Skills are extremely important for a college student’s résumé.  College students will have less work experience to speak of (if any at all). Therefore, a greater focus should be placed on showcasing skills and attributes, as well as your educational achievements, of course.  That said, an extensive list of skills which takes up most of the page isn’t the right way to go.  This article takes you through the best ways to write about skills for a résumé and five of the best skills which all employers will be looking for.

How to highlight skills for your résumé

One of the best ways to showcase skills is through customizing them to the job you are applying for.  Firstly, take a look at the skills the advert is asking for.  Ensure these are mentioned by name on your résumé.  Second, briefly detail specific examples of how to embody these skills in such a way that these match the job description.  This way, you will appear aligned to the role, and your application will be more likely to be picked up by applicant tracking systems (ATS). 

The top five skills for college students to focus on

These five skills are transferrable and will be sought after in most jobs. Think about each one and see how it can be elaborated upon in your résumé.   

1. Communication

Effective communication skills are essential in many lines of work, and equally important whether you are looking for full- or part-time employment.  Communication can be broken down into verbal (such as presentation skills), written communication (including languages), and effective listening skills.  If you are referring to the quality of your written communication, you must ensure your résumé is professionally and clearly written. 

2. Dependability or Reliability

This is your chance to demonstrate to potential employers that you are trustworthy and conscientious.  Dependability and reliability can refer to attendance or absence, time-management, meeting deadlines, or seeing through projects or volunteering opportunities from start to finish.  You might want to touch on your stress management ability, or times where you have balanced multiple tasks or responsibilities effectively. 

3. Informational Technology skills 

Information technology (IT) skills can refer to any number of areas of expertise or competence that require working with systems, applications, computers, or software.  These skills are invaluable to employers because of how quickly many facets of working life are going ‘online’ or virtual (the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated some of these trends).  Being able to demonstrate your proficiency in areas of IT which are aligned to what a specific employer needs will really ensure you stand out from the crowd. 

4. Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills demonstrate to an employer that you can work autonomously, and, with the right training, resolve problems and challenges in an appropriate and considerate manner.  Problem-solving skills might also draw upon your effective use of logic or analytical/critical thinking, which you might be using already at college.  One your résumé, you may need to relate these skills to certain situations, such as customer service. 

5. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a brilliant skill to add on your CV as it’s one of the most transferrable of all.  EI should be used in any interaction involving other people.  EI is not just about how you manage your own emotions.  It’s also a measure of how you relate to loved ones, colleagues, clients, managers, suppliers, and more.  In this respect, EI is concerned with how you understand people’s points of view to help them, achieve common ground, or accomplish tasks and goals.  EI can be seen as an extension of ‘people skills’, but with an emphasis on empathy. 

Final thoughts

It will take time for college students to build up work experience.  In the meantime, do all you can to show off your skills and how you have developed them over time.  Paragraphs of information on each one are not needed, but a one-word-per-line list will not do your experience justice.  Gradually, as you gain employment alongside your college education, you can edit your skill list to corroborate your professional experience.  Even then, the skill section of your résumé will remain important, as you must ensure employers know exactly what it is you are capable of.