I am having a hard time accurately describing my skillset on a resume. I am comfortable putting the statement "Proficient in Java Development" on my resume, as I have been coding in Java for 5+ years and am very familiar with it. However, I am less comfortable saying that I am proficient in SQL. I've used SQL but don't know many of the intricacies of specific SQL implementations or know much beyond basic statements (Insert, Delete, Select, Joins, Conditions, etc.).

How do I describe my abilities in SQL and other areas like it?

Somewhat related: What heading should be written in a resume instead of "Technical Expertise" when I am not an "expert"? The accepted answer to the question recommends 'Experience', but that doesn't seem clear enough.

Edit - I want to list the skills in question in terms of proficiency level, not in another format. With Java it is easy to estimate the years of experience because I use it frequently, but I use SQL and other skills sporadically.

  • I would just list the projects where I used SQL, without getting into much details.
    – user1220
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:35
  • I might use the word proficient
    – paparazzo
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:44
  • Make sure you are thinking about your audience and what you are trying to get across. Remember with a resume that too much info will make the reader bored - which totally defeats the purpose. Personally, when I read over a resume for the first time, I don't want a detailed breakdown of your comfort level on every library you have ever used.
    – user48276
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 19:33
  • Don't worry too much about qualifying your skill level. That sort of thing will come up in discussion during an initial screening call, and if you're not sufficiently experienced with that technology, they won't pursue you further. As a job-seeker it's better to qualify things later than risk false negatives by being overly precise. Commented May 9, 2017 at 22:44
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    I've always used the phrase "working knowledge of x".
    – berry120
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 23:39

2 Answers 2


In ascending order of skill: "Knowledge of","Familiar with", "skilled in", "highly skilled in", "Expertise in", "Mastery of".

  • These seem too informal to me. Thanks for the suggestion.
    – lucasvw
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:43
  • @lucasvw I've used them and haven't gotten any complaints. Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:46
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    @lucasvw sometimes simple works. Just use the word that actually describes your level or proficiency. If you are just familiar, use "Familiar with" or maybe you've literally just seen it so you've been "Exposed to" it.
    – cheshire
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 17:58
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    @lucasvw simple is better than pretentious. When I read a resume, if I don't want to have to try to figure out what a person means. simple is better Commented May 9, 2017 at 18:27
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    @lucasvw You want to be clear and consise with such terms. If you used "proficient" for example, the interviewer might take that to mean "he knows what he's doing most of the time" or they might interpret it to be "he knows what he's doing ALL of the time." Whichever way YOU meant it, you don't want the interviewer assuming it's the other. The terms Richard suggests are good because they're formal enough for use on a resume and they're not ambiguous, so the interviewer will most likely understand it to mean what you meant it to mean.
    – Steve-O
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 18:28

Any word you choose will not have objective meaning. I can say I'm familiar with C# because I've done a few applications, which might make me an expert in some people's eyes -- but to me it doesn't compare with my proficiency in Java, which I've done for many years.

To make this clear I tend to divide my skills into three categories:

  1. Core competencies: Skills directly related to the job I seek.
  2. Familiar with: Skills of lesser importance, sometimes "required", sometimes "nice to have".
  3. Other: Skills not related to programming but which might be useful or attractive to any employer, like foreign language, graphic design, public speaking, etc.

The real question is, "What do I need to put on my resume that will get me past the HR gatekeepers and get me an interview?" Unfortunately, I can't tell you since this seems to vary widely. For this reason many recruiters will ask you "How many years of experience do you have with X?" -- which is an equally problematic question that often requires additional clarification, but only one of many problems in the entire hiring process.

Thing is, at that point you've already got your foot through the door and your "soft skills" start to come into play more than a piece of paper with a dry history of your accomplishments. Your resume has done its job, and now it's up to you to have a conversation to play up your strengths and generally sell yourself.

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    The how many years always gets me too. I have used some things for 15-20 years but only for<3% of the time. How many years is that? Then with something else I may have used 80% of the time for several years but now only use 20% of the time.
    – HLGEM
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 19:12
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    Well, that and the "Trivial Pursuit" style of assessing knowledge, where if you don't know what the interview thinks you should know, you're a bad programmer. Like asking a Java person the difference between "overload" and "override" -- of course i know what these are, but I might not have used the actual formal names since my OOD class 15 years ago when they were on the multiple-choice test. Just give me 20 seconds on Google. Sheesh. But like I said, if you can get them to like you, and like you more than any other candidate, all the rest doesn't matter.
    – Andrew
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 19:25

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