What Are T-Shaped Skills? (And Why They Are Important)

Updated July 5, 2023

When going through the job application process, you may benefit from understanding the type of candidate your prospective employer is looking for and whether you possess the required skills. Some organizations may hire professionals based on their personality type or the specific competencies they possess. Understanding what T-shaped skills are can help you identify whether you have them and add them to your resume.

In this article, we define T-shaped skills, discuss the importance of adding them to your resume, describe how to do so and provide several examples.

Related: 52 Hard Skills to List on a Resume and Why They're Important

What are T-shaped skills?

T-shaped skills are qualities and traits that certain professionals possess that make them valuable to an organization. Individuals with these skills typically have extensive knowledge and expertise in specific areas related to their professional performance and success. Employers seeking professionals with T-shaped skills recognize that there are three types of employees: T-shaped skills, I-shaped skills and X-shaped skills. Of these three options, businesses typically seek employees who possess T-shaped skills.

First used at McKinsey & Company, David Guest and IDEO CEO Tim Brown popularized this breakdown of employee styles, and many organizations and recruiters now use it to evaluate and assess candidates. The T-shape is a metaphor for an individual's strengths, with the vertical line representing expertise, discipline and knowledge of a particular field, and the horizontal line representing cross-discipline competencies and the ability to collaborate with professionals in other industries or roles.

Related: Top Hard Skills To Put on a Resume (And How To Improve Yours)

Why is adding T-shaped skills to your resume important?

T-shaped skills are important to add to your resume because many employers may look for candidates with a T-shaped personality and work style. This means that featuring them on your resume may help you capture a hiring manager's attention and highlight why you're the right candidate for a position. There are several advantages to adding these skills to your application documents, including:

  • Highlighting your range of skills: Employees with T-shaped skills have an in-depth understanding of a particular role or field and a wide range of cross-discipline competencies. Adding them to your resume can showcase that you're well-versed in a specific industry and that you're knowledgeable in several other areas, adding value to the company.

  • Illustrating your ability to communicate and collaborate: T-shaped professionals usually communicate their ideas clearly and feel comfortable collaborating with their colleagues and other professionals to contribute to an overall project or goal. This means they can typically understand how other professionals approach their roles and how to motivate them.

  • Demonstrating your hard and soft skills: As a T-shaped professional, you likely possess various hard and soft skills, many of which may apply to your prospective role and add value to an organization. While you may possess technical skills related to your field, such as computer programing, you may also have soft skills like organization and time management.

Related: How To Improve Your Soft Skills in the Workplace

How to add T-shaped skills to your resume

Here's a list of steps you can follow to add T-shaped skills to your resume and highlight the wide range of your strengths:

1. Consider your area of expertise

As a T-shaped person, you're both a specialist and a generalist, meaning that there's likely one area you're an expert in and several topics you understand relatively well. To add T-shaped skills to your resume, begin with the area or a few areas where you're an expert and then consider the hard or technical skills that highlight your strengths.

For example, if you're a graphic designer, this may relate to design programs you're comfortable using or techniques you typically use to create a successful project for your employer or client. Make sure that the area of expertise you focus on relates directly to your prospective role and can help you highlight why you're the right candidate for the position.

2. Reflect on your other talents and interests

To showcase that you're a T-shaped professional, it's essential to feature competencies aside from your primary area of expertise. Consider creating a list of your talents and interests and the transferable skills you've developed because of them.

For example, if you're a copywriter who is also familiar with various coding languages and possesses technological skills, this can help you stand out from other candidates and highlight that you're able to write about various of subjects. This can also help you highlight that you're an interesting person who's willing to collaborate with and learn from professionals in other fields or roles.

Related: 6 Qualities That Make a Great Team Player

3. Add both hard and soft skills to your resume

Once you've reviewed your expertise and strengths, you can add both hard and soft skills to your resume. Consider focusing on hard skills and technical knowledge that your prospective employer is looking for in a candidate to show a hiring manager you're prepared for the responsibilities of the role.

When describing your soft skills, consider abilities that not only fit the role but showcase who you are as a person or professional and what may set you apart from other candidates. This not only allows you to prove that you understand the responsibilities of the position but helps you feature what makes you unique and interesting.

4. Proofread and revise the skills section of your resume

Once you've added your hard, soft and industry-related skills to your resume, proofread your writing and make any necessary revisions. Submitting error-free application documents can help you highlight your attention to detail and show that you're serious about the position. If you have a friend or mentor in the same industry, consider asking them to review the skills you list. They may be able to suggest other strengths to add or help you refine the competencies you include to ensure that they're all relevant to your prospective role.

Download Skills-Based Resume Template

To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.

Examples of T-shaped skills

Here are some examples to help guide you as you feature t-shaped skills on your resume:

T-shaped skills for computer programmer resume

Skills: Proficiency with programming languages including C++ and Python, end-user orientation, advanced knowledge of operating systems, problem-solving and analysis, written communication, aptitude for mathematics, critical thinking, self-confidence, networking

T-shaped skills for a graphic designer resume

Skills: Storyboard creation, mastery of color theory and competition, spacing and layout, logo creation, expert using Adobe Creative Suite including Photoshop and Acrobat, verbal communication and public speaking, time management, organization, strong work ethic and dedication

T-shaped skills for a business administrator resume

Skills: Critical thinking, active listening, public speaking, leadership, familiar with basic computer programming languages including Python, interpersonal communication, strong time management skills, problem-solving and task prioritization, empathy and compassion

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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