How to highlight relevant skills in your CV

Using a 'Relevant Skills' section is your biggest opportunity to attract attention and integrate some of the relevant keywords into your CV. You can use other sections of your CV to demonstrate these, but this is where you can immediately sell your suitability to the job, overcome the Applicant Tracking System (ATS), and immediately entice a human reader to keep reading. It's also quite easy to quickly adjust these to individual job applications!

Deciding what's relevant

This is where your keyword research is crucial. The job description is your most valuable resource for identifying relevant keywords that the ATS and recruiters will be looking for. These typically tend to be focussed on technical skills for technical jobs, but may also look for soft skills related to management experience for senior management positions, such as mentoring. The clues are in the job description.

Things to look out for:

  • Specific software skills;
  • Specific machinery skills;
  • Specific qualifications;
  • Any keywords in the 'requirements' section.
  • Any keywords in the 'desirable skills' section.

Applicant Tracking System considerations

For this section, we've taken some of the most relevant tips from our article on how to make your CV ATS-friendly:

  • Don't use tables or text boxes;
  • Don't use fancy icons or bullets;
  • Expand acronyms, but also include them in brackets; 
  • Consider the spelling differences between American English and English, e.g. 'geo-modeling' or 'geo-modelling'. 

Formatting Tips

Relevant skills shouldn't be long sentences, but rather short, concise bullets or single words that are likely to be the keywords that recruiters are looking for in your CV. However, listing one word skills can use up a lot of precious lines on your CV, and cause excessive amounts of white space to be wasted.

To overcome this without the use of tables, my favourite tip is to highlight all of the bullet points and format them into 2 or 3 columns. Simply highlight the text, click 'Format' or 'Layout', then 'Columns'.

This is a great way to save space, while at the same time keeping the document ATS-friendly.


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