How to Organize the Skills in Your Resume

Have you applied to tons of job posts, only to find that you never get contacted?

It's probably the case that your resume got tossed aside, simply because the keywords (read: skills) on your resume were either in the wrong order or using the wrong wording.

The Truth About How Resumes are Screened

The dirty secret behind recruiting is that initial screening is cold and mechanical. You either list what they are looking for or you don't. Otherwise the ATS systems used by 98% of Fortune 500 companies will filter you out automatically!

The people who work in HR are not specialists in your field. They are specialists in their field. Not only that, but they have limited time as well. It makes sense that they would want to automate a task that they were going to do in a mechanical way anyway.

So take a little time to organize your skills. After all, you don't want to lose out on a job opportunity because you wrote 'JS' instead of 'JavaScript' or 'Word' instead of 'MS Word'.

Custom Tailor to the Job Post

Let's face it, you have lots of skills.

But each job you apply to is looking for something different.

If you have all the skills they are looking for, why would you lead them to believe otherwise?

You are only shooting yourself in the foot if you use the exact same resume for every job application.

You should be custom-tailoring your resume to each posting, putting the skills they are looking for at the top, and removing irrelevant skills from the page.

In addition to having a much more tailored and focused skill section on your resume, you will also free up room for your education and experience, which will be the focus of your interview.

Don't Let the Resume be Your First Impression

Your resume is a necessary formality when applying to jobs, but it shouldn't be the only tool at your disposal.

Using LinkedIn or other social media you can find the people in the team you are looking to join. When you reach out to them, you effectively bypass the HR gatekeepers and are able to make a great impression.

If they like you, they will go back to HR and make sure your resume makes it past their screening.

Alternatively, you may get inside information on the job posting.

Most job posts include lots of boilerplate text added by HR that doesn't mean very much. By speaking directly with a team member, you can find out what really matters to them and then prepare accordingly.

And it is also possible that by speaking with the team you learn that this really isn't the sort of place at which you want to work, saving yourself some time and hassle in the application process.


The people who will initially screen your resume are typically HR representatives who scan for keywords and skills.

The primary goal of your resume is to pass through this hurdle, and so you should be writing down the exact skills they are looking for.

By doing research up front, you can learn which skills you need to include, and then create a custom-tailored resume for each job application.

Once you pass through the resume screening, you can move forward to an interview, in which your resume will be much less important than how you present yourself.

P.S. If you think I'm being cynical about corporate HR departments, let me tell you that the truth is much, much worse. I strongly encourage you to read Corporate Confidential, by Cynthia Shapiro. It will really open your eyes and change your approach to career development.