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Last Updated on March 5, 2020

20 Critical Skills to Add to Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

20 Critical Skills to Add to Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

A resume describes your critical skills in a way that compels a hiring manager to want to meet you. That is a resume’s sole purpose.

And make no mistake: Writing a resume is an art.

Today each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes on average, and somehow yours will need to rise above the competition. It’s actually harder to snag an interview from an online posting than to get into Harvard. But don’t let that intimidate you. Instead, open your laptop, roll up your proverbial sleeves, and let’s get to work!

Here’re 20 critical skills to add to resume for all types of jobs:


Employers generally prefer candidates with skills that show leadership ability, problem-solving ability, and perseverance through challenges. So in the resume, you should demonstrate that you’re a dynamic candidate.

Refine the skills on your resume so that you incorporate these resume “musts:”

1. Leadership Ability

Even an entry-level employee can show leadership. Point out how your skills helped your department ascend to a new level. Capture leadership attributes with compelling statements.

Example:

“Led change that drove efficiency and an ability to cut 800 error-free payroll checks.”

2. Problem-Solving Ability

Most employees are hired to solve problems. Showcase that ability on your resume.

Example:

“Led staff in campaign to outrival top competitor’s market share during a down cycle.”

3. Perseverance

Have you been promoted several times? Or have you maintained margins in a down cycle? Both achievements demonstrate persistence. You look like someone who can navigate roadblocks.

4. Technical Skills

Consider including a Key Skills or Technology Skills section in which you list computer and software skills.

Example:

“Expert-level knowledge in Java.”

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5. Quantified Results

Nothing is quite as attractive as objective results. Did you increase sales by 25 percent? Win three new clients? Surpass the internal goal by 15 percent?

Use hard-hitting numbers to express your point. State the result first, and then provide a sentence or phrase describing the critical skills you applied to achieve the milestone.

Example:

“Boosted sales by 200 percent by developing new online platform that made it easier for customers to compare and contrast sizes, textures, and fit.”

6. People Skills

Employers prefer congenial staff members to prima donnas or mavericks. Relate your strongest soft skills.

Example:

“Organized, hard-working staffer who listens well and communicates effectively.”

7. Passion in the Field

Recruiters and hiring managers can intuit whether candidates care about their career performance by the dynamism behind the descriptions of their skills on their resumes. Are your efforts “transformational” or merely “useful?” Were your results “game-changing” or boringly “appropriate?”

The tenor of your words reveals whether you’re passionate or passive. (But don’t overdo it. See the “Hyperbole” section below.)

8. Being the Entrepreneur within the Corporation

Whether you took the initiative to create a new synergy or worked independently to land an opportunity, share how you furthered organizational goals through your self-directed efforts.

9. Your Adaptability

Have you switched career paths? Weathered a corporate takeover?

Make it clear that your resilience helped get you and your organization through the turbulence.

10. Confirming Your Expertise

Every job posting states experience requirements. Ideally, you want to meet these requirements or best them. But don’t exaggerate.


While proving that you possess the credentials described in the job posting, you can still stand out if you are able to offer additional special skills to showcase your personality.

Consider adding any of these special accomplishments, if true:

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11. Referencing Award-Winning Talents

If you played center on your college basketball team that made it into the Top 10 finals, then working collaboratively and cooperatively are among your natural callings. Be sure to say so.

12. Unveiling Your Work Persona

If you were repeatedly singled out for your stellar performance in work settings, becoming employee-of-the-month, top revenue generator, and so on — it’s worth mentioning.

13. Capitalizing on Commonalities

From Googling the hiring manager, you discover that she was formerly a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize. Listing your Spanish immersion course in Central America may draw her attention to the other outstanding skills on your resume.

14. Highlighting Creative Tactics

If, for example, in your HR role, you piloted an employee incentive program that became an industry model, include it. Such innovative thinking will command an employer’s attention.

15. Specifying All Accolades

Listing any honors received instills confidence that you will bring that level of perfectionism forward in a corporate environment.

16. Transferable Skills

You spend your spare time conducting your community orchestra. Highlight this after-hours pursuit to show that you have the critical skills needed to keep a team on task.


Take note: Hyperbole can hurt you. So, show your credibility.

