Are you wasting space on your CV by listing your skills?

I’m not saying there’s no place for your skills on the CV, I’m saying that listing them out is a waste of space.

If you want to delay something, use one of these, not your CV

I’m seeing a lot of CV’s these days with a skills section early on, either after or as part of the profile statement.  I like a profile statement (as long as it’s well written and free of superlatives and self-raising fluff) but I just don’t see the value of the skills section for the vast majority of people.  What a skills section does is delay the reader from getting to where they need to be – your achievements.

Let’s get the exceptions out of the way first.

Skills are particular, let’s say technical, abilities.  If you put anything near the top of a CV it’s because the reader needs to see it quickly.  Often it’s the sort of information that the employer will be screening on.  If you’re going for a job as a surveyor, there’s a good chance the potential employer will want to know that you are qualified, so you’d put RICS right up there near the top.  That’d be OK.

Similarly, if you’re in IT you might use your Key Skills section to list the programming languages or platforms you work with.

There’s no value in using the skills section for soft skills like leadership, communications, negotiation, etc.  At this stage it’s just your fluffy opinion.  I want evidence that you are a good negotiator, not just you telling me you are.  For evidence I mean examples, and the examples are found in your achievements under each role.

The Key Skills or Key Strengths or whatever you want to call it section is a bad thing because I’m likely to respond to those claims with either “That’s obvious” or “Prove it”.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples from recent CV’s I’ve been looking at:

A marketing director put amongst her key skills “Experience in managing below the line campaigns”.

What’s the problem with that?  Well, first of all, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that someone reaching the level of marketing director  has experience of below the line campaigns.  What surprises me is that they feel the need to make the point – as if they don’t have much of it, or perhaps they’re hiding the fact that they don’t have above the line experience.  Second, Just because she’s experienced doesn’t mean she’s any good at it, so I’m going to be looking for examples of her ability in the CV anyway.  In the end, my response to the claim is “So what?” and you really want to avoid people thinking “So what?” when they read your CV.

Here’s another example from an accountant:

“Excellent negotiating skills”

Fine.  Prove it.  What this candidate has done is to flag up something I’m going to want to see a good example of later on.  If there are no examples of negotiation in the achievements I’m going to be scratching my head very hard.

Stop putting off the reader. Stop packing your CV with padding.  Get me to your career history and your achievements as quickly as possible.  If I’m trying to make decisions on which six out of 60 CV owners to interview don’t try my patience with fluff.  Cut  to the chase!


My next workshop for jobsearchers is all about networking.  It’s a really important aspect of the jobsearch process and too few people do it, usually because they are frightened.  there’s no need to be scared fo networking because proper networking doesn’t require you to go cap in hand asking anyone for  job.  I’ll show you painless networking and once you start doing it, the quicker you’ll have your next job.  

Here are details and the registration form for the workshop – I look forward to seeing you.

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