Key skills for your CV
If you want to land job interviews, your CV needs to be packed with valuable skills.
Skills show recruiters and employers that you have the ability to perform tasks well, and you have expertise in your profession.
This guide will walk you through the different types of skills for your CV, and how you should add them for best results.
Here's what I will cover...
Key skills you need to include your CV
- Soft and generic skills
- Finance skills
- Sales and service skills
- Marketing skills
- Management skills
- Admin skills
Types of skills for your CV
Skill is defined as the ability to do something well, or having expertise in a particular area.
So, it’s understandable that employers want to hire candidates with plenty of skills.
At a high level, skills can firstly be categorised into 2 main categories;
Type 1) Role specific skills – also called hard skills
Type 2) Generic skills – also called soft skills.
Role specific or hard skills are specific profession-related skills that are needed to carry out particular job functions (e.g. budgeting for finance roles or negotiation for sales roles)
Generic skills or soft skills are common skills that are required for most roles, such as communication, team work and problem solving.
List of role specific skills / hard skills
Now that you understand the main types of skills available to use in your CV, I will firstly provide a list of role specific skills, divided into a group of broad role functions.
Many modern roles will require you to have skills from more than one of these categories.
For example, a sales role could require skills from sales, customer service, marketing and management.
So, have a browse through all of them, even if you think some areas won’t apply to you.
Always research your target roles thoroughly to determine which in-demand skills you need to include in your CV.
The following roles apply to finance and accounting roles, or any roles which involve an element of financial responsibility.
Budgeting – Managing funds on behalf of an employer and allocating spending effectively and responsibly
Forecasting – Using past data, trends and analysis to predict future revenue streams for products and services
Cost saving – Using multiple methods to reduce employer spending whilst maintaining or even improving standards
Account preparation – Preparing company financial accounts for public records and management
Reporting – Creating reports to inform stakeholders on varying aspects of business performance
Payroll – Calculating and processing staff payment and ensuring correct amounts of tax are levied
Bookkeeping – Recording company income and expenditure for records and taxation purposes
Profit and loss responsibility – Overall responsibility for the profitability of a business or business unit
Technology is present in the vast majority of workplaces nowadays, so even if you don’t have a technical IT role, you will probably still need some tech skills to perform it well.
Troubleshooting – Diagnosing issues with hardware and software to determine causes and suggests fixes
Development – Coding using programming languages to develop web sites, pages, or applications
Software/tool knowledge – The ability to use software or tools specific to your role such as Microsoft Excel, Outlook, or Photoshop
Database administration – The management and maintenance of a set of data within a company database
Requirements gathering – Speaking with colleagues to collect an understanding of what they require from an IT system before a build or upgrade
Testing – Trying out features of a system to ensure they work before going live
Installation – setting up new hardware or software systems and tailoring them to business needs
Recommending – Assessing an organisation’s IT requirements and suggesting suitable technology solutions
Sales and service skills
Some of these skills are also valuable when dealing with colleagues in internally also.
Customer service – The ability to deal with customers on a regular basis to fulfil their requirements in line with business goals
Relationship management – Building and maintaining relationships with customers (or even colleagues) to foster positive outcomes for employers
Negotiation – Holding discussions with colleagues and clients to reach favourable outcomes and agreements
Sales closing – Generating sales of products and services by obtaining final agreements from clients
Target achievement – The ability to reach and exceed targets set by your employer (usually sales targets but could cover other areas)
Networking – Growing your list of personal contacts by seeking out valuable connections and building relationships with them
Complaint resolution – Dealing with complaints from customers and providing solutions to rectify their worries
Lead generation – Providing a business with a pipeline of potential customers who are likely to buy products or services
Product/service knowledge – Having a solid understanding of company products and services in order to explain features and benefits to customers
Influencing – Persuading others to agree with your opinions and back your ideas
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Market research – Investigating audiences and buying trends to determine demand for products and services
Campaign management – Devising and carrying out marketing campaigns through various channels, measuring performance
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – The process of driving organic traffic to websites by making them search engine friendly
Social media management – Managing social profiles of organisation accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn)
Advertising – Buying paid media placements, creating images and text, driving customers to websites, shops, restaurants etc.
