I'm presenting writing a new CV, and I've got a set of programming skills I consider to be 'strong' and programming skills that I consider to be 'weak'.


C++ for me would be strong as I know the language syntax well enough I could write a program, compile it, interpret errors, follow good design philosophy etc without needing to regularly look at references.

But SQL, for me, would be weak. Whilst I understand how SQL works, the rough syntax, what the program expects of me datawise, a vague understanding of good practices, I wouldn't be able to utilise it without double-checking references, simply because I use it so rarely.

Personal experience

Clearly I know more than someone who doesn't know SQL, but I feel putting SQL as a skill on my CV might mislead an interviewer into thinking I have a natural capability. I've also had experiences where a skill I've considered 'weak' turned out to exceed the requirements of the interviewer (who assumed my skill was barely above layman).


What do I do with 'weak' skills on a CV? Highlight they're weak? Omit them? Include them with other skills and rely on the interviewer to do due diligence in personal interviews? Or something else?


Depends upon on how you layout your CV. With your SQL example, definitly include it, you have experience in it.

Let's say you just list them, without qualifying them: Include it. If you worked with it, it's often the most prudent to include.

Filter your technologies by how applicable they are to the position in frontend of you.

For experience, think about some phrases you can use. E.g.:

  • First experiences
  • some experience
  • extensive experience
  • expert

And by what you write, rate yourself as c++ expert with some sql experience.

As IT people, we often see how much is missing in our knowledge instead of how much we already achieved. Thus the mismatch with past interviewers. The CV is the step to get to the actual interview. Don't lie, but always present yourself in a good light.

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  • I've tried adding classifications before, but because I've got a lot of skills in a lot of different of technologies, a number of which are related to each other, it often becomes convoluted or disjointed. For example, I've got good understanding of HTML and JavaScript, but only working knowledge of CSS and PHP. I'm good with C++, but have working knowledge of Java. I'm not sure if interviewers prefer skills grouped by relevance or grouped by skill level. – SSight3 Mar 18 '19 at 13:37
  • I usually write them just in descending order, and keep the classifieing to the interview. (If asked at all). Imo it's hard to generalise, I have seen all variations when I read CVs from applying developers. Personally, I treated it just as a checklist and asked details in the interview. But I am not HR, I am just a developer who was invovled in deciding on teammates. – Benjamin Mar 18 '19 at 22:10

You can include what you're best at and what the job requires at the top of your resume, and demote or completely remove skills that aren't necessary. For instance, if a job post doesn't require SQL, you can probably exclude it completely from your resume.

For example, I don't know what you'd be promoting yourself as, but if you're seeking C++ jobs, you can include your expertise in a description about yourself at the top.

"Expert C++ programmer with 5+ years experience on Agile projects".

You could also include relevant keywords at the top of your resume, but just highlighting C++, as well as other skills. If the job mentions SQL but you're not an expert, include it at the bottom, maybe with a list of other skills.

"Full-stack developer with 5+ years in on Agile projects"

  • Expert knowledge of C++
  • Good design philosophy
  • Ability to work independently

[resume stuff here]

  • Familiarity with: SQL, Java, Photoshop . . .

If it's something that people in the industry you're targeting would value, I would find a way to include it. If not, just leave it off and focus on what's relevant.

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  • I think certainly omitting unnecessary terms can help if tailoring, and this is a practice I engage in, although I've had experiences where I've gotten lateral job offers because, although I wasn't accepted for the role, because my CV contained other skills, they offered a different job within the same organisation. – SSight3 Mar 18 '19 at 13:30
  • What I'm saying is tailor your resume for the industry overall, not just the specific company. If you apply for a job in Sports, but you have experience in Fashion, your resume should be sports-focused, regardless of the job. Emphasis the skills that the industry the company you're applying to values. If the industry values XYZ skill, include it. If not, you're speaking to a different industry and they won't find it useful. – user70848 Mar 18 '19 at 15:06
  • Just so it's clear, I'm not saying to tailor to the job, I'm saying to target to the market. – user70848 Mar 18 '19 at 16:58

Leaving out something you've come across in your work will put you out of the running with anyplace that uses a keyword scanner to select the first cut from the resume pile. (Whether you'd want to work for a company that does its recruiting that way is another discussion.) On the other hand, overselling it by implying that you're good it isn't a good idea, nor is saying something negative like "I can do SQL, but I suck at it."

I'm not a fan of trying to attach any kind of level (novice, expert) or quantity (some, extensive) to my experience because those terms are very subjective. Good interviewers will ask questions to tease that out to their own satisfaction.

Earlier in my career, I split the language laundry list into two categories: proficient for the things I used daily and some exposure for whatever I didn't spend a lot of time with but might have found some take-aways for use in other work. That worked out well when the lists were shorter and it hadn't been very long since I did daily work in the languages in the proficient category.

Over time, it has become apparent that proficiency is temporary. Since resumes/CVs are about accomplishments, I decided to re-frame it in those terms. Now I list current or recent for what I can do in my sleep, past projects for things I used to be able to do in my sleep and some exposure for everything else. There's nothing misleading in that and, again, anyone wanting more detail will ask.

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  • So I know basic Python. I've used it a few times. But if I put it on my resume and they ask any question on it, I've just lost that job. I won't be able to answer. Whereas if I put "some knowledge of Python" their expectation on asking the question is that I should only be able to answer simple questions. Not putting a skill level of some sort is asking for trouble. Although I would avoid overestimating, using words like "guru", or rating on a 1-10 scale unless I was asked that. – Gabe Sechan Mar 17 '19 at 7:54
  • @GabeSechan How much is some? If the first question out of the gate is below the interviewer's bar but above yours, the situation is still the same. I've been using the formats in my answer for 25+ years, and they've helped net the kind of high-quality interviews I'm after, some even leading to offers for work in languages in the some exposure category or not listed at all. More importantly, they weed out the box checkers looking for the right adjectives next to the nouns. The language list is one part of a larger picture; if it's more interesting than the work, something's not right. – Blrfl Mar 17 '19 at 14:48
  • But that's far less likely than if you just have everything up as equals. In fact in my 20 years its never happened. But putting stuff on without qualifiers has caused lots of problems among people I know and people I've interviewed on site. I could understand an argument for leaving it off entirely, but your way DOES lead to problems. Qualifying it never does. – Gabe Sechan Mar 17 '19 at 14:59
  • @GabeSechan I'm not advocating no qualifiers. I'm saying I'm currently using A, B and C in my daily work (which will be described in my most-recent position), have used D, E and F in the same capacity (earlier positions) and I've at least had a look at X, Y and Z. Interviewers can decide whether the work is complex enough to require proficiency or, again, they can ask questions. Downvoted or not, this is what works for me and it's my answer to the question. – Blrfl Mar 18 '19 at 10:43

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