Ask A Progeek – When Do Skills Not Go On A Resume?

And our question today . . .

Are there some skills that are considered too common (like Word) or too bland (like people skills) to be worth mentioning?

In an age of overloaded resumes it’s actually an interesting question to ask – what do we leave out?

The answer, of course, is that there’s no simple yes/no rule.  No, that’s not a cop-out, because the question itself is actually the wrong question.

In deciding to put skills on your resume it is not if they are common or bland or what-have-you.  It’s if they’re relevant and if they “tell a story.”  The real question is “when do I put something in a resume.”

First of all if you have a skill, and it’s relevant to your job, bloody well include it in the resume.  It doesn’t matter how common it is, how vanilla it is, how boring it is, include it because it shows you know how to do something relevant to the job.  If it is relevant, it is important.

You never truly know what’s crossing the desk of a recruiter (except, I can imagine, occasional shots of tequila as they read boring resumes).  What you think of as a bland or common skill may be something they want to see.  What you think of as something unremarkable may be remarkable compared with the competition.  You don’t know.

So, if it is relevant, include it.  Period.  It’s a word or three, it won’t destroy your chances if you’re wrong.

Secondly, the skill should help the overall narrative of your resume – it is part of the “story” of why you can do the job.  It doesn’t matter how common or simple it is, if it is part of what you do, part of how you display your skills, then include it.

Skills that help tell the story of “I’m right for this job” are ones to never take for granted – leaving something supposedly tame out of your resume could look like a dangerous gap in knowledge.  Even if the skill isn’t critical, leaving it out may make the story your resume tells look incomplete, or lead to questions about what you learned or what skills you used.  If it is relevant, include it.

It’s also important to remember that, as professional geeks, we often do things and use skills people don’t have the best grasp of.  Leaving them out (and not describing them well) can lead to confusion and misinterpretation.  Be cautious before you take anything out of your resume – you may just remove the cornerstone to your story, or a key someone needs to “get you.”

These being said, there are also times to not put things on your resume, though in my opinion they’re fewer and farther between.  Skills may be irrelevant, past their prime, or distracting.  They may not contribute to your narrative – but do take up space.  Use your best judgement.

But the real question is “what should go in and why?”

Steven Savage