No matter how many Google search results, blog posts or social media profiles an employer comes across when researching you, your résumé remains one of the most important ways for someone to assess your professional background.
A degree from a prestigious university or an impressive roster of past employers can certainly make a good impression, but the real test of a candidate's fit is how well his or her skills align with the position at hand. That's why it's so important to express your current and previous job experiences in a clear, concise and relevant way.
"A job candidate's skills and relevant knowledge are substantiated by keywords in a résumé," said Wendi Weiner, a certified professional résumé writer and founder of The Writing Guru. "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."
If you're a career changer or have been out of the workforce for a while, proving that your skills are up-to-date can be a little more difficult than it is for other job seekers. Ford R. Myers — 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 nonpaid 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 résumé, 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."
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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 firm Kavaliro, reminded job seekers that hiring managers want to see concrete examples of those skills in action.
"In résumés, you see a skills summary that lists a number of skills — 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 résumé, you should tie those skills into your explanation of job duties and how those specific skills played an important part."
For example, you could explain how you used your problem-solving skills to get an overdue project back on track, or demonstrate your ability to work well with a team by talking about how you worked with a group of other sales reps to meet a quota for the month or quarter, Ridgeway said.
Based on the advice of our expert sources, here are a few broad categories of skills your résumé could include, along with unique ways to express them.
Every single job requires you to talk through and share ideas with someone, even if it's just your direct supervisor. Therefore, any employer will want to know how well and in what capacity you're able to communicate and 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 résumé: 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
Planning and organization
If the job you want involves working on research projects and company-wide campaigns, you're going to want to show off your top-notch planning abilities. "Organization skills" may sound like a trite, overused filler term — and it is — 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 résumé: 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 résumé. 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 résumé: 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
Social media is quickly becoming 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 non-social-media-related positions, you can still demonstrate your experience by referencing specific networks and social media management programs you regularly use.
On your résumé: manages social media campaigns; measures and analyzes campaign results; engages with industry influencers; creates and executes content strategies; drives engagement and leads; enhances brand image through social presence
Additional reporting by Jeanette Mulvey, Business News Daily editorial director.
Originally published March 4, 2012. Updated March 11, 2015.