Updated: Nov 8
What is a skills-based CV?
A skill-based CV is designed to set the focus on the skills you possess - both hard and soft skills. Skills-based CVs are usually used by job seekers with little or no job experience such as students and graduates, or by freelancers, who have been working on projects in specific time frames, as opposed to having worked on fixed contracts.
It is not always easy to write a professional skills-based CV because we are not used to deviating from the classic resume format. Indeed, while the reverse chronological CV, the "classic resume format", focuses primarily on your employment history and academic background, the skills-based CV is more functional and focuses on your skills, notably your transferable skills.
In addition, it's hard for many of us to shift from the norm in terms of how we should display our professional "worth" given the "measurable success and achievement-oriented" mindset most companies adopt as standards. In other words, it can be challenging to reassess this professional worth in terms of skills as opposed to achievements throughout employment history.
Therefore, we provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to write a skills-based CV that showcases your abilities.
In which cases do you need a skills-based CV?
You're a fresh graduate
If you are a recent university graduate it makes sense that there is not much work experience you can refer to. Maybe you worked some side jobs but most likely those have very little to do with the job you are applying for.
While that job may not have been relevant to the job you're currently aiming for, you may have developed or used transferable skills without even knowing it! These will come in handy, as long as you can provide concrete examples of how they were put to use and why they are indeed relevant.
If, on the other hand, you have enough relevant job experience (at least a 6-month internship where you completed many projects and contributed greatly), you might want to consider the traditional reverse chronological resume. Your skills can then be highlighted in a dedicated section of that CV and in your cover letter. Here is an article we wrote explaining how to showcase your skills in a cover letter outline.
You're changing career paths
Changing career paths is another logical explanation as to why you do not have a relevant employment history. Make sure to mention that in your personal statement and show that you bring a great set of transferable skills to the potential new employer.
You can use your previous jobs in the reference section to underline that your work experience did contribute to personal growth and skills development.
You're a freelancer
As a freelancer, you might have worked on several different projects that are too dispersed for a traditional resume. Use a skills-based CV to cluster your achievements and highlight key skills, including transferable skills.
For example, if you worked as a freelance copywriter, you'll be familiar with several different social media platforms and possess creativity and SEO skills for example. That sounds more impressive than just mentioning that you did freelance work, doesn't it?
4 Steps to writing a skills-based CV
1) Make a list of your skills
It is time to find out your strengths. Maybe you already know which skills you want to showcase. For those who think they'll struggle to identify their skills, we recommend the following approaches, split into soft skills and hard skills.
Soft skills are skills related to your character traits and emotional intelligence. They are hard to measure and describe how you manage everyday situations and relationships. Below, we list 10 important soft skills to give you an idea of what to include in your skills-based CV.
Top 5 soft skills according to HR World:
5 soft skills relevant to any profession:
Hard skills are measurable qualities that you learned during your education, training, courses or your previous job. They often refer to the technical skills required for the position.
Relevant hard skills vary from one industry to another and also according to job descriptions. This is why you need to tailor them at all times, just like the rest of your CV.
Mastering or speaking several languages that are not your mother tongue shows your ability to learn and can set you apart from other applicants. Make sure you include the level according to the CEFR (A1-C2) framework.
English: Fluent (C1)
German: Working proficiency (B2)
Spanish: Basic (A2)
IT skills are great examples of hard skills and are required for most jobs nowadays.
Here are examples of IT skills:
2) Select your relevant skills
It is important that you tailor your CV to the job description that you are interested in. This demonstrates your understanding of the role and also tells the recruiter what he or she wants to read.
How to select hard skills for a skills-based CV?
For hard skills, it is easier to identify relevant skills because they will most likely be listed in the job posting. If they are not listed, search for similar job titles and see which hard skills are listed there. Most likely it will be applicable to your desired job.
Reading job descriptions for the same role at other companies will also give you a better understanding of the most sought and important hard skills.
How to select soft skills for a skills-based CV?
Soft skills are a bit different in that sense. They are very broad so you cannot make much wrong by just including them untailored. However, it might make your CV appear general and not specific enough.
Thus, we definitely advise scanning the job description carefully and including some soft skills that are required, some of your own soft skills, and synonyms to stand out among other applicants.
3) Tailor your skills to the job description
Read the whole job description
Do not just look for the Qualifications section in the job description. While it's definitely a good place to start to quickly identify key skills sought by the employer, it's important you scan the whole job description to find less obvious but equally important skills sought by the company.
If the opening line of the job description emphasizes the importance of collaboration for the role, make sure you align your collaboration skills with that!
If the job posting describes a typical working day and you realise you will have many different responsibilities, citing flexibility and an eye for detail will surely be relevant skills to include.
If the job description emphasizes high levels of engagement with customers, communication and interpersonal skills may be relevant skills to include.
Dive into the company's website
Research the company's values and culture. Translate those into skills. Company websites are perfect places to get to know more about the employer and its current team. Imagine reading about the company's pride in putting international customers at the centre of their business (this is an obvious one, but you get the drift). Try to showcase yourself as a people person with strong intercultural skills!
Search for the same job title at a different company
Knowing which skills are sought by other companies for the same role will help you gain a better understanding of the skills you need to include, especially which hard skills. In addition, you will learn different terminologies and synonyms, of which the use is important to set yourself apart from other candidates.
For example, where some firms may use the word "teamwork", others may refer to it as "collaboration" or "group mentality".
Harmonise your skills
Try to make your skills complementary. The whole package is what makes you an attractive applicant.
If the company needs a team player, communication skills are a good complementary skill
For leadership, you want to mention empathy and emotional intelligence
For problem-solving, creativity is a good match
4) Start writing in sections
Section 1: Personal details
In this section, make sure to list:
Phone number, including the country code
LinkedIn profile link
Make sure that the details you are referring to are up to date, especially if you are adapting an old resume.
Is your LinkedIn not up to date? You don't have a profile? Book a meeting with us if you need us to craft a professional LinkedIn profile or optimize your existing profile for you.
Section 2: Profile summary
This section will serve as both an introduction to your CV and a summary of your profile.
It should be 2 to 4 sentences and highlight:
Your current job title/area of expertise
How many years of experience you have in this area
Your key achievements
Your key relevant skills
How you can contribute to the company/department/team objectives.
Section 3: Soft skills
List your soft skills and elaborate on them. For example, being good at collaborating can mean many different things - Are you reliable? Are you good at listening to others? Do you create a team-friendly environment?
Be specific about the skill you list. If you can refer to training or another experience that helped you develop that skill, mention it here too. Give concrete examples!
Section 4: Hard skills
Continue by listing your hard skills and illustrating how you put them to use. As you did for your soft skills, try providing concrete examples. The example in this article focuses on soft skills, hence the decision to allocate more space to them.
However, if you feel the emphasis should be placed on your hard skills feel free to do so by allocating bullet points to describing them!
Section 5: Professional experience
If you possess professional experience you feel could add value to your skills-based CV, feel free to add it.
Make sure to include:
If relevant, allocate 1-2 bullet points to describe your main achievements and contributions to your previous workplace.
Section 6: Academic background/education
The goal of this section is that recruiters see that you fulfil the educational background requirement.
Make sure to include:
This is what you should end up with!
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