Should You Highlight Skill Levels on a Resume?

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August 17, 2023
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min read

The skills on your resume are some of the most important resume elements for potential employers to see.

By incorporating your skills (whether hard technical skills like data analysis and programming language or soft skills like critical thinking and people skills like collaboration) in your professional summary, work experience, or in a dedicated "Skills" section, you’re demonstrating to potential employers that you can do what they need you to do.

But not all skills are created equal. Maybe you’re an expert computer programmer but only a beginner at conflict resolution. Should you let hiring managers know whether you’re a beginner, intermediate-level, advanced, or expert at each skill?

The short answer? No.

3 key takeaways:

  • Why representing your skill level on your resume isn’t the best option
  • What to do instead of listing your skill levels on a resume
  • How to use Teal’s AI Resume Builder to easily categorize and incorporate your skills in a way that appeals to hiring managers

The debate: Resume skill levels

Your skills are personal and professional attributes.

Hard skills are typically concrete and measurable. And you can acquire them through education or on-the-job experience. Soft skills are are those non-technical skills that enable you to navigate a professional environment, work well with others, and achieve your goals with complementing hard skills. 

The idea of resume skill levels is categorizing skills—specifically in your resume "Skills" section—according to how proficient you are in each one.

It might involve visual skill level categories and ranking the level (for example, one out of five for each one) or markers (like “novice,” “intermediate,” or “expert”) to describe your proficiency.

The idea (although misguided) is that it’s helpful to define skill levels on your resume to be transparent with potential employers about what you’re great at and what you’re still working on.

But in reality, this doesn’t make much of a difference: The best route is not to include your resume skill levels at all. The only thing prospective employers need to know is that you have the relevant job-specific skills and experience that they're looking for.

Dismantling resume skill levels: The risks and pitfalls

Adding skill proficiency levels on your resume generally isn’t a good idea.

Do you really want to advertise the fact that you’re a “beginner” at an important skill that’s in the job description? Probably not. Recruiters and potential employers could all too easily misunderstand, passing you by when you’re exactly what their company needs. 

Subjectivity, overstatement, and understatement

Skill levels—particularly for resume soft skills like communication, interpersonal skills, or time management—are hard to quantify. Most soft skills are not objective.

For example, you might think you’re a novice leader because you've only led a team for a short period of time, but you could have stronger leadership skills than you realize.

The risks of misunderstanding skill levels

Don’t run the risk of selling yourself short (or of doing the opposite and overstating your professional attributes and qualifications). It’s hard to self-assess your skill levels—and it’s also difficult to compare soft skills and those measurable technical skills that are as different as apples and oranges.

That’s why the best method is to incorporate your professional skills that align with the job description of the role you're applying for in every section of your resume to showcase impact. And then, if you'd like, include a list of relevant skills without levels—letting recruiters come to their own conclusions.

If you’re good enough at a certain skill to include it on your resume, that’s all a hiring manager needs to know.

The art of representing skills on a resume: Focus on competencies, not levels

Instead of putting skill levels on your resume, consider emphasizing your competencies, achievements, and impact instead.

For example, did your strong Agile project management and communication skills allow you to confidently lead a team of 10+ that completed a project, boosting revenue by 4%? If those are relevant to your target job, pull those metrics and include them in your work history achievements to prove your skills in Agile, project management, leadership, and communication.

Concrete examples of your results show how you’ve used your skills to have an impact. 

As a note, soft skills and hard skills for your resume can be easily listed in a dedicated "Skills" section, too. But in some cases—such as with language skills (which languages you read, write, or speak)—it's important to be specific about the skill itself if it's relevant to the role you're applying to. (For example, if you can speak Spanish but are unable to write it, you would include "Spoken Spanish" on your list of skills.)

Teal’s AI Resume Builder includes a "Skills" section that helps accurately represent your abilities. Type your relevant soft and hard skills into this section, and they’ll appear on your resume near the bottom.

(And if you need a starting point to help you brainstorm, the Skills Workbook is a free resource that walks you through what you’re good at, including a long list of sample skills.)

Translating skills into achievements: Real-life examples

Skills are great to have, but once you’ve developed one, you don’t just set it on your shelf to look pretty.

Skills are a means to an end.

If your resume doesn’t show how you’ve actively used your hard and soft skills to achieve results for your employers, there’s no point. This is why you need to demonstrate your abilities by highlighting soft and hard skills examples with the accomplishments and experiences that best show them off.

Examples of resume skills

Your resume achievements should directly correlate with the skills listed in your skills section. And they shouldn't just show that you can perform basic tasks, but should also be relevant to the role you're applying to. Any notable contributions or achievements that you’ve made in your previous roles are fair game. Think, impact.

Use measurable, specific numbers where possible, and list your accomplishments in bullet points for easy scanning.

