Resumes are tricky beasts—you need to clearly state what you bring to the table in as direct and concise a way as possible. But you only have so much space, so it’s necessary to only highlight the skills and experiences necessary for that particular job.

It’s tempting to create a one-size-fits-all document covering your entire work history, but that doesn’t provide value to potential employers. This is why we stress the importance of tailoring your resume to each application.

With this in mind, make the most of your limited space and leave these types of skills off of your resume. Highlight only what adds value, and you’ll stand a much better chance of getting an interview.

“When your job application is facing the six-second resume test, it’s important to not include information that will distract the hiring manager from seeing your true qualifications.” –Amanda Augustine, TopResume

Expected skills

Your resume is meant to highlight why you’re best suited for the job and to prove you bring something unique to the table. If the skills you highlight are things anyone can do, you aren’t really bringing anything of value.

While basic computer knowledge might have been a rarity last century, these days, anyone applying for an office job is expected to know how to operate a computer. While specific programs hold obvious merit, core competency isn’t anything unique and appears as fluff, says Peter Riccio. If you have important “computer skills” relevant to the job, spell them out; don’t leave them vague.

“At this point, listing “email” or “Microsoft Word” as skills is almost equivalent to listing “reading” or “basic math.” They’re not differentiators–they’re expected.” –Emily Moore, Glassdoor

Likewise, typing, online research, data entry, filing, and customer service are examples of skills employers expect rather than anything unique. While they’ll certainly want to know how you’ve handled customer interactions in the past, those are questions saved for the interview.


Other overused resume buzzwords that commonly fill up resume space are another example, says Alison Doyle. Companies assume that they’ll be hiring someone willing to work hard. Every employee is expected to be a team player. Good written and oral communication skills are the norm.

If it sounds generic when you’re writing it, it probably is, according to Indeed. Try to spice up the language of your resume or find other ways to phrase that particular skill. Use action verbs and find ways to show rather than tell.

Skills you don’t actually have

Some skills are truly impressive and head-turning and are sure to generate employer interest. If you’re adding these types of skills to your resume, make sure you actually have them.

Indeed’s editorial team lists languages you don’t actually speak as a prime example of skill fraud. If you studied a language in school but aren’t actually fluent or remember enough to be useful, leave it off your resume. You may think it adds value to your future employers, but it won’t take long for them to realize you’re a fraud. Google Translate can only take you so far.

“At some point, somewhere, somehow, someone is going to discover the truth. Besides, if you don’t really have enough other skills to make you qualified, it’s probably a good idea to just apply for a different position anyway.” –ZipJob

Most job descriptions are more “employer wishlists” than anything else. You don’t need to match every single qualification to be considered. If you lie about some qualifications, it will be apparent eventually. Save yourself and the employer the time and be honest.

Irrelevant skills

The key property of the most desirable skills is their transferability. Especially when changing industries, these types of skills show that you have the important foundation down even if you haven’t used them in this particular capacity. But not every skill is transferable!

Some skills are highly interesting for personal anecdotes but won’t really matter to the position you’re applying for. Remember to keep things tailored to the job at hand.

“For example, if you are applying for an accounting position, including the fact that you have great drawing skills is most likely not going to help you get that job.” –Indeed

Soft skills—without examples!

We’ve stressed the importance of soft skills, and we aren’t saying to not include them. But how you present them is key. A list of soft skills comes off generic and like a way to fill space or target any keyword searches. You want to highlight your soft skills in other ways through your resume (and cover letter) and to use tangible examples. Show, don’t tell.

“The single most common mistake job seekers make is to list out soft skills on their resume — for example communication, multitasking, leadership, problem solving, etc. The message that sends to anyone reading the resume is ‘I may not have made clear what my soft skills are, so I’m listing them out just to make sure you see them,’” –Peter Riccio

Wrap up

The key theme is to make sure the skills on your application documents provide value for the role you’re applying for. If every single applicant can do it, it’s not really a skill, and just adding buzzwords won’t do you any favors. By removing much of the resume bloat caused by these irrelevant skills, you’ll have more space to highlight your newsworthy skills and accomplishments, which will lead to more interviews.

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