Do you ask yourself, “What technical skills should I list on my résumé?

As a Partner in a recruiting firm that specializes in Engineering and IT staffing solutions we review hundreds of résumés a day. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of reading every Resume Tip: Technical Skills Sectionword. We have adapted a process for initial résumé review that is focused on being efficient, quick and as accurate as possible. This is also a common practice among many HR professionals and hiring managers.  We are limited by what you tell us in your résumé, how you have structured it and what you have chosen to highlight.

If you feel you are a perfect fit for a job with the skills and experience but you are not getting a phone call – review your résumé! What might be obvious to you or assumed in your industry may not be obvious to someone reviewing your résumé. Let us help you decide how to tell us what your technical skill set is on your resume. [For the purposes of this post I will direct this information to the entry level Software Engineer and/or Programmer.]

Skill / Work Experience Balancing Act

The accepted reason for having a Skills section is to identify the actual skills a candidate possesses and that can be verified through the work experience or academic projects. In general, most candidates list all of their skills regardless of their level of expertise to catch the attention of recruiters and HR Representatives. The thinking is simple: the more skills, technologies, platforms, and programming languages that I list the better my odds of getting an interview. Often times, however, this process can backfire.

The reaction on the part of recruiters and HR Representatives to this approach has been poor at best. The skills section has become overused and less attention has been given to it. Recruiters and HR Representatives are more likely to scan the skill section for one or two specific keywords and move on to the Experience section for supporting material.  Simply listing the skill does not mean the candidate has worked with the skill or possess any appreciable experience with it. Recruiters want to know  where that skill was developed, used, and attained. With no additional listing of the skill on the résumé, the decision is quickly made to pass on the candidate and begin a review of the next candidate’s qualifications. The wide net that was cast does not generate the desired effect and the candidate is not interviewed.

Now What?

Our recommendation is to downplay the Skills section and to focus on highlighting your skills that are relevant to the job you are applying. The relevant experience an entry level candidate has to offer is his/her academic projects. You can build a strong case for your qualifications by detailing these projects. Consider that each project had a question to be answered or a problem to be solved. You took specific actions in order to complete the task. Identify those steps and explain how you decided on your course of action and state the result.  And finally, have a concluding statement or bulleted item listing the technologies, programming languages, tools, and platforms that you utilized to solve the problem.