Email marketing – Creating email campaigns to build relationships with customers and generate leads and sales
Content creation – Creating marketing content in the forms of articles, videos, landing pages, podcasts and more
UX (User experience) – Optimising web pages to make them easy for users to navigate and lead them towards making a purchase.
Project management skills
Project management is prevalent across all industries, and even if you aren’t a dedicated project manager, you could still find yourself supporting or leading projects in your role.
Scheduling – Planning a succession of activities and monitoring progress to ensure the overall project is delivered on time
Leadership – Managing people and guiding them towards the completion of a common goal
Risk management – Identifying potential project risks and putting procedures in place to minimise their impact on project delivery
Delivery – Ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget whilst producing all of the pre-determined goals
Gaining buy-in – Persuading senior business figures to back initiatives and provide permissions and funding
Stakeholder management – Managing the expectation of senior business figures and keeping them updated on project progress
Efficient administration is vital to the smooth running of an organisation, so whether you work directly in admin or not, you are likely to need some administration skills.
Document management – Creating, updating and formatting important business documents such as staff lists or HR records
Reporting – Creating and distributing reports containing business figures such as sales, profits and costs
Data entry – Inputting information into databases to keep organisation records up to date
Data analysis – Taking raw data sets and using the information to spot trends and make predictions
Typing – Creating Word documents, emails and other typed information
Communications – Creating and distributing messages internally to keep colleagues informed of news and changes within the organisation (usually via email)
Business support – Assisting senior business figures with ad hoc tasks such as note taking, diary management etc.
Whether you manage a team of people or simply have to manage your own time or company resources, management skills should be present in your CV.
Leadership – Leading staff on an ongoing basis to ensure they perform at the best of their abilities and achieve organisational goals
Training – Teaching staff vital skills and system knowledge to improve their ability to perform in their roles
Resource management – Allocating roles to staff and setting time scales for tasks to be completed
Staff development – Ensuring that staff receive sufficient progression throughout their career in order to gain promotions and grow professionally
Delegation – Alleviating suitable responsibilities to junior staff to aid their progression whilst freeing up your time to perform more demanding activities
Strategy – Developing a long-term plan to achieve overall business goals
Process improvement – Identifying under-performing procedures within the business and changing them to become more efficient
Soft/generic CV skills
Whilst generic skills are applicable to most roles, it’s still important to prove that you have them within your CV.
When demonstrating soft skills in your CV, you shouldn’t simply state that you have them – instead you should show how they are applied in your roles (I will explain this in more detail in the next section of the guide).
List of core soft skills for your CV
- Organisation – Putting systems and order in place to ensure routine tasks are carried out efficiently
- Planning – Preparing how tasks will be delivered, putting processes into place
- Communication – Delivering information to others so that they receive and understand your ideas – This can be written (emails, letters, messaging systems) spoken (conversations, meetings, presentations) visual (videos, posters, images)
- Team work – Working collaboratively with colleagues and external individuals to achieve common goals
- Motivation – The ability to stay driven and focused to achieve targets, especially during difficult times
- Diplomacy – Dealing with people sensitively and tactfully whilst trying to reach agreements that satisfy differing needs as closely as possible
- Decision making – Choosing to take actions that could have big effects on colleagues and customer, especially in pressured situations
- Problem solving – Dealing with situations that pose threats to the running of your organisation, and providing solutions to combat them
- Adaptability – The ability to quickly adjust to new situations and environments whilst maintaining a high level of performance
- Attention to detail – Spotting small details that could have big consequences to your employer and dealing with them accordingly
- Creativity – The ability to generate new ideas such as new marketing campaigns, staff initiatives or images for adverts
How to add skills to your CV
Now you have a good idea of the types of skills that need to be present in your CV (curriculum vitae).
But, how you demonstrate those skills can make the difference between a winning CV, and a losing one.
