CV Structure Part 3: Key Skills Section

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CV Structure Part 3: Key Skills Section

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by many employers and job boards to automatically filter CVs.  ATS analyse CVs for concentrations of key words and will then rank the CVs for the recruiter. It is estimated that 70% of CVs are filtered out by ATS before even being read by a human. This means that it has become essential your CV mirrors the key terms and phrases contained within the job description for the role you are applying for. 

What should be included in a key skills section?

A key skills section should contain the key words and phrases associated with the role you are applying for. This can be a mixture of technical/finance skills or other specialisms associated with the role being applied for. Keep the number of skills to below 15. If you have too many it will just look like a sea of words. There is no need for a detailed description, just list skills in terms of one or two words.

Where should a key skills section go?

The key skills section should go underneath the professional profile. It is an important section, and this is why it features early on in the CV. To the human reader it will demonstrate and reaffirm the range and breadth of skills you possess.

Will I need to change the key skills?

Yes, you should tailor this section for each job you apply for. No two job descriptions are written the same way. Your CV needs to be aligned to each specific job description to stand the best chance of getting through ATS systems.

How should it be formatted?

To use space effectively you can use the insert symbol function in Word to add bullet points that run the key skills across the page. You could also create a series of columns and run them vertically. It is best to play around with what format suits your CV best. Do not use the table function within Word as ATS systems can struggle to understand information within tables or headers/footers within a CV. 

This article is written by Neville Rose, Director of CV Writers.

CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers.

In addition to a CV writing service they can help with careers counselling, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and interview coaching. You can get things started with a Free CV Review.

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