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Cover image for Do not put skill bars on your resume!
Timo
Timo

Posted on • Updated on

Do not put skill bars on your resume!

I see a lot of programming beginners doing webdev-projects building skill bars. When I was starting and done programming for about one or two years, in my perception skill bars were common sense to show your skill level. So in a result, something similar to this (Fig.1) had found its way onto my first real resume.

my resume skills

Fig.1 - Skill section on my resume

Nowadays, I think skill bars are an illogical style of presentation and completely meaningless.

Visually attracting

A few years ago, my opinion was completely different. I thought, skill bars are a cute-looking point system and a creative way to visualize your skills.

Meaningless

But even if it looks cute, it is completely meaningless.
When creating a skill bar you are also creating some kind of point scale system, e.g. 10 points, 5 points or 100 percent.
But how do you compare your skills to that? To rate your skills equally on your scale, you would need to create some sort of criteria and equal tests for each one which measures the skill on your 10 point - or whatever - scale.

When not showing your criteria, the employer will not know what the criteria for your rating were. Do you even know?
Also, the point system makes no sense.

Example: English 4/5
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Answer one question: What is the difference between 3/5 and 4/5?
I don't know, probably there is no difference because the points mean nothing.

Equal difficulty

Seeing such skill bars gives the impression that every skill has the same difficulty.

Example:
    Java 4/5
    Python 3/5
    HTML 5/5
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

Basically saying it's a unique point scale comparing completely different languages or skills on that scale, no matter of difference in quality and difficulty.
It makes no sense!

Shows design skills

Some people say skill bars show web-development or design skills because
graphics like skill bars stand out of the application or resume and maybe bias the employer positively.
But even people on Reddit dislike this trend!

Waste of space

Skill bars use a lot of space which could be used much better, e.g. to provide more information about your skill set. When considering graphics can't be read by machines (ATS systems), skill bars seem to be quite a large waste of space.
Also, graphics on a resume distract from the professional appearance of your resume and make it look more like a flyer - what you probably not want.

Subjective and unreliable

But the biggest issue with skill bars is that they are subjective and unreliable because people are bad in rating themselves.

rate yourself

According to Emilie Thewon, a Marketing and Business Development Director,"self-evaluating their own performance, competences and skills is flawed and inaccurate" for the most people.
Studies show that intelligent people often think deeper about the problem and rather rate themselves lower for tasks they are good at, where less intelligent persons or people who have less expertise in a certain topic rather rate themselves higher than an objective rating would be.

lies on job applications

Fig.2 - Most common lies on job applications according to CNBC (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/19/how-many-job-seekers-lie-on-their-job-application.html) originally from Checkster (https://www.checkster.com/are_you_hiring_charlatans)

To accomplish this, many people cheat in their resume to have a favorable effect on the employer. As you can see in Fig.2 misrepresenting yourself in the application seems to be almost normal nowadays.

Solutions

In my opinion the only thing what matters in the skill section is what you have worked with before.
So a better practice is just listing your skills and show your exact skill level suitable to the type of skill, e.g. "basic", "proficiency level" or "experienced". Also, you can add facts like certifications, degree or licenses.
If your resume is online you can show projects, link them and maybe add what you used to complete that projects.


People using skill bars are "generally quite intelligent but have very poor social skills and lack self-awareness" ~ Brian Grubba, District Manager


Please feel free to write your opinion in the comment section!

tim012432 image

Timo

Top comments (31)

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darkwiiplayer profile image
π’Š©Wii πŸ’–πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œπŸ’πŸ’Ÿ

Rating your own skill this precisely is an invitation to the dunning-kruger effect. You will rarely know how much you're missing until you're getting very close to really mastering something.

And what does the end of a progress bar even represent?

Proficiency? Then you shouldn't have anything on your resume that's not a full bar anyway. There's no point in advertising that you've heard of a technology but can't even reliably work with it on your own.

Or is it mastery? Then how can anybody trust your evaluation of your own skills? Once again, this metric is very susceptible to the dunning-kruger effect. The further you are from mastering a skill, the less reliably you can tell what's left for you to learn.

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anuranroy profile image
Anuran Roy

@darkwiiplayer I completely agree with you on this one. Some of my friends barely know HTML/CSS and say that they know Frontend Dev. They even rate themselves as 4/5 often on these bars.

While many seniors I see often rate themselves as a 2/5 or at max a 3/5.

