Last in our series on what to include in a CV, we take a look at how to highlight your hard and soft skills, and what you should write in your interests section.
So far, we’ve explored several elements that contribute to a strong CV. We started by looking at the basics, what personal information to include, and your professional profile. Next, we examined employment history and education. Now, we take a look at key skills and interests.
These last two sections can be tricky, and, depending on the type of CV you’re creating, may take different forms. However, understanding the purpose of each and how to structure them can give your application the edge. We explore each section in more detail.
Should I include them?
People often question whether or not they need to have specific sections for key skills and interests. In reality, there’s not a straightforward answer. Whether or not you include them, how you structure them, and where you add them can vary significantly. It all depends on the type of role you’re applying for, its requirements, and the style of CV you’re aiming for. It also depends on each section:
You’re going to need to highlight your skills one way or another. We’ll explore the finer details of how to do this further down. However, you may want to emphasise them more with their own section if you’re creating a skills-based CV.
Alternatively, they could be a separate list of bullet points to one side of your document. In other cases, you might want to incorporate your skills into your professional experience section. Think about the role you’re applying for, and which format hiring managers are likely going to respond to best.
Some recruiters feel that your hobbies and interests play an important role in showing you’re a well-rounded individual. Others think that they’re only relevant for things like determining cultural fit or if it’s a close decision between candidates. Whether or not you include this section again depends on whether or not you think it relevant when writing your application.
Your CV is a document that’s designed to showcase your skills and experience. Highlighting your abilities shows employers that you’re the right fit for a particular role. As such, it’s vital you approach them in a way that’s going to impress those who are reading your CV. Here are some points to bear in mind:
Hard and soft skills
Employers often look for candidates who have a mix of hard and soft skills, so it’s worthwhile making sure you highlight both:
- Hard skills. These are the job-specific abilities that you learn during your education, training, and experience. They’re the teachable skills that are required for specific jobs and include things like coding and programming. Make sure you list all certifications, and where possible, convert your hard skills, into hard certifications. (Looking for help with certification exams, see Certification Questions.)
- Soft skills. These are the transferable skills that make you a good employee. They’re often the personality traits and interpersonal abilities that you can apply to just about any role. Examples include leadership and communication.
To show that you’re a well-rounded candidate, you should make sure that you cover a range of both hard and soft skills throughout your CV.
You probably have more skills than you realise, particularly when you account for the different types mentioned above. If you’re not sure which ones to include, there are several ways you can narrow down the ones worth talking about:
- Check the job description. The best place to get inspiration about what skills to include in your CV is the job specs of the roles you’re applying to. You can easily identify what the employer is looking for and compare that to your own experience. Additionally, check out your current job description if you can find it, as this will also have info on which skills you possess.
- Consider your strengths. Are there particular tasks in which you excel? Have you won awards or commendations for specific areas? By identifying these strengths, you can include them in your CV with examples.
- Ask the opinion of others. Your co-workers past and present might be able to help you get an outside perspective on your key abilities. Ask them about both the hard and soft skills you often demonstrate.
With these methods, you may end up with quite a long list. To narrow it down, you should choose the skills that are best-suited to the roles you’re applying for. You then need to use these to sell yourself on your CV.
How to include them
Once you know which skills you need to include on your CV, it’s time to think about how to fit them into your document. There are several approaches you might want to try:
- A skills-based approach. If you’re changing industries or have little experience, a skills-based CV can highlight your transferable skills. In this instance, the section will appear towards the top of your document and can have more detail about the relevant skills.
- A skills section. If you want to draw particular attention to certain industry-relevant skills you’ve acquired, you might want to include a sub-section underneath your professional experience details.
- An interwoven approach. If space is already at a premium on your CV, you may want to consider including details about your skills in your professional experience section. You can use examples of your achievements that highlight the relevant skills.
Whichever approach you take, make sure to be succinct and clear when writing about your key skills.
On the surface, the interests or hobbies section of your CV seems like it should be straightforward. However, many people find it difficult to know what to put or whether to include the section at all. Yet a well-crafted selection of your hobbies can show a bit of personality, as well as make you stand out from the crowd. Here are some tips on how to approach it:
One of the benefits of this section is that it gives you a chance to demonstrate some more relevant skills for the role. Use it as an opportunity to reinforce your credentials as the best candidate for the position. For example, you may have a hobby that uses some of the skills the employer is looking for, such as blogging, that’s worth pinpointing if you’re applying for a job as a content writer.
You don’t have to link every hobby directly to the role itself. This section can also highlight some of your transferable soft skills. Teamwork, leadership, problem-solving can all be demonstrated through activities outside of work.
What to avoid
You might not have any particularly relevant hobbies, and that’s totally fine. If that’s the case, don’t be tempted to make things up just for the sake of writing something. You run the risk of being caught out in an interview, which isn’t a great impression to give.
Similarly, you should avoid the boring clichés that you might see other people include. Things like ‘socialising with friends’ are true of just about everyone on the planet, and it doesn’t really give the recruiter any further information about you.
If you can’t think of anything to include, you can skip this section entirely.
How to include them
When it comes to writing this section, there are a couple of approaches you can take:
- A bullet point list. If you take this approach, include more than just a list of single words. Try and add some context and flavour to each example, demonstrating the skills you use.
- A profile. As with your professional profile, you can include a brief account of your interests outside of work. Again, you can give details about how you apply your skills when carrying out these hobbies.
That concludes our series on what to include in a CV. These two sections can be tricky to approach, and there are several methods you can apply when doing so. Ultimately, they both represent a chance to add some extra context to your skills and experience.
If you’re looking for some more inspiration on how to write a CV, check out our article on free CV templates. You’ll find some job-specific examples of how you can structure your document and what to include.