Should I include a Key Skills section in my CV?

What are key skills?

Key skills are words and phrases that describe the core areas of expertise required to do a job. These range from soft skills that can be applied to most jobs such as being a good communicator or highly organised to hard skills which are usually job specific. Examples of hard skills might include SEO for marketing or bookkeeping within accountancy. Language and particular IT skills are also hard skills.

Why are they important?

Your CV now has two audiences. Key skills are important to show both audiences that you have the requisite expertise. Firstly, if you are applying for jobs online it is likely that the employer will be using an ATS system to filter CVs and rank them in order of preference. ATS work mainly by analysing CVs for relevant key words and phrases associated with the job description. The second audience is the recruiter deciding on whom to call to interview. Key skills can reaffirm to the recruiter you have the right skills too, helping nudge them in the right direction to calling you to interview. Key skills are important for both these audiences.

Where should the key skills section go?

Most job seekers place the key skills section at the front of the CV, after the profile and before the career history section. The reason for placing key skills so prominently is to show the reader early on that you have the right areas of expertise. If you place the key skills section at the back of the CV, they lose impact as the reader will probably have already made up their mind about whether to take you forward.

What should I include?

Just include single words or phrases as your key skills. These could include things like ‘stakeholder engagement’ or ‘financial planning’ to ‘project management’ or ‘customer journey optimisation’. It all depends on your particular specialism.  There is no need to give a detailed description on where you have used that skill. Save that for examples of your achievements in the career history section.

How do I find the right words and phrases?

The best place to find the key words and phrases for your target roles is to do some online research. Search for some job descriptions that best fit your target jobs. Once you have collected four or five you should start to see commonly occurring words and phrases. This will give you an idea about the words you can include in your key skills section. Remember, some organisations use different words to describe the same thing. Therefore, you need to mirror the language of different employers. This means you must tailor your key skills for each application and not rely on one set.

 

This article is written by Neville Rose, Director of CV Writers.

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