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hexdom profile image
Helge-Kristoffer Wang

Would it be fair to use keywords like; 'beginner', 'intermediate', 'expert' and so on instead? At least that wouldn't make it seem like you know everything, but tells the reader something about what level you consider yourself to be in.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

I personally would prefer such keywords as description.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

I completely agree with you.

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tnypxl profile image
tnypxl • Edited on

I don’t think the skill bar is the problem. It’s the dishonesty that often follow them. But I will say, they can be useful in a digital-only setting.

It’s not that hard to write a couple lines of text presenting a job experience as more significant than it actually was.

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seanmay profile image
Sean May

Assume that I am looking at 2 resumes; both use skill bars. One uses a 5-star system, and one uses a 10-pip system. Ok, so each star is worth 2 pips.

The 5-star candidate has 4 years of experience at two companies that do extensive front-end work.
They rated themselves a 3 on HTML, a 2 on CSS, and a 4 on JS.

The 10-pip candidate has done a 6-month internship, and a 3-month bootcamp, and are looking to get their first role.
They rated themselves a 7 on HTML, a 5 on CSS and a 9 on JS.

  • Does that mean that the intern is better than the developer with work experience (it's certainly possible, but I'm asking if I can tell that, based on the fact that the intern's 9 would be equal to the employee's 4.5... but the employee only has a 4).
  • I've published libraries in JS for all kinds of things; I've hosted seminars and workshops and conference talks; published articles; architected and engineered applications, mentored, and led multiple teams, simultaneously, while working with multi-billion dollar clients in several regulated spaces (medical, financial, insurance, et cetera) in multiple paradigms... does the intern's 9 mean that they are better than I am, if I only consider myself, like... a 7.5, compared to people like Brian Lonsdorf and Reginald Braithwaite and John Carmack and Michael Abrash? Again, I'm not saying that it's impossible; Carmack was a dropout, and I never went to university in the first place, so maybe this intern really is John Carmack levels of good... but whose 9 is it? What does that 9 represent?

Is it the 90th percentile of all people on the globe who are familiar with JS?
Is it the 90th percentile of the people in the intern's class / work-placement who are familiar with JS?
Is it the 90th percentile of the intern's relative perception of their own skills... where they have exactly one 10/10 (gymnastics), and every other skill is relative to their own perceived mastery, compared to their mastery of gymnastics... (which raises a new question... if they are a 10/10 in gymnastics, as it represents their strongest skill, how does their strongest skill relate to the strongest people in that discipline? How do they match up versus Simone Biles, because their 10/10 might only be a 2, compared to her... which means that their other skills must only be worse from there).

It all goes back to looking at those two resumes a 5-star and a 10-pip. Which one do you call for an interview?

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tnypxl profile image
tnypxl

The point of the scale is to see how they rate their own fluency against their actual experience. There is no baseline or litmus to base it against. It doesn't matter what scale the other guy is using at all.

It's a way to frame the conversation. And not a means for doing flat comparisons between candidates.

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seanmay profile image
Sean May

I understand that is the intent of the person who is putting it on the resume. That makes complete sense, and if people decide they want it for the aesthetic or the novelty, regardless, who am I to say no?

Instead, I am asking how a hiring manager, a talent scout, et cetera, will be able to tell all of the relevant scores apart, relative to one another, if you have 3 people with score bars, and 0 of those people provide reference points for their scoring systems, and 0 of those people provide justification for the scores they have chosen, and you don't have enough time in the day to review all GitHub profiles to choose who to move forward with, and rather, review GitHub in a secondary screening process.

A few, simple words would remove ambiguity in the eyes of the scout, and help that process along.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author • Edited on

That's why I wrote this blog post. Of course I see why someone put this on their resume. I did it too. It looks nice and of course I would never say: Never do this! There are use cases and employers who prefer graphics and visual representations of the skills on resumes. I'm just very interested in points why you should and why you shouldn't. In my opinion it would be the best solution just to provide a GitHub link to show what you are able to do and work with, of course πŸ˜‚
That's not always possible I know.
I'm not an employer and it would be very interesting what the opinions of real team managers are.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

Of course you can also lie without using skill bars, but I think the system of scoring yourself leads into bigger temptation.

And btw I also think they're looking quite nice on a webpage, so just to practice a bit web-development they are a good project.

