better you are at problem-solving, the more capable you’ll be in each job.

Organization

You’re never going to run into an employer who says that they prefer employees who are unorganized. Yes, some jobs allow for a little more disorganization than others, but being organized goes a long way towards being efficient and effective in your work. This is one work skill where it’s going to become apparent pretty quickly to your employer if you possess it, so if you list it, demonstrate it.

Active Listening

Active listening is simply giving your full attention to the person talking to you. Here’s a secret: Employers love active listeners. It means better communication, fewer mistakes, and improved productivity all around. No matter what career field you’re in, being an engaged active listener is always an asset. Being a good active listener can take some effort, but it’s worth improving upon.

Teamwork

Ah, teamwork…this soft skill probably doesn’t get the respect it deserves because “team player” is such a common resume work skill. Back up this skill with real examples in your work, however, and it will shine. People who really do have a good teamwork ethic move up more quickly in organizations and become the ones who other employees look to for guidance and leadership.

Adaptability

Ask any biologist and they’ll tell you that a species that fails to adapt is doomed to extinction. You’re very likely going to have managerial changes at some point in your job, and they may want to do things differently than the last one. How you handle adapting to those changes will determine your future in that position.

5 Hard Skills to List on Your Resume

As far as hard skills that will stand out to an employer, that’s a bit more complicated since there are literally thousands of different jobs out there. That said, having one or more hard skills that fit into these categories will apply in a wide range of occupations.

Communication

Yes, good “communication” is often one of those work skills that lands in the soft skills category, but so many hard skills fall under this umbrella. Copywriting, graphic design, technical writing, digital storytelling, and foreign language skills all fall into this category.

Are you the person who can write a press release for your company’s new product or come up with a brilliant logo? These are all various forms of communicating a message to the customer and will be of value across many industries.

Sales and Marketing

Even if “salesperson” isn’t in your job title, this category covers a pretty wide range of hard skills. Data analytics, SEO, and social media management, are just some of the hard skills that are related to sales and marketing.

So how could somebody applying for a job at a dog grooming salon or real estate company, for example, benefit from knowing some SEO or social media? Well, that dog grooming salon will have a constant need to acquire customers. In real estate, being able to market and sell homes quickly to potential clients will make yourself a more valuable agent.

Project Management

A lot of jobs require different project management work skills, such as scheduling, risk management, budgeting, and negotiation. The higher you climb in your career, the more likely you’re going to be tasked with project management as you take on more responsibilities. Knowing how to plan out and see a project through from start to completion using the various technologies in your industry is a vital hard skill to have.

Technology

The list of occupations out there that don’t involve some sort of computer technology seems to be getting smaller by the day. This is obviously a pretty broad category and could include everything from Excel to Photoshop, Slack, and programming languages such as Python and Java.

Depending on your chosen occupation, you may want to list several technology hard skills by breaking them up into various technical fields.

Industry-Specific

These are going to be work skills that very likely may fit into some of the categories above, but are directly specific to your industry. Something like an accounting software program such as QuickBooks or knowledge of a specific skill in the healthcare or legal fields, for example, would fall into this category of hard skills.

How to Get an Employer’s Attention

Before you pull up your resume for a complete rewrite, there are a few things to address before padding it up with all these new skills that you’ve suddenly acquired. Your resume only has about five seconds to capture an employer’s attention before they hit the “delete” button, so it’s important that you leave skills off that you really may not be all that skilled at.

Some “skills” may not be applicable skills at all.

Remember that mention of “foreign language skills” in the communication category above? Yeah, if you haven’t spoken a word of French since high school, don’t list it. The last thing you want is the embarrassment of a hiring manager who is fluent striking some small talk and you’re left looking like a deer in the headlights.

Listing off social media skills should also be taken into careful consideration. If you’re applying for any type of marketing job and really do know the ins and outs of Instagram, then, by all means, list it. If the job you’re applying for isn’t in the marketing, advertising, or social media fields, then it may be better to leave social media platforms off if you haven’t directly used them in a professional capacity before.

Final Thoughts

With both hard and soft work skills, the best approach is to identify which ones are your strongest successes and most relevant to the position you’re applying for. Remember, the skills section of your resume should align with the job description and your previous work experience. If you start there, you can’t go wrong.

More Tips on Work Skills

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

Effective vs Efficient

Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”

A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

  • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
  • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
  • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

Efficiency in Success and Productivity

Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

Bottom Line

Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

  • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
  • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
  • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

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