Although it may be tempting to use embellishments to boost your experience, improve your job title, or enhance your education, resist. These days, a five-minute search will reveal the truth. And taking self-inflation too far could easily come back to destroy your career.

Hiring managers have their antenna up for resume hyperbole. A survey shows that 53 percent are suspicious that candidates are often dishonest.

Follow these guiding principles when writing your own resume:

17. Accurately Describing Your Degree

Make sure to differentiate between certificates attained and degrees earned, along with the name of the institution awarding them.

18. Stating Job Duration with Honest Dates

Honesty is the only policy when reporting the length of a particular job. If you’ve been out of work for an extended period of time, state the reason you have gaps.

Whether you traveled, had to cope with a family emergency, or went back to school to change your professional track, communicate the positive outcome that came from the hiatus.

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19. Claiming Only the Skills You Truly Possess

Unless you’re proficient in a software program or are fluent in a second language, leave any mention of them off.

Conversely, if you feel like you must include them, then accurately qualify your level of competence.

20. Being Honest About Your Role in a Project

You may think you were the lead person because you did most of the work, but chances are your supervisor thinks otherwise.

Besides the 20 critical skills to include on your resume, here’re some important notes for you.

Bonus Tips for Writing a Resume

You Only Have 6 to 7 Seconds to Impress the Employer

Hiring managers and artificial intelligence “bots” may spend only 6 to 7 seconds perusing your resume, which means you need it to teem with essential skills, quantifiable achievements, and action words.

If, in fact, you believe that a “bot” will be analyzing your resume before it even lands on a hiring manager’s desk, be sure to include some of the actual key words from the posting in your document. There’s no reason why you can’t customize your resume to each job posting.

Another tip: Be sure to show your resume to a few individuals who work in your field, so that you can fine-tune the information as needed.

Starting at the Top

The Objective at the top of your resume is optional if you’re seeking the same job you already have, just at different company. However, if you’re switching fields, it’s critical to include an Objective, which is a one-sentence summary of the job you want.

For example:

Objective: To become web editor at a thriving news website.

If you’ve been in your field for ten years or more, you will probably want to include an Executive Summary. This is a one-sentence takeaway about who you are, including the critical skills you amassed throughout your career.

For example:

Executive Summary: Award-winning creative director with over ten years experience managing teams on three continents.

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Depending on your field, you may also want to add some skills as bullet points in the Executive Summary section.

And what about your Education? If you graduated from college within the past ten years, include your Education just below the Objective section (and forgo the Executive Summary). If it’s been over ten years since you graduated, then include your Education at the very end of your resume. Only cite your grade point average (G.P.A.) if it was exceptional—3.7 G.P.A. or higher, or if you won scholastic awards.

Ideally, the critical skills you amassed during college, at your previous job, and throughout your career will add up to a riveting portrait of a professional who’s ideally suited for your dream position: You.

Tailor, Tweak, and Fine-Tune

If you’re targeting different kinds of organizations, you’ll need customized resumes for each outreach.

Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, organizations will actually use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes.

Approach Your Resume as a Skills-Based Story

Like any good storyteller, lay out the framework at the beginning. Include the skills you’ve mastered and state how you can add value—wording your sentences in a way that reflects the specific job you’re seeking.

Are you vying for a sales position? Quantify your results: “Responsible for 50 percent of all sales that resulted in $750,000 in annual revenue.” Use your critical skills, peppered throughout your resume, to tell the exciting story of your distinguished professional career!

Researching the organization that you’re targeting will help you make your examples specific. Does the company cater to a particular audience or clientele? Be sure to note any experiences you’ve had with similar audiences.

Putting It All Together

A resume is not a laundry list. It tells a cohesive story. Your story should highlight your qualifications and critical skills in a way that makes a logical, well-constructed case for your compatibility with the organization and its advertised position.

Packaging your story into the concisely prescribed format of a resume means that it will read as a synopsis — one that will hopefully land you the job.

More Work Skills to Learn

Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

More by this author

Vicky Oliver

Author of 6 best-selling books on job-hunting and job interview questions, business etiquette, frugalista style, advertising, and office politics.

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

    He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

    It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

    Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

    Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

    When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

    Reference

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