By November 17, 2016

When Should I List A Skill On My Resume?

Writing a professional resume can be a hard task. It requires knowledge to make you look good in front of employers who might want to hire you.

So, one of the most common asked question of developers all around the world is when they should list a new skill on their resumes. Should they wait until they become an expert so that they can list it on their resumes?

Transcript Of The Video

John Sonmez: 

Hey, what's up? John Sonmez from I got a question today about when should you put a skill on your resume. I don’t think I have talked about this at all, but I think this is probably a problem that a lot of developers face, is when are you BS-ing and when is it actually a valid skill to put in your resume, right?

So here's the question here. “Can you make a detailed video?” Oh, detailed one, all right, on when to put a skill on your resume. “I mean how can someone be certain they have become proficient in a specific skill like SQL, JAVA, Ruby, etc. so they can show off on their resume? For example, I just learnt basics of iOS and Swift and built a scientific calculator for iOS devices. Can I put iOS and Swift skills on my resume? Is there a similar video which you made already? Can you give me the URL? Thanks a lot.” I think it's Piyush. I'm going to say Piyush.

So I don’t think I've done a video on this, honestly. I've done videos on a lot of topics. I've done like 900 videos. I have to try to keep those in my head, but I'll tell you when you should put a skill on your resume. So let's look at your specific example. So you've created this calculator application using iOS and Swift. Put it in your resume, but don’t put it in your resume if it's not going to help you to get the job that you're looking for. One mistake that developers make, a lot of people make in general, is that they list all these skills on their resume that aren't necessarily relevant to the job that they're trying to get. This is harmful. It's not helpful.

It seems like it's a good idea to list every single skill that you have because you don't want to leave anything out and you want to show how much you know, but it's actually really bad. I've used this example a couple times, but I'm going to keep using this one because I like this example now, which is let's suppose that you got accused of a crime of murder, ooh, and you wanted to get a lawyer. Do you want a lawyer? When you go and you search, look for a lawyer, if you were to look at a lawyer's credentials and resume, would you want to see for his specialties of law would you want it to say tax law, criminal, divorce law, agricultural law and list all of these skills that he has relating to law? Or would you rather find a lawyer that says, “I specialize in getting people who are innocent to beat murder raps. That what I specialize in and have all skills related to that, criminal justice, defending” skills that show that he's had success in doing that one thing.

Most of us would probably hire the second guy. Now, the first guy might be more qualified. He's got a whole brevity of experience. He's got all this skills listed and he thinks he's doing a good thing, but we want to hire the guy that we know specialize. When we see that huge array of skills when we're trying to pick a lawyer and we want a criminal defense lawyer, we think, “Well, this guy is probably not as good at the specific thing that we want help with, which is beating this murder rap.” Anyway, it's the same thing with your resume.

So the question is whether or not—it shouldn’t be whether or not you could put a skill on your resume. You could put a skill on your resume as soon as you know anything about it. As soon as you think that you can answer intelligent questions about it that someone asks you at an interview or show some example that you've worked with it, you can put that skill in there. You can even do it before then if you just caveat it by saying, “Look, I put this on here. I'm at the beginner level,” or put a star by it and say, “I'm just learning this but I listed this skill on here.” The more important question, the more important thing is, when should you put a skill on your resume at all? The answer to that question is when it's specifically will be valuable for the job that you're applying for.

I've got a new book that I'm working on. It might be out by the time you're reading this. So at least you can get the chapters now. You can sign up for free. It's called The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide. In that book, I have a chapter specifically talking about this and I talk about when you apply for a job gearing your resume, tailoring your resume specifically for that job description, and actually modifying your resume and taking off skills that are irrelevant. You want it to be as focused as possible. Think about that example as in with the lawyer. That's what you want your resume to be. You want someone to pick up your resume and say, “Wait a minute. This guy is—how is it possible that this guy's experience and skills exactly aligned with what we're looking for? This is insane. You need to call—Jane, get this guy in the phone right now. We need to talk to this gentleman here, I think we have a match.”

That's what you want. That's the reaction that you want for your resume. You don't want someone to say, “Well, Jane, this guy seems to know how to do every single—he has 15 programming languages listed on his resume. I think this guy is a hack. I think we should throw this resume into the trash bin.” Everyone who evaluates resumes speak with a slightly Southern accent. That's how it works. Anyway, you see what I'm saying? That's what you want.

The idea is not to develop a whole collection of badges where you can put all these skills on your resume. The idea is to make a focused, focused resume that is going to be specific, that's going to be exact match. I talked about niching, specialization, all this stuff. Really, really important. That's how you're going to get the best job because you're going to be a better match. Think about that and don't think about, “Do I have an excuse to put this on my resume?” If you're specifically going for the job as iOS and Swift developer, yeah. You better put that on your resume. That should be the main 2 skills. If you only put those skills on your resume and that's it, that would probably be enough. That would be very focused. So many people want to put everything that they know under the sun and it's not going to benefit you.

When get you into an interview, you can talk about it. You can say, “Oh, yeah. I've got experience in a whole bunch of stuff, but I made my resume specifically for what you're looking for because that's what I specialize in now.” They're going to know that you know what you're doing.

Anyway, good question. I hope this helps you. If you did find it helpful, I do have one request for you is—so I can put how many YouTube subscribers I have on my resume. I need that. I need more YouTube subscribers. Click the Subscribe button and let's get that number up to a hundred thousands, so that I can put that on my resume under number of YouTube subscribers. Anyway, I'm just kidding but go ahead and click the Subscribe button if you haven't already. If you have already, a thumbs-up or a share is always appreciated. I'll talk to you next time. Take care.

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."