For example, the following accomplishment could represent a hard skill of email marketing software and an advanced knowledge of graphic design:

  • Designed and launched a successful holiday email marketing campaign that generated over $250,000 revenue in four days

Another example of translating a hard skill into a specific accomplishment may sound like (make sure to get those strong action verbs in there!):

  • Managed a $1M advertising budget and negotiated rates with media outlets, resulting in a 20% increase in ad placements and a 10% decrease in advertising costs

Or demonstrate your soft skill of time management, relationship management, or team management with an achievement written like any of the few examples, below:

  • Successfully delivered a complex, cross-functional project ahead of schedule and under budget, resulting in a cost savings of $500,000
  • Generated $5M in new business through networking and referral sources, exceeding quarterly sales goals by 25%
  • Managed a team of flight attendants to consistently achieve a 95% or higher on-time departure rate, resulting in improved customer satisfaction and increased revenue

In this case, a technical project manager demonstrated their ability to work on complex tasks as a team:

  • Provided technical guidance, programming skills, and support to other teams, resulting in a 25% increase in team productivity and a 20% reduction in technical issues

In the same resume, they also pulled out an achievement to show how they put their skill at cloud computing into practice.

  • Designed and implemented a cloud-based solution for a client, resulting in a 40% reduction in infrastructure costs and a 25% increase in system reliability

If you want to list one or two of your most notable achievements up in your professional summary rather than in your “Work Experience” section, this could sound like:

  • Leveraged cutting-edge motion graphics and animation to create high-impact commercials for national brands including Nike and Microsoft

Another example, this one for an IT analyst, draws on a specific numerical achievement:

  • Demonstrated successful problem-solving expertise to quickly resolve software issues and streamline operations through an online portal, resulting in tracking and cost savings of 3,000 hours in labor

Your skills also need to line up with your work experience on your resume. Make sure you’re highlighting your professional background in a way that demonstrates the skills you’ve developed and how you use them.

Teal's AI Resume Builder uses AI technology to pull relevant information from your resume and generate impactful achievements.

Leadership skills: The x-factor on your resume

As you’re describing your skill levels for your resume, don’t forget about showcasing strong leadership skills on your resume. These key skills are a highly valuable way of setting yourself apart from other candidates—elevating your profile to make hiring managers take notice.

Leadership skills show that you can solve problems, make decisions, and contribute to organizational growth. Example leadership skills include:

  • Strategic thinking
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Team building
  • Decision-making

Once you’ve brainstormed which ones apply best to you (and to the job posting you have in mind), add these skills to your resume the same way you added all of your other skills: by showing, not telling.

You don’t just have “strong” or “expert” people management skills—you “successfully managed a diverse team of 10, fostering a positive work environment with 98% of team satisfaction.”

Leverage the Teal AI Resume Builder

Adding a skill level scale on your resume might seem tempting. But in reality, letting your skill-driven accomplishments speak for themselves is the best way to show hiring managers that you’re exactly who they need.

You can design a resume based around your competencies rather than your skill levels by drawing out the most relevant achievements to showcase impact—proof you have the skills required to get the job done.

Bring your resume skills to life without the need for levels by using Teal’s AI Resume Builder. Packed with features that help you write a strong, metrics-driven resume, the "Skills" section pairs perfectly with work experience to result in an optimized resume format that shows off your skills at every level.

Teal also provides additional valuable features for job seekers such as a Job Application Tracker and hundreds of free resource articles.

Click here to start enhancing your job search today. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I effectively display skill levels on my resume without overcomplicating it?

To effectively display skill levels on your resume, use a simple and intuitive system such as categorizing skills into 'Expert', 'Intermediate', and 'Beginner', or using visual indicators like filled dots or bars. Ensure it's easy for recruiters to quickly understand your proficiency level at a glance, without distracting from your overall qualifications.

Is it better to list skills with levels on a resume or to provide context through achievements?

While listing skills with levels provides a quick snapshot of your abilities, it's often more impactful to provide context through achievements. For example, instead of just stating "Expert in Python," you could say "Developed a complex data analysis tool using Python, resulting in a 20% increase in efficiency." This approach demonstrates how you've applied your skills effectively.

Can including skill levels on my resume negatively affect my job application if I'm not an expert in certain areas?

Including skill levels can be a double-edged sword. If not done carefully, it might highlight your weaknesses. It's important to focus on the skills that are most relevant to the job and show a willingness to learn and improve. If you're not an expert, consider emphasizing your potential for growth and examples of how you've quickly learned new skills in the past.

Hailey Hudson

Hailey Hudson is a full-time freelance writer and content marketer based out of Atlanta, Georgia. She writes in the healthcare, digital marketing, education, and pet industries.

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