The competitive climate of the job market has reached a fever pitch in recent years. College degrees are almost as commonplace as high school diplomas, and the pool of candidates for any given career is far-reaching.
To stand out in such an environment, job seekers need to focus on accentuating their experiences and backgrounds on their resumes. A degree from a prestigious university or an impressive roster of past employers can certainly make a good impression on hiring managers, but the real test of a candidate's fit is how well the person's skills align with the position in question.
Wendi Weiner, a certified professional resume writer and founder of The Writing Guru, noted that a job candidate's skills and relevant knowledge are substantiated by the keywords they choose to use.
"Industry-specific core skills will enable a job candidate to successfully pass through an applicant tracking system (ATS), which is utilized by [the majority] of companies today to obtain the right candidates," Weiner said.
While it's good to have a well-rounded skills section, it's not enough to simply list a string of phrases. Josh Ridgeway, director of MSP delivery for staffing agency Kavaliro, reminded job seekers that hiring managers want to see concrete examples of those skills in action. [See Related Story: Meaningless Words to Delete from Your Resume]
"In resumes, you see a skills summary, [which includes] problem solving, excellent customer service, attention to detail, etc.," Ridgeway told Business News Daily. "However, oftentimes, we don't see an explanation of those skills. If you have 'problem solving' and 'critical thinking' in your resume, you should tie those skills into your explanation of job duties and how those specific skills played an important part."
The challenge is greater for those who have been laid off or who have been out of work for an extended period of time. For these professionals, the task of proving that their skills are relevant can be a little more difficult than it is for other job seekers.
Ford R. Myers, a career coach, speaker and author of the book, "Get The Job You Want, Even When No One's Hiring" (John Wiley & Sons, 2009), advised considering transferable skills that you've gained from paid and unpaid past experiences.
"Transferable skills acquired during any activity — volunteer positions, classes, projects, parenting, hobbies, sports — can be applicable to one's next job," Myers said. "By adding transferable skills to a resume, employers get a better understanding and broader picture of who they are hiring, as well as the interests, values and experiences that the candidate brings to the table."
Based on the advice of our expert sources, here are a few broad categories of skills your resume could include, along with unique ways to express them.
Jobs require teamwork. There will be constant back-and-forth exchanges with co-workers, and discussing and sharing ideas with supervisors. Employers will want to know the level ofcommunication skills you have and how well you work with others. The specific required skills will vary based on your position. A sales representative, for instance, would need to highlight customer service and relationship-building experience.
On your resume: writes clearly and concisely; listens attentively; openly expresses ideas, negotiates/resolves differences; provides and asks for feedback; offers well-thought-out solutions; cooperates and works well with others; thrives in a collaborative environment
Planning and organization
If the job you want involves working on research projects and companywide campaigns, you're going to want to show off your top-notch planning abilities. "Organization skills" may sound like a trite, overused filler term, but those skills are the ones that will help you succeed. Show potential employers you've got what they're looking for by outlining your involvement in, and results from, current and previous projects.
On your resume: forecasts/predicts; identifies and gathers appropriate resources; thoroughly researches background information; develops strategies; thinks critically to solve problems; handles details; coordinates and completes tasks; manages projects effectively; meets deadlines; plans and arranges activities; multitasks; creates plans
Management and leadership
Leadership skills can be gained in a variety of conventional and unconventional ways, but it's not always easy to express them on a resume. Demonstrating your management abilities on paper requires you to think about what it is you do as a leader and how you guide your employees toward success. To give employers a better idea of what you've accomplished, discuss the size of the team and the scope of the projects you manage.
On your resume: leads and directs others; teaches/trains/instructs; counsels/coaches; manages conflict; helps team members set and achieve goals; delegates effectively; makes and implements decisions; enforces policies; oversees projects; measures team results
Social media is one of the most ubiquitous and in-demand skills for jobs in a variety of fields. Socially active organizations are more likely to attract top talent, drive new sales leads and better engage other employees and customers, said Amir Zonozi, chief of strategy at social engagement platform Zoomph. Therefore, when employers look for new hires, they're also typically looking for new internal-brand ambassadors.
Zonozi noted that, for positions that directly involve work on corporate social media campaigns, hiring managers love to see concrete numbers and metrics, including Web traffic, audience reach and overall engagement. Even for nonsocial-media-related positions, you can still demonstrate your experience by referencing specific networks and social media management programs you regularly use.
On your resume: manages social media campaigns; measures and analyzes campaign results; identifies and connects with industry influencers; sparks social conversation within the brand's community; creates and executes content strategies; drives engagement and leads; enhances brand image through social presence
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor and Jeanette Mulvey.