On my résumé, in order to emphasize the technologies that I am skilled with I am placing a 'status bar' along with each technology indicating a level of 1 to 5. This is the rough draft:

Resume rough draft

Is it clear that the lines are status bars? How might I make it clear that they indicate my competence levels with the various technologies?

I had originally labelled each level:

1. Hello, world!
2. I can make problems
3. I can solve problems
4. People ask me to solve problems
5. People ask me to make problems

However, with the current layout I feel that the labels just add clutter. Is there any way to integrate the labels to clarify the skill levels?

Additionally, I have in fact made sure that the status bar colour graduations gracefully degrade to greyscale for printing. Is there anything else that I should check for printing, specifically in the context of the status bars?

Edit for clarity: The levels are not arbitrary, but I'm not sure where to put the labels or how to integrate them. This was my original plan, which does illustrate the levels but does not fit into the sidebar:

skill levels

Therefore, an alternative interpretation of this question could be: How might I wedge this graph into the sidebar of the resume?

  • 2
    You might want to read this: graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/questions/15488/… In addition 1 to 5 what? Years? Days? Months? Or is 1 to 5 the number of critical client mistakes you've made with that technology?
    – Scott
    Mar 22, 2015 at 23:12
  • Thank you Scott. It is exactly the issue presented in your link which I would like to resolve with the labels that I mention. The levels are not arbitrary, but I'm not sure where to put the labels or how to integrate them. Thus, this question! Thank you for emphasizing the point that I was trying to get across!
    – dotancohen
    Mar 22, 2015 at 23:21
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    And those techniques would be largely opinion-based. Same as if you asked "what color should I use". That's all I'm saying.
    – Scott
    Mar 23, 2015 at 0:17
  • 1
    For the record, I usually list it as: "Skilled in JavaScript, HTML, CSS. Familiar with SQL, ASP.net, etc". I don't break it down on such a granular level...I'm either skilled at something, or at least familiar with it.
    – DA01
    Mar 23, 2015 at 1:53
  • 1
    I have no idea what kind of school you are attending where prostitution is one of the courses but it sure sounds like a lot of fun!
    – DA01
    Mar 23, 2015 at 1:54

3 Answers 3


I think this is simply too much information. I get the attempt at making it more scannable but at the end of the day, developer positions typically require two things to get you through the door:

  1. whatever tech buzzwords they are looking for are listed as text in the resume to get by the automated key-word scanners and...
  2. You do well in the interview.

As such, I would argue that having this scale of 1-5 for each technology is pure overkill and is only making the resume feel more busy than it is clarifying.

I'd suggest a 2-scale approach. You are either a) skilled in a technology or b) familiar with it.

How you break that down is entirely up to you and is something that will be clarified in the interview stage. I don't think you have to overdo it on the resume.

I'd then break it down as simple text. For your right-column, perhaps something like this:

Technical Skills

Skilled at PHP, MySQL, VIM, Python, Linux, etc...

familiar with HTML, CSS, C#, etc...

  • This is probably going to be the accepted answer as it solves the problem both from the design perspective and from the get-the-job perspective. I'll let the question ferment a bit more to see what others have to say before accepting, though. Thank you!
    – dotancohen
    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:04

Personally I'm not a huge fan of these skill bars. What do they tell you?

So you're 5 blocks on PHP. Does that mean you know everything there is to know about PHP? Nobody knows everything about PHP. Does that mean you use it daily? Is 5 the max? I might assume it is but it also might not be. Bars just seem ambiguous.

How good you are technically is usually something I'd establish during the interview. If you aren't comfortable being interviewed about something, don't put it on your resume as it can only hurt you.

The bars seem frivolous.

That being said, how can we improve your bars?

As an idea, I think including the whole scale on each one might help: enter image description here

This makes it easier to see where the maximum is to the skill bars.

Though it still leaves us asking what the maximum and the minimum means. You mentioned the legend and though it may bring some clarity to the bars it would only serve to clutter and distract from your resume, which is something you yourself recognize.

Maybe this isn't the answer you were looking for but I'd recommend you find a clearer way to display your skills that doesn't rely on bars.

While I was writing this up Scott linked to a similar question where people discussed the value of these bars, which is definitely worth the read.

  • Thanks. In fact, as I replied to Scott, the levels are not arbitrary and that is the purpose of the list: it is a key of what the levels mean. Surely there would be some way to cleverly integrate the key into the resume.
    – dotancohen
    Mar 22, 2015 at 23:23
  • How are they not arbitrary?
    – Hanna
    Mar 23, 2015 at 0:55
  • See the question edit. Each "bar" on the status bar represents a level of confidence in my usage of the tool, by others in my organization. It might not be the most conventional scale, but I find it really serves as an effective [objective function](en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objective_function) to compare competence in varying technologies.
    – dotancohen
    Mar 23, 2015 at 1:09
  • Right but what I mean is that they are still arbitrary because they only mean something to you. The way I would quantify what you know is by how you answer my questions in an interview, not off your graph. But I suppose this is very subjective and we just don't agree :)
    – Hanna
    Mar 23, 2015 at 1:22
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    I have to agree with the arbitraryness. For example my HR person asked me why i have not listed office skills in my CV? And i answered because i dont know it well enough. Then she wondered about this "Still everybody lists office and you are the only one who gets regularily asked to show how to use office". To which i answered "Ah, yes but my skill is in how to find out". So i dont know how to use office compared to my other skills, my absolute levels are still good. Its just hard to quantify if i would use bars office would still not get bar levels...
    – joojaa
    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:52

I get that you want to present this information visually, but the slang you are using to indicate your level of expertise is confusing. I don't know what "I can make problems" and "Other people ask me to make problems" means in terms of coding expertise.

If you label your states with more descriptive words, it would help.

  1. Novice
  2. Familiar/Casual User
  3. Adept
  4. Expert
  5. Creator (As in "I created this thing")

You can also just list the things under their "score." Not as pretty, but gets the information across. Keeping it textual also has the advantage of not breaking the resume reading software used by job websites and large companies.

  • Thank you. My intent was to provide a more objective set of levels, but I now understand that my choice of names was poor. If I switch to using the concise, familiar, one-word level names that you suggest then how might I add them to the resume? Thank you for your insight!
    – dotancohen
    Mar 23, 2015 at 1:24
  • That's really up to you. You can do a grid/chart with the vertical listing the skills and the horizontal listing the levels, with bars or check marks. There are an infinite number of ways to present this information. Personally, I'd list them for the reasons given, unless you are looking for a graphic design job and needed a "designy" version to hand out in person at interviews.
    – Voxwoman
    Mar 23, 2015 at 1:28

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