Should the “Skills” section be stricken from the resume template?
The “Skills” section is a great place for unique abilities that are relatively new and cutting edge. If you know a coding language that very few people know, that would be a good thing to put there. Back in my day you could put the computer language “Pascal” as a skill. Or “Microsoft Office.”
But now that those are either outdated or ubiquitous things, it’s a waste of precious space on a one-page resume. If you have made it through high school and college, employers will go ahead and assume that you are proficient in Microsoft Office (even if you’re not proficient in all the features of Excel, your education should equip you with the skills to quickly figure it out on the job should you need it—you don’t have to list it).
The word “Spanish” listed as a solitary skill is equally problematic but in a different way. It doesn’t tell employers much.
Instead, you should use other parts of your resume to show how you have used Spanish in a professional context.
There are a lot of ways to do this. One example: instead of simply listing “Spanish” in the skills section of your resume, move it to one of the descriptions in the “Experience” section. If you volunteered at the university hospital and your description of that experience already says “greeted patients,” simply add to it: “greeted patients in English and Spanish.” That shows how you have used your Spanish in a professional context and gives an employer an idea of your level and fluency (you are not fluent enough to practice medicine in Spanish, but you can greet people and engage in basic conversations.)
This ties back to the words to avoid in a resume that was in a Forbes.com article this fall such as experienced, dynamic, good communicator. It’s not that those aren’t important things to have on your resume, but rather that you have to use the resume to show that you are experienced, dynamic, and a good communicator.
It’s the same with Spanish–listing it as a skill is an empty descriptor, adding it to your experience greeting patients in a hospital context shows that you are a good communicator, experienced with using both Spanish and English in a medical setting, and comfortable with Spanish at the level of casual conversation.
Next week we’ll get into the thornier issue of how to rank your own level of language fluency on your resume.