when listing skills I have, e.g. Programming language, how common and reasonable is to have it arranged like: programming language - level of knowledge - years of experience. e.g.

Programming language                Level of knowledge     years of experience
C#                                     average               3

Or is any of the two above redundant? (e.g. level or yrs or experience?)

  • Is this for a resume? Or is it some form where someone has asked you to fill out?
    – Kent A.
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:29
  • @KentAnderson resume
    – user59140
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:30
  • 1
    When you say 3 years experience, I know what you mean. But, what do you mean by average? Average compared to what? whom?
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:31
  • @scaaahu Yeah that's my point, I am interested what kind of quantifiers do you use to indicate how good you are with something? (e.g.you maybe using something for 5 years, but still have bad knowledge of it?)
    – user59140
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:35
  • 1
    Keep in mind if you put anything slightly misleading on your "level of knowledge" (like proficient or expert) you will get questions from people expecting their interpretation of that level of skill.
    – enderland
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


For a resume, it is an instant throw-away when someone rates themself as "average" in a skill. It would be better just to list the skill and let your description of your experience imply the skill level and years of experience. A resume is a sales brochure for you. It is intended to help distinguish you from the competition.

If you're thinking that a reviewer would appreciate your modesty or honesty and think better of you for it, it doesn't really work that way. The interviewers have means to determine your skill level. But if you never get the chance to talk with them, it won't matter.

Listing a skill level has two possible effects, both bad. Either you will say you're the greatest ever, which nobody believes, so it's meaningless. Or, you will say you're average, or worse, and you will be disregarded immediately.

Don't lie on your resume, but don't limit yourself, either. Remember, the purpose of the resume is to secure an interview, where you can really show what you're made of.

Consider the following (obviously fictitious) comparison:

Skill        Expertise        Years
C#           average          3
.NET         average          3
Perl         average          2
Linux        average          2


Software Developer, XYZ Company, 2013-2016
Developed a cure for toenail cancer using C#, .NET, and in collaboration with researchers from seven different countries.

Software Developer, ABC Company, 2011-2013
Worked on establishing world peace by resolving a conflict in Antartica using Perl and Linux.

The more compelling content is the one that describes your work and the skills (tools) you used to accomplish it. It's what will capture the interest of a person reviewing resumes.

You can obviously include both sections in your resume, but the bland skills list, with a self-assessment of skill level, adds no value to the resume, and just takes up space that you could use more effectively. Skillful use of whitespace would be more valuable in your personal sales brochure than such a list.

  • you mean just mention C# as skill, and let them infer my knowledge of it from the bullet points I have below work experience? e.g. did project X using technology Y?
    – user59140
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:44
  • 1
    @user200400 Yes, exactly.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:45
  • Thanks, makes sense. Although saying I know something on average doesn't rule out I might be pro in few years - bad HR system works that way. PS I said average because I consider someone pro in C++ say if he is Bjarne Stroustrup
    – user59140
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:46
  • 1
    We'll all be pros in a few years. Saying so on a resume is just wasting space. Your example of using Stroustrup as the benchmark for Pro level expertise proves the point that everyone has a different perspective. By your standard, there can only be one C++ pro, which of course is not what you really meant to say, but still illustrates why it's a waste of precious resume real estate. It is better to use the space to describe your work in a way that illustrates your experience in a less subjective way.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 13:55
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    Keep in mind also that limiting the Pro rating to someone like Stroustrup, or Hejlsberg, is also problematic. They are certainly pros at language design. But being a pro in a language doesn't mean much unless you can do something with it (meaning no disrespect for Bjarne or Anders -- I know they do great things besides languages). So it's all still very subjective, and as such won't help you impress the resume reviewer. You still need to help them see what you can do with the skill.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 14:02

Many years of experience does not imply that someone is particularly good at something. A person with decades of experience in a domain might turn out to be mediocre at it if that person did not keep up with recent developments in that domain. On the other hand, another person although a rookie (by number of years of experience) might have skills comparable to an expert in that domain. When comparing two candidates who claim experience of 2 years and 3 years in a particular domain, any reasonable employer would not infer that candidate with 3 year experience is better than other one.

The word average has multiple meanings in English language, one of them is mediocre; not very good. This sounds negative and it is not in your best interests to include a negative sounding word to describe your skill level in your resume.

However, some employers insist on X years of prior experience, Y years of formal education etc. and tend to ignore candidates that do not meet their expectations. It is not a crime to have multiple customized resume specifically targeting the expectations of the company where you want to work. For example, if the job description clearly says that the employer is expecting a specific number of years of experience, you can edit your resume to make this information stand out to increase your chances of talking to them. As long as the information in your resume is truthful, this is completely ethical.

  • I was not sure merely if classifiying things like "level of knowledge" and experience of years - made sense
    – user59140
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 15:59