Detail-Oriented Skills: What Are They? (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 11, 2020
Skills Based Articles

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If you spend much time reading through job postings, you won’t be able to get very far before you see “detail-oriented” on the list of qualifications hiring managers have created.

Companies usually want employees who will do their work with care, so they often list this as a required skill.

If you call yourself a perfectionist or find yourself triple-checking your work, chances are you’re detail-oriented. This is a strength that will benefit you in your professional career and that you should be sure to highlight on your resume.

What Does it Mean To Be Detail-Oriented?

Detail-oriented means that you pay particular attention to every aspect of a project or responsibility. You understand that the little things can make a big difference in the outcome of your work.

Like most human qualities and tendencies, there is a spectrum of detail-orientedness. One way to tell if you fit this description is if you find yourself focusing on doing a project right, down to the last comma and color choice, rather than just finding a way to get it finished so that you can move on to the next step in reaching your goal.

If you’re detail-oriented, here are some additional things you might notice yourself doing on a regular basis:

  • Checking and rechecking your work

  • Taking your time when making decisions

  • Remembering small facts like birthdays and project timeline dates

  • Asking lots of clarifying questions

  • Never feeling like your work is finished or up to your standards

Being detail-oriented can be a double-edged sword, as you turn in high quality, accurate work, but you can also get dragged down by the minutia when completing a project, especially if you feel like you’re missing information or aren’t able to get something quite right.

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While many people are naturally detail-oriented, you can (and should) learn these skills. Here are some things you can do if you want to improve in this area:

  1. Create systems and routines. If you know you struggle to keep track of dates, small tasks, and specific instructions, find ways to help yourself remember these things.

    Find a planner or calendar app that you update every day and then set reminders for yourself. Take a notepad with you to every meeting, even if it’s an impromptu one with your boss, and take copious notes. Create a morning routine where the first thing you do is knock out those pesky administrative tasks that you always find yourself forgetting to complete.

    Everyone could use a little help keeping track of the details, so there is no shortage of tools to help you do this. It just takes a little effort to find the best ones for you.

  2. Triple-check your work. One of the benefits of being detail-oriented is that you turn in accurate and professional work. Even if you don’t naturally have any perfectionistic tendencies, you can cut down on silly errors and mistakes by training yourself to check your work one more time than you think you need to.

    Set rules for yourself about how many times you need to read over a document before you turn it in. You may want to also make yourself read it out loud at least once to catch any other errors or have someone else who is more naturally detail-oriented look over it for you.

  3. Ask good questions. Being able to take minimal direction about a project and run with it is a great skill to have. It can, however, cause the result to be vastly different than what your boss intended.

    You can avoid this by intentionally asking good questions about due dates and other expectations. If your boss tends to rarely offer up these details without prompting, create a list of standard questions to ask every time you get a new assignment.

  4. Minimize distractions. One of the greatest enemies to being detail-oriented is multitasking. Your brain can’t actually do two things at once, it just switches back and forth really fast. This fatigues your mind, which causes you to miss important details.

    Stay focused on your work by closing extra tabs, turning off your email notifications for a little while, or even using software that will block you from visiting distracting sites for a certain period of time.

    Being intentional about focusing on your work will help you pay closer attention to the details and cut down on errors. Just remember to take breaks and relax regularly too.

Whether you’re naturally detail-oriented or have had to work to grow in this area, these are valuable skills that employers in every industry are looking for.

Why Detail-Oriented Skills Are Important in the Workplace

Being detail-oriented is important to employers because they can count on you to turn in good work with very little supervision. If you can save them time checking and correcting your projects, you’ll be even more valuable to them. They can also trust you to get things done when they need them done without having to remind you five times.

The amount of detail-orientedness that hiring managers are looking for may vary with the job, as some positions are better suited for big-picture thinkers, but every company wants an employee who will handle their responsibilities with care.

How To Show You Are Detail-Oriented on a Resume

Having the skills to notice the details doesn’t do you much good if you can’t show a potential employer that you have them. Here are some ways to include them on your resume:

  1. Think of specific examples. Anyone can put “detail-oriented” in the skills section of their resume. If you really want to show that you pay attention to the little things, take some time to think of specific ways that you used this skill set in your past work experience.

    This could be responsibilities such as editing, data entry, meeting deadlines, or calculations and measurements. If you had to check it twice, put it on your resume.

  2. Be specific. The next step in highlighting your detail-oriented skills is to make your examples as specific as possible. Don’t just say that you managed deadlines, explain how tight they were and what you did to ensure you met them.

    If your detail-oriented skills are more learned than natural, showing the systems you use to make sure everything is correct will make just as much of an impact as simply having a natural desire to double check your work.

  3. Proofread. You should always double check your resume and cover letter for errors, but this is especially true if you’re claiming that you’re detail-oriented. These documents are examples of your work, after all, so it’s important that they back up your claim.

    Check it two or three times and take breaks in between each editing session. Read it out loud, run it through a grammar checker, and have someone you trust look it over for you. A fresh set of eyes will often catch errors that you’ve become blind to after looking at it for so long.

  4. Prepare for the interview. The interview stage of a job application is another opportunity to back up the soft skills you listed on your resume.

    Show that you truly are detail-oriented starting when you’re scheduling the interview by asking questions about parking, where in the building the office is, or what you should bring.

    Research the company thoroughly and be prepared with extra resumes and samples of your work. Show up 10 minutes early, and make sure you’re dressed professionally. Interviewers will notice if you’ve paid attention to these details or not.

Using your resume to demonstrate your soft skills can be difficult. There are a few ways you can highlight these, including your attention to detail, though.

Examples of How To Show You Are Detail-Oriented on a Resume As a Skill

The simplest way to showcase that you’re detail-oriented is in the skills section of your resume. If you have space, this is a good skill to include in this section, especially if you’re adding other soft skills and the description of the job you’re applying for lists detail-orientedness as a qualification. For example, your skills section could look something like this:

Skills

  • Microsoft Office

  • Quickbooks

  • Detail-oriented

  • Self-motivated

If you decide to list “detail-oriented” in the skills section, you’ll just need to make sure you back up your claim elsewhere, whether that’s in your experience section or in your cover letter.

Examples of How To Show You Are Detail-Oriented on a Resume As an Experience

Demonstrating your attention to detail in the experience section of your resume gives prospective employers a more complete picture of how you work. Whether they are looking for your skills in this area because you listed them in your skills section or because they just want you to have them, they’re going to be scanning for examples.

Make sure you include as many specifics as possible to show the results of your being detail-oriented, as these add to your credibility. Use words like “organized” and “coordinated” to draw attention to these sections. You might say something like this, for example:

  • Coordinated the needs and preferences of 30 presenters to create conference schedule.

  • Managed collaborative book writing project between faculty and student workers to ensure tasks were completed and deadlines were met.

  • Edited and prepared agendas for biannual board meetings.

  • Took, compiled, and edited 50+ pages of board meeting minutes using Microsoft Word.

  • Used shared calendar reminders on Microsoft Outlook to schedule student meetings with the dean.

These responsibilities and accomplishments demonstrate how this person is organized, timely, and detail-oriented. It also shows technical skills such as Microsoft Word and Outlook, as well as editing and writing abilities.

This, combined with further anecdotes in the cover letter, will help make a good first impression with a hiring manager and hopefully earn an interview.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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