Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Write a Skills-Based Resume

January 27, 2021

Conventional reverse-chronological resume format is the most common, as it highlights professional experience and achievements. However, there are times when an alternate format, one that highlights your professional skills, may be a better fit. In this article, we discuss what a skills-based resume is and how to create one, as well as provide a template and example.

What is a skills-based resume?

A skills-based resume, also referred to as a functional-based resume, focuses on specific skills you possess over other qualifications such as education and work experience. This type of resume usually lists your skills and accomplishments as bold headings with an explanation about how you developed that skill and used it in your previous job history.

You may also highlight specific aspects of your work experience in a skills-based resume, but only if they are relevant to the position you are seeking. This approach makes skills-based resumes different from chronological or reverse-chronological resumes, in which the emphasis is on your work history.

A skills-based resume is ideal for people with little to no work experience such as those who have recently graduated from high school or university. Other situations in which a skills-based resume would be most suitable when applying for a new job include:

  • You have worked in the same position for several years.
  • You have many previous work positions that are the same.
  • You have only held internships or short-term jobs rather than long periods of experience in one position.
  • You have long gaps in your work history.
  • You're interested in making a career out of your personal passion or hobby.
  • Most of your work experience involves volunteer or unpaid or volunteer work
  • You're changing the industry in which you work and have little to no experience in that industry.

How to write a skills-based resume

Here are some tips to ensure you write a skills-based resume that works.

1. Identify which skills to highlight

When deciding on the skills to highlight, you should first identify the most critical skills for the job you are seeking. Divide these into three or four broad sets of skills and fill in each group with your specific qualifications. These skill sets will comprise the largest percentage of your resume.

In general, most skills can be grouped into one of three categories:

  • Job-related skills: These are skills that most people commonly learn in school or pick up on the job. They are usually directly relevant to the desired position. If you are applying for a job as a web designer, for example, relevant job-related skills are a facility with Photoshop or a web-design program.
  • Transferrable skills: Transferable skills are any skills you have that are useful to companies across various industries and jobs. These might include skills such as teamwork, organisation, adaptability or other attributes companies look for in strong candidates. You can leverage your transferrable skills to position your previous experience when applying for a new job (especially if the job is in a different field or industry). For instance, companies often seek an applicant with strong communication skills. If you have acquired the ability to easily share information to and from co-workers, you can use them to any workplace.
  • Adaptive skills: Also known as personal skills, these usually include character or personality traits that are not quantifiable but are useful for a particular position. Qualities such as honesty and being a team player could be considered adaptive skills.

Depending on the position you're applying for and if you plan to explain the skill, you may want to list five to 10 relevant skills on your resume.

2. Create a list of your skill sets

When you have a good idea of the skill sets and specific skills you want to present, you can begin expanding the individual bullet points in detail. Each bullet point should consist of statements describing your relevant experience in each skill category.

For this section, you may or may not detail the companies you've worked for or the positions you've held. However, it is generally best to focus on achievements and results rather than go into too much detail about specific employers.

It's also a good idea to optimise your word choices for the specific industry. For example, if you are trying to transition from the healthcare industry to a sales career, refer to your patients as clients or customers. Doing so will make it easier for employers to determine the applicability of your skills to your chosen position rather than associating it with a possibly unrelated field.

3. List your accomplishments

A section detailing your accomplishments can let potential employers see how the skills you listed earlier apply to the work environment. In this section, it is especially important to include only accomplishments relevant to the position you are seeking. You have some leeway in terms of the achievements you can list, but make sure they apply to the target position. If you are interested in an HR position, for example, you might emphasise accomplishments related to communications or time management.

When presenting your accomplishments, always associate them with quantities, such as money, time saved or percentages. Again, this makes it easier for employers to gauge the value of your achievements in the real-world setting of the work environment. You can present your accomplishments in the following manner:

  • Specific situation + your action = direct result
  • Work-related challenge + your action = direct result

For instance, you can say, 'Exceeded department KPIs by 25% for two successive quarters in 20 19', 'Increased the revenue growth by 10% in 2018', or 'Helped raise over $50,000 from existing private investors in 2017'.

4. Add supporting details

Add details that could increase your credibility and make you the right candidate for the job. Some of the supporting details you can include are:

  • Educational background and achievements
  • Professional affiliations
  • Certifications
  • Specialised training or courses attended
  • Published material
  • Testimonials from credible sources
  • Projects or other recognitions worth mentioning

5. Include your work history

If necessary, you can devote the rest of your resume to a brief outline of your work history. Unlike an experience-based resume, you don't need to be detailed in this section. Consider listing the company, the dates you worked there, your job title and a short statement about your duties. You could also include internships and volunteer positions, as long as they relate to the target position.

Template for skill-based resume

Use the template below to structure your own skills-based resume:

[Your name]

[Your contact information, such as phone number, email and physical address]

[Objective or summary]

Skills

  • [List skill with a short statement about relevance.]
  • [List skill with a short statement about relevance.]
  • [List skill with a short statement about relevance.]
  • [List skill with a short statement about relevance.]
  • [List skill with a short statement about relevance.]

Accomplishments

  • [List accomplishment with figures or statistics, if possible.]
  • [List accomplishment with figures or statistics, if possible.]
  • [List accomplishment with figures or statistics, if possible.]

Experience

[Company] | [Job title] | [Dates worked]

  • [Include a brief summary of duties and accomplishments.]

[Company] | [Job title] | [Dates worked]

  • [Include a brief summary of duties and accomplishments.]

Education

[School name] | [Degree] | [Date earned]

Skills-based resume example

Here is an example of a skills-based resume:

Charlotte Smith

(02) 5551 5678| charlottesmith@email.com | 98 Shirley Street, QLD, Australia

Seeking a human resources assistant position in which I can apply my skills and education to better the workplace.

Skills

  • *Communication: Worked with a variety of people in person, over the phone and via email to complete projects on time*
  • *Time management: Developed a strict schedule for studying for exams, completing projects and required readings*
  • *Collaboration: Cooperated with fellow students and professors to design and present projects*
  • *Customer service: Assisted other students in finding resources during student employment at the university library*
  • *Computer skills: Learned multiple online programs and software for various classes and student employment*

Accomplishments

  • Dean's List 2012-15
  • Award for Excellence in Writing—Best Poem 2014
  • Decreased response time by 17% for university library email requests

Experience

Blue Mockingbird | Server | 2015

  • Seated customers, explained menu, took orders and delivered meals

Lilly Library | Student Employee | 2013-15

  • Assisted students and professors with queries related to books and resources

Education

Queensland University | Bachelor of Arts in Human Resources Management | 2015

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