Currently, I have the following subsections under Skills:

Languages: Visual C#, SQL, PHP, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Java

Database: MySQL, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server

Tools: Graphic Design: Adobe Photoshop Web: jQuery

Frameworks: CodeIgniter

Personal: Adaptability, Leadership, Logical thinking, Oral and Written Communication, Problem Solving, Teamwork

I am a fresh graduate and looking for my first job. Is there anything under my Skills section that I should consider adding or revising?


I spend a significant portion of my time reading resumes at an elite tech firm, and another significant portion of my time revising them for students. I will give you blunt and painful advice: The skills section hurts you.

The reason is simple. Resume readers throw out any self-rating of a skill that lacks any proof. A general resume principle is ask yourself: could a precocious 5th grader have written the same thing, and could a successful esteemed engineer, professor or CEO could have written the same thing? In your case, the 5th grader has you tied. The 5th grader wanted to take a tour of a bunch of random technologies and got some random things working in a bunch of them. They are not lying at all but they are also not useful to me in any way.

Deleting the skills section should feel uncomfortable. Good. In short, the section is a crutch, and it tricks the resume writer into getting by with a hollow skills section. Take everything you deleted and write justifications for it, or throw it out if there is none. I should know your best languages or technologies from reading your accomplishments.

But, this is important: I should be hearing your languages and technologies iterated several times in your resume anyway. One, this is what automated software looks for (I'm not an expect here but I'm willing to assume keyword matching happens). Two, this is what less technical (i.e. HR and headhunters) recruiters will be catching the most, of course they will need some indication they were part of serious projects.

Don't be afraid to use lines of code! I'm serious. It's not a great metric for a lot of things but it's a good metric for the question, "Did you actually write anything." Code reviews, build systems, significant code health efforts, the fact that it landed and had some sort of positive reception, any project management you did: this tends to be useful because it tells me you actually did things. I care a little less whether it won your company a billion dollars or helped you hire 7 employees before it was abandoned, and I've learned some students and early-career people weight too much the part of the company chance had them working in.

In short I need to know what you actually did with these skills, or else I can't really assume you had any serious involvement with them.

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  • Thank you! I actually have been thinking how I can put the applications I have developed as a student to complete my course requirements but not sure how. Should I create a new section for them? Should I include them in my Experience or in the Education section? – herondale Oct 4 '17 at 5:46
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    @herondale for students, your biggest accomplishments tend to be the coursework you completed. So describe the coursework! This simple advice eludes so many students... yes, I want to see some leadership in student orgs, volunteer opportunities, and some teamwork in things like local hackathons, but don't be shy to put coursework at the front. – user42272 Oct 4 '17 at 5:47
  • So do you think it would be better for me to create a Projects section where I list the coursework and briefly describe each project? – herondale Oct 4 '17 at 5:50
  • @herondale that's fine, but I'm more interested in your accomplishments than the project descriptions. – user42272 Oct 4 '17 at 5:53
  • I agree with the advice to put skills in context of accomplishments/projects but I am curious how you feel about the advice to retain a skills section to get through a non-technical pre-screening (by HR for example) that simply looks to match keywords. – Kempeth Oct 4 '17 at 10:12

To take a phrase from writing: Show, don't tell

As an employer, seeing resumes with Skills sections and lists is a big turnoff in the selection process.

I realise that you are a graduate, and have not yet had a job, but you could have a "projects" section where you list a few projects where you've used the skills - show where you've applied the skills instead of simply telling people what skills you have. It helps bind the skills together (so, you might have done a website which means you used PHP, CodeIgniter, MySQL, Javascript and jQuery together, for example).

As for the personal skills:

  • adaptability, logical thing, problem solving - should all come through descriptions of the project. Don't get into details, but if there was a nifty solution to a unique problem, make quick mention of it.
  • oral and written communication - anyone with a pulse handing in a resume should have this, it isn't a selling point
  • leadership, teamwork - again, show this in your projects - did you lead a project? work with others? Or, if you held some kind of leadership or committee position in a student club or other organisation (for example, I was a senior Scout and then an Adult Leader).
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  • I have a question though, if I'm applying for the position of a software developer, would including activities such as being an officer of the Student Government and Student Publication have any weight? – herondale Oct 4 '17 at 7:43
  • Not in and of themselves - but if you spearheaded some project or initiative which demonstrates independence and self-motivation, maybe... I've known some pretty useless Student Union Committee members – HorusKol Oct 4 '17 at 9:34

In addition to the sound advice already given, if you are intending to include the skills section get rid of the "Personal" bit; there's nothing substantial or "real" there, and I as an employer wouldn't even acknowledge it.

(Admittedly my CV does have a technical skills section, but only because all modern tech recruiters have automated systems that sift for technical terms through the CVs they're fed. The section itself is the last part of my CV, not intended for human consumption)

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