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The skills you put on your résumé are the most important factor in hiring. Here’s how to make yours stand out

Pro tip from CareerBuilder: Where you’ve worked in the past isn’t quite as important as what you can do now—and what you’ll be able to do in the future. In other words: your skills are your greatest asset.

The skills you put on your résumé are the most important factor in hiring. Here’s how to make yours stand out
[Source photo: MARHARYTA MARKO/iStock]

Today’s competitive labor market is as wild as the Old West, and when it comes to hiring, there’s a new sheriff in town: skills.

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The seismic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic has fractured neat, linear career tracks and shifted the balance between hiring managers desperate to fill open positions and job seekers looking to earn more for their hard work. As a result, where you’ve worked in the past isn’t quite as important as what you can do nowand what you’ll be able to do in the future. In other words: your skills are your greatest asset.

Skills will get you hired

CareerBuilder recently teamed up with The Harris Poll to pick the brains of thousands of hiring managers and workers, and it turns out those brains were full of all kinds of fascinating things. But one thing, in particular, jumped out: People are getting hired because of their skills far more often than they used to be. Let’s break it down with some bullet points:

  • Hiring managers’ top priority for 2021 is skills-based hiring.
  • Moving forward, 85% of hiring managers will focus less on candidates’ prior titles and more on job skills and experience.
  • So-called “soft-skills,” like communication and organization and time management, are superpowers. The overwhelming majority of hiring managers says they are important; more than half of hiring managers say they are very important.
  • 88% of hiring managers say they hire based on soft skills, then provide job-specific training.
  • And that’s exactly what workers want; 89% of them say they’d be comfortable starting a job based on their core skills, expecting to learn more as they settle into the role.

Why this could be good for the labor market overall

Even before the pandemic, storm clouds were gathering over the labor market. The skills job seekers had cultivated weren’t matching up with the abilities hiring managers needed. The growing inconsistency came to be known as the skills gap, and despite efforts to fix the problem, a variety of factors have made it an ongoing challenge that is impossible for workers and hiring managers to ignore.

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  • In 2019, 23% of workers felt they did not have all the skills necessary to advance in their careers.
  • But today, that number has nearly doubled to 44%.
  • Hiring managers are even more worried about the skills gap; 69% say it’s a concern.

The good news is that skills-based hiring may be an antidote. By hiring people based on core skills, then providing training, employers give people a chance to gain new skills, level up in their professional lives, and advance their careers. And a better-trained workforce with a diverse set of skills is sure to help close the skills gap. Still, training is easier said than done. Only 31% of workers strongly agree that their companies are providing good on-the-job training. And when companies don’t pony up, the burden of training falls to workers, 65% of whom have taken a class or workshop outside of work to learn skills they need for their jobs.

Though training isn’t a universal opportunity just yet, the good news is that hiring managers and workers agree that it’s a necessity:

  • 89% of hiring managers say an increased emphasis on training and development would be beneficial to all employees.
  • 91% of workers say the same thing.

Use your skills to find a new job

If you’re looking for a job, the skills section of your résumé is your best friend. Distill all your work down into the skills you used to get things done and list them prominently in the skills section of your résumé. Here are some marketable skills you might want to include (or learn):

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Communication. Show people that you’re a good talker and a good writer. You can get your point across in a professional way.
Teamwork. Offer evidence of when you’ve worked well with other people and the results you achieved together. It makes the dream work, after all.
Adaptability. Things change, so prove you can change with them. Maybe your business updated its systems and you helped train your team on how to use them.
Problem-solving. Talk about how you provided solutions to issues, especially if those solutions brought in more money or made something easier.
Creativity. Let your creative side shine. Some jobs will depend on this and will want to see how you’ve come up with ideas and brought them to life.

If you have the right skills, you’ll be empowered not just to get a new job, but to enter a new industry altogether. More and more workers are looking to bring their expertise to bear on entirely new fields. Transferable skills — those skills you developed in one type of work that apply to other types of work — are like a job market passport. If you’d like to identify your transferable skills, check out our comprehensive guide on the subject. In the meantime, here are some examples of how someone might apply their transferable skills to switch jobs:

Old position Transferable skills New position
Salesperson Industry knowledge, verbal and written communication, writing, budgeting Marketing manager
Restaurant manager Customer service, communication, staff scheduling, management experience Retail supervisor
Waiter/Host Time management, interpersonal skills, hand-eye coordination Delivery driver
Cashier Problem-solving skills, professionalism, verbal communication Customer service
Homeless shelter volunteer Empathy, ability to perform physical tasks, communication of complex topics in accessible language Home health aide

Top skills to put on your résumé

CareerBuilder recently did some digging to find out which résumé skills are the most in-demand right now. Here are the top three:

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  • Customer service. If you can deal with customers, you’re in demand—customer service is listed on 5.8% of all our jobs. It’s the skill hiring managers want more than anything else.
  • Sales. Prove you can sell and you’ll do a good job of selling yourself. Sales is listed as a skill on 4.55% of our jobs. If you’ve got it, people want to see it.
  • Business development. Hiring managers want to see that you can bring in the big bucks, manage projects and run with new ideas. Business development also shows that you’re a good networker—another soft skill that delivers solid results.

What else you should know about skills

To recap: it’s more important than ever to frame your work experience through résumé skills.

  • Hiring managers want to hire people based on their skills, then provide job-specific training.
  • Still, many workers work on developing new skills outside of work by taking classes, participating in workshops or volunteering.
  • The skills section of your résumé is very, very important.
  • Customer service, sales and business development are currently the most in-demand skills.

Workers and hiring managers agreebuilding the workforce of the future means we all need to focus on what we can do, not just where we’ve been. So if you’re ready to find your next job, it’s time to level up those skills.


This article originally appeared on CareerBuilder and is reprinted with permission.

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