Add competencies to your resume

Job hunting as terrible. I keep writing about it in the hopes of your experience being a little less terrible based on some lessons I’ve learned.

Before you ever get a chance to pitch yourself, your resume speaks for you. Sometimes the resume speaks better than others. Thankfully, the bar isn’t too high if you know the tricks.

I’ve edited well over 40 resumes for myself, friends, and mentees over the years, and I’ve found one section keeps coming up as the part the gets me to an interview. I call it “competencies.”

To be clear, I don’t assume to be the inventor of this section. I do diligently leverage it and recommend you do the same.

What’s a competency section?

Competencies is the laundry list section where you help resume reviewers and automated ATS (applicatant tracking systems) see you’re at least worth an interview. Here’s what mine looks like as a technically-inclined marketer these days:

· Proficient in GitHub workflows: Git, GitHub, Markdown, Build processes, Linux command line 
· Use of: Docker, Terraform, Kubernetes (Minikube), Ansible, VMware, Grafana 
· Development environment: VSCode, Atom, Vim, dotfiles on Linux (Fedora, Pop!_OS) and macOS 
· Web development: Jekyll, Middleman, Hugo, Wordpress, HTML 
· SEO: Ahrefs, Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics, Google Discover, Moz, Google Sheets
· Productivity: Trello, JIRA, Confluence, Office 365, G Suite, Asana, AirTable, Zapier, IFTTT
· Community platform administration: GitHub, GitLab, Discourse, Slack, Zoom, Discord   
· Cloud fundamentals: AWS, GCP, Azure, Heroku, CI/CD 
· Scripting in Python, Fish shell, Bash, Ruby, Go 

This meaty section is a plac eto list all the stuff I would feel confident using in my job. It’s great in two ways: a quick (human or computer) scan of it will show I know a ton of relevant tooling. Secondly, it’s structure is totally arbitrary, so I can make it make sense no matter what skills I want to show off.

Here’s another example, this time for someone who’s more technical than me and looking for a Sr Engineer position:


- Programming languages: Ruby, Python, JavaScript, Java, Python
- Data management: Hadoop, Teradata, Spark, Tableau, Airflow, SQL, HiveQL
- Frameworks: React.js, Ruby on Rails, Redux.js
- Cloud: AWS Redshift, S3, EC2, EKS, Teradata BevMo Cloud
- Systems: Linux (Fedora, Ubuntu, CentOS), SQL Server
- Productivity: GitHub, Git, Markdown, JIRA, Google Drive, Slack, Postman

The power of this section comes from listing out services by name, like Redshift and S3, as opposed to putting “AWS” down somewhere. (I mean, what does it mean to know AWS? That’s a ton of topics and no specificity for me to think about as a reviewer.)

These sections offer specifics with enough story to pique a reader’s interest. For instance, why did the last person list out data management tooling? Well, she wanted to work on some of them in her next gig. It wasn’t a big part of her past job, but listing them shows them off and gives her a chance to drive the conversation to that topic.

Here’s one last one for someone looking for a Marketing position:


· Social Channels: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Discord, Twitch
· Social Scheduling: Sprinklr, Hootsuite, Buffer, SimplyMeasured
· CMS/Community Platforms: Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, Lithium, Jive SBS, PHPNuke
· Analytics: Google Analytics, Union Metrics, SocialBro, SocialChamp
· Productivity: Office 365, GSuite, Trello, Asana, Aha!, Wunderlist, Basecamp, Slack

Should I have a competency section on my resume?

Yes. Whether you call them “core” or “technical” or just “competencies,” these listicle-esque sections seem to work well enough.

Here are some recommendations for thinking through them:

  • Start with what you want to be seen for knowing. For instance, I wanted to highlight my ability to contribute to open source software, so I started with related tools.
  • Be specific. Vague ideas like “cloud” don’t tell a story. You can use cloud as the keyword at the beginning, then list all the specifics you’re into.
  • Look at your password manager. What tools do you have in there? You have more than you think you do.
  • DON’T list what you don’t know (to the level an interviewer will expect of you). If you have Python under a core competency, you best be able to write Python on command or point to a big project you’ve done in the past. I list languages under “scripting” because that’s the level of expertise I feel confident doing off the top of my head. Keep yourself honest so you don’t get into an awkward discussion about why you listed something.

This section is a complement to well written descriptions of past work and other lists like recognitions, education, side (“additional”) projects, and other points that help both humans and robots process your resume. I highly recommend giving it a try, and I’d love to hear about it on Twitter @mbbroberg.