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wearethreebears profile image
Liam Hall

While I completely agree that the figures are somewhat meaningless, I think it does help visualise which areas a candidates feels are their relative strengths and weaknesses are. For example:

PHP: 2/10
JavaScript: 7/10
HTML: 8/10
CSS: 8/10

Their last job title may have been as a β€œFull-stack web developer” but they’re clearly more front-end focused. Whether it’s visually through info graphics or through words they’ll tell you the same thing.

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wcnewell profile image
William Clark Newell

I agree, however, I was just advised 2 days ago by a big wig at Adobe, who has interviewed 700+ people, who is mentoring me and took a red pen to my resume to keep the self-rating stars on my skills section. I even asked him directly if it was ridiculous. He said keep it.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

Okay. This is very interesting. Do you know why he wants you to keep it? I'm very interested in his points.

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wcnewell profile image
William Clark Newell

His advice may be particular to my case, I'm wanting to get back into tech after a rough go at it 2 years ago. He wants me to keep this because "everybody's doing it" and best for me to fit in at this time. He said after a few successful years in tech, I could dare to be more bold with my style choices and breaking from current norms.

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mccurcio profile image
Matt Curcio

Skill bars are a HUGE trend in resumes. Personally I like the way it looks (pretty colors, some going up or down or left or right) BUT it is a big no-no. Did the American Bar Assoc. give those bars? Did the Alcohol Licensing Board tell you that Bars are this long? I don't get it.

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rammina profile image
Rammina • Edited on

I don't really get the point of skill bars and rating your own skills using a score.

It's a vague measurement and often leads to misrepresentation.

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gregsithole profile image
Greg Sithole

Couldn't agree more. I've noticed that in a lot of resume templates, you'll find the Skills section in this format and it really doesn't make any sense.

I think you could expand more on the solutions though, like providing examples from resumes and personal developer websites as well.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

I just wanted to point at other possible ways to show your skills in the last paragraph, but I agree that a example picture would have fit good in there.

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factordiceomar profile image
OmarC

I agree, but for a different reason. ResumΓ© should be about pointing out your strengths. Using these rating bars is merely pointing out your weaknesses. Personally, I don’t include any skill/language/framework on my resumΓ© unless I feel confident to undertake a big project with it.

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finfin profile image
Fin Chen

The main downside of skill bars is readability.
How should I know what a full skill bar means? Everybody have their own interpretations.

But to some of this articles point, especially "Equal difficulty" and "subjective and unreliable", the solution didn't help much.

From my experience with many HRs and interviews, skill bar is used to attract HR who needs to filter lots of candidates from a pile of resumes. In this case, skill bar does have its strength, it's eye catching.

TBH, engineers don't like skill bars, because it tells too few informations (so as word like "proficient"). That's when experience and side project and some github link comes in. These are the real content engineers care about.

In short: Skill bars + level of skill in words for HR / ATS, real code or project content for engineers.

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dim0147 profile image
Bon

I have been ask how do you rate your skill from 1 to 10 in the interview, guest what I said

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

Step 1: Start a discussion with your future employer about their interview questions
πŸ˜‚

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jhanna60 profile image
John

I see this alot when reviewing resumes and I've never thought to myself that this is a useful addition. I'd prefer to see a list of skills and an honest overview of how much involvement the candidate has had with them. The rest can be chatted about in the interview.

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chiragshivam profile image
Chivi

That's very insightful, thanks for sharing

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maxpou profile image
Maxence Poutord

Every time I see a candidate with a "5/5" that misses a question make me think he lied on his resume.

Same as you, I splitted my skills into 3 categories: familiar, experiemented and proficient.

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author

I think some people and also me in the past think they have to rate their skills somehow in a resume. Skill bars seem nearly perfect for this. When creating them the compulsion to make at least one bar 100 percent is strong, whether or not it makes sense or even can be true.

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pragatiprakashan profile image
Vishal Kumar

I think we should show skills in our Resume, so that recruiters any view and shortlist.

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monographix profile image
monographix • Edited on

Or just add a visually subtle explanation line of the rating scale? .... β€œ100% equals proficient", "5/5 represents numerous projects completion using this toolβ€œ, etc

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tim012432 profile image
Timo Author • Edited on

By doing this the problem of applying the same scale on different types of skill still exists. In my opinion it makes more sense just to list the skills and explain it in the same way you done it.
For example:

  • Python: proficient
  • Figma: numerous projects using this

etc.
Just my opinion
But I think by doing it like you explained you don't get completely rid of the problems occurring by using a skill bar presentation.

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