Adding role specific skills / hard skills
It’s crucial to highlight role specific skills in your CV because they are normally what recruiters are briefed to look for above all else.
For example, a hiring manager will often tell a recruiter…
“I need you to find me somebody with 5 years sales experience who can generate leads, build relationships, lead negotiations and close deals”
They won’t usually give a soft skill brief like this…
“I need somebody who is a well organised, team-player with good communication skills”
Although those soft skills may be needed for the role, they are needed for most roles, so they won’t help recruiters find the right candidate – that brief could be applicable to thousands of jobs.
Role specific skills are so important to your CV because …
a) Recruiters search for hard skills only on job site CV databases, internal CV databases and LinkedIn
Therefore, the more relevant role specific skills you have in your CV, the more searches you will appear in.
The more searches you appear, the more times your CV will be opened – which will increase your chances of being called in for interviews.
b) Recruiters scan your CV for hard skills when they open your CV
When a recruiter opens your CV, they will firstly look to pick out some of the most important hard skills they’ve been asked to look for (sales, negotiation, deal closing etc.)
Initially they won’t be looking for soft skills like planning and organisation – that will come later in the screening process.
So these two reasons make it vital for you to pack your CV with role specific skills, and make them easy to spot
So, how do you do this?
1) Add hard skills to the top quarter of your CV
The first few seconds of a recruiter or hiring manager opening your CV are crucial to the success of your CV.
If a busy recruiter with hundreds of CVs to review doesn’t see the skills they are looking for in the top quarter of your CV, they may close it down without even reading it in full.
So pack the area above the fold in your CV (the areas visible without scrolling down) full of in demand hard skills – to create a powerful first impression, like in the CV below with skills highlighted in yellow.
As always, research your target roles thoroughly to determine which of your skills should be featured at the top of your CV.
See our best CV templates for more examples of CV profiles.
2) Add hard skills to your roles… with results
To show hiring managers how you apply your skills in the workplace, you need to weave them into your roles descriptions.
But simply listing the skills you use will not be enough.
You need to explain how you apply them, and what positive results they achieve for employers, clients and colleagues.
Don’t just write:
“Negotiating with customers”
Expand to say,
“Negotiating with customers to increase purchase values and boost monthly revenue for the business”
Expanding to show your results tells employers how valuable your skills are, and what impact you could bring to a new workplace.
Check out this example CV role description for inspiration.
Adding generic skills
Generic/soft skills are a little more difficult to express in your CV because they need to be implied rather than stated.
If you fill your CV up with terms that plainly state your soft skills, no recruiters will be able to understand what you do.
For example, look at the CV profile below.
It’s impossible to establish what this person does without any hard skills in the profile.
Also, as I mentioned earlier, recruiters aren’t searching for soft skills, so you want to keep them to a minimum and save space for your hard skills.
So, how do you demonstrate your soft skills without simply writing them down on your CV?
You show them, rather than tell them.
So, rather than simply writing…
“I am organised”
“I am motivated”
“I am a team player”
(Tired phrases that recruiters have seen thousands of times and are meaningless on their own)
Instead, you should prove that you are an organised, motivated team player – by giving real life examples of this in your role responsibilities and achievements.
- Leading a team of 10 to generate a target pipeline of leads over 3 months with regular check ins, progress updates, and supporting under-performers
By writing a sentence like this, you prove a multitude of soft skills such as motivation and team work, (without having to write them down) and demonstrate your role specific skills at the same time.
Junior candidate tip: If you have little or no work experience, you can use your hobbies and interests section to demonstrate soft skills. For example captaining a sports team can show elements of team work, leadership and motivation.
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Key skills for your CV
Adding skills to your CV is absolutely essential if you want to get noticed and land job interviews.
But you must ensure that you understand the core skill requirements of your target roles so you can reflect them throughout your CV.
It’s also important to understand the difference between hard skills and soft skills, and how each should be added to your CV.
Hard skills are arguably more important to get down in writing, whereas soft skills should be implied throughout your role descriptions.
Good luck with the job hunt!