Creating an Effective Skills-Based Resume: 7 Tips for Older Workers 

April 18, 2024

How to craft a resume that showcases your most marketable skills.

A competitive job market means it’s critical to put your best foot forward, starting with writing a great resume. The most common resume format is chronological, which doesn’t always highlight the diverse skills that older workers and people with non-traditional backgrounds offer. Opting for a skills-based resume instead allows you to position yourself as a desirable candidate, regardless of past job titles or educational credentials.

This article will cover the benefits of skills-based resumes for older workers and the top seven tips for creating your own.

Why use a skills-based resume?

The traditional resume may feel like a square peg in a round hole for those with unconventional career backgrounds—be it older workers, career changers, non-traditional education paths, military service or time spent in unpaid caregiving roles. By putting the focus on capabilities instead of chronology, skills-based resumes:

  • Emphasize transferable skills—such as problem-solving, communication and adaptability—acquired through varied life experiences.
  • Address employment gaps positively, emphasizing the richness of your journey and the abilities learned along the way.
  • Prove your accomplishments and achievements, rather than just listing job duties. This can make your resume more compelling to an employer.
  • Prominently feature relevant keywords and industry-specific terminology—a plus for getting through applicant tracking systems (ATS) algorithms.

7 tips for writing a skills-based resume

Older workers can benefit from the unique format of skills-based resumes.

1/ Identify core competencies

Think through your work history and list the top four to six skill areas central to the roles you’re aiming for. These can be so-called “hard” skills, such as project management or accounting, or “soft” skills such as conflict resolution or adaptability.

2/ Research job requirements

Job descriptions nearly always list the exact skills the employer is looking for, making it easy to identify which keywords and qualifications to focus on. Find the keywords that most closely match your experience and use those as section headlines to organize your content.

3/ Write a compelling skills summary

At the top of your resume, include a three to four-sentence summary that highlights your most marketable qualifications and achievements. This allows employers to get a sense of who you are and what value you offer before they dive into the details.

4/ Organize skills into clearly labeled sections

Group your skills and expertise into clear, distinct sections with easy-to-skim headers, like “Project Management” or “Customer Service.” This structured approach lets the hiring manager scan and assess your capabilities.

5/ Include quantifiable achievements

Numbers speak volumes. Whenever you can, back up your skills claims with real, concrete numbers and results such as “Increased annual sales by 10%” or “Streamlined operations to cut costs by 15%.”

6/ Keep it concise

Even though you’re not leading with a traditional work history, you still want to keep your skills-based resume focused and easy to digest. Avoid creating a laundry list. Be selective about highlighting your absolute strongest qualifications for the job.

7/ Ask for help

This is true for any job-search materials. Ask for help finessing language, incorporating stronger keywords and cleaning up errors. The U.S. Department of Labor sponsors free job centers in communities throughout the 50 states. Your local library may have additional support and, of course, there are many free and paid online tools to strengthen your resume.

Overall, a skills-based resume allows you to compete on qualifications—the skills that are truly critical to the role—regardless of your educational background, work history or career stage. The key is to identify the specific competencies gained through your unique path and communicate how they make you a great fit for the job.

This article is part of our series on skills-based resumes. Also check out The Pros and Cons of Skills-Based Resumes for Older Workers.