When reviewing resumes, recruiters are looking to answer two questions:
What do you have experience doing?
What are your areas of expertise?
The first question is easy to answer, but the second one is more nuanced. For job seekers early in their career, this is usually covered by a skills section, but if you’re pursuing a more senior role, you may benefit from an areas of expertise section instead.
Skills vs Areas of Expertise
If it sounds like an areas of expertise section is a lot like a skills section, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean they can be used interchangeably! Notably, an areas of expertise section:
- Is usually found on senior-level and executive resumes
- Is broader than a skills section
- Can go at the top of your resume
Let’s dive into areas of expertise in a little more detail.
How to list areas of expertise on your resume
- Create a section underneath your executive summary and above your work experience.
- Title the section ‘Areas of Expertise.’
- (Optional) Include subheadings for key areas like finance, technology, management, etc.
- List 10-15 core competencies that relate to the position you’re applying for.
- Avoid buzzwords and soft skills — stick to hard skills only.
- Expand on those areas of expertise in your professional accomplishments.
Here’s an example of areas of expertise listed on an executive resume:
Tips for including areas of expertise on a resume
List areas of expertise at the top of your resume
Unlike a skills section, which belongs at the bottom of your resume, you may want to showcase your areas of expertise more prominently. Include your areas of expertise at the top of your resume, right below your executive summary and above your professional experience.
List specific skills separately
Areas of expertise isn’t just a fancy word for a skills section. Avoid listing specific skills like “Microsoft Project” —a single software program is too narrow to be considered an area of expertise. Instead, consider the broader theme of your skills, like “Project Management.”
If you do want to list specific technical skills, you can include both a traditional skills section (at the bottom of your resume) and an areas of expertise section (at the top).
This is one thing areas of expertise have in common with a traditional skills section. Avoid listing vague buzzwords or soft skills, like “Teamwork” or “Communication.” Because it’s in such a prominent position, your areas of expertise section needs to add real value to your resume, which means highlighting industry and role-specific keywords that recruiters (and Applicant Tracking Systems) are looking for.
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What to list as areas of expertise
Obviously, the specific areas of expertise you list on your resume will depend on your skills and experience, but here are some common areas of expertise you can consider listing on a senior level resume:
- Operations Management
- Performance Improvement
- Software Development
- Product & Lifecycle Management
- Analytics & Data Science
- Business Development
- Technology Strategy & Execution
- IT & DevOps
- Strategic Planning
- Sales & Marketing
- Client Services
- Change Management
- Talent Acquisition
- Sales Leadership
- Healthcare Leadership
- Partnership Development
- Mergers & Acquisition
- User Experience Design & Strategy
- Executive Leadership
- Scaling for Growth
Areas of expertise: What not to do
Don’t include areas of expertise on your resume just because you think it looks good. Only senior level resumes need an areas of expertise section. Entry level and mid-level resumes should stick to a standard skills section at the bottom of the resume.
Other sections to include on a senior resume
Senior level resumes differ in more ways than substituting areas of expertise for skills. As a key difference, senior resumes are longer — the standard length for an executive resume is two pages, compared to one page for entry or mid-level resumes.
In addition to areas of expertise, senior management resumes can include:
- Resume title
- Keyword-rich headline highlighting core competencies
- Executive summary listing the scope of your experience and top accomplishments
- Career highlights