Competition for skilled talent is heating up as companies expand their teams. Although that means it may be easier to find job leads and negotiate salary, you still need a carefully crafted resume to help you land the position you want most. Let’s explore resume writing tips.
And by carefully crafted, we mean a resume that’s tailored for the specific role you’re applying for. Don’t kid yourself: Every job is different, even jobs that share the same title. Your resume, particularly how you report your skills on your resume, can determine how far along you advance in the hiring process. And if a hiring panel does decide to offer you the job, your resume skills section can easily influence the salary figure they settle on.
It’s no secret that many hiring managers only look at a resume before deciding whether to pass on a job candidate or add them to the shortlist. You may not know that employers today are looking for hard and soft skills on your resume. Read any job posting, for example, and you might see the following requests:
As discussed in this post, these skills and attributes are essential for today’s workplace. Hard skills are the technical skills required to accomplish the tasks and responsibilities associated with the job. They’re acquired through practice, education and training. They’re measurable and easy to advertise: You either have the desired technical skills and experience, or you don’t. Your work history and certifications will speak to them.
Soft or interpersonal skills reflect one’s personality and personal attributes. They can relate to an ability to fit into a company’s work culture, handle stress, communicate clearly or play well with others, for example. They may be “soft,” but they’re important skills for a resume: When job candidates possess comparable experience levels and technical skills, soft skills can tip the balance.
See later sections for tips on how to showcase soft and hard skills on your resume. But let’s talk first about which skills employers are looking for.
What are examples of soft skills for a resume?
Make no mistake, the soft skills on your resume can be of as much interest to a hiring manager as the technical skills you offer. Smart managers know that an experienced, highly trained new hire who doesn’t fit in the office culture, communicates poorly with clients and colleagues, or freezes under deadline pressures can take a heavy toll on the workplace. Your resume —and, later, how you present at the interview — should assure the employer that you not only can do the job, but you’ll help make the team thrive.
Unsure which soft skills can send that message? Remember, every job application should get a tailored resume. So review the duties of the position you’re applying for, and determine which of your personal strengths would help you be a success at the job and in the work environment.
Consider these 15 soft skills and personal attributes, and why employers value them:
Here are some hard resume skills for 15 in-demand fields:
Keep in mind that your resume should provide examples of how you’ve used the hard skills that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking. Whenever possible, note specific, quantifiable achievements for each position you’ve held. If you’re digital marketer, give conversion and click-through rates. If you’re a project manager, showcase projects that came in on time and on budget — and report their impact. As we discuss below, you want to demonstrate you’re a results-driven professional.
Many companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS), which acts as an electronic filter, to collect, scan, sort and rank resumes to narrow applicant pools to the most qualified candidates. That’s why you need to customize your resume and cover letter using keywords and phrases that match the job listing (so long as you possess the skills you’re listing, of course).
If an employer is looking for a graphic designer with mastery in Adobe Creative Suite, for example, you wouldn’t just claim “experience with software for creative professionals.” List the software by name, give your expertise level, and — if you have it — highlight your Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) certification. Likewise, if an employer is searching for an accountant with “experience processing daily invoices and credit,” then use similar language in your resume. Simply listing “gathering receipts” as a duty won’t likely score well with an ATS.
Repeat common words and phrases from other postings of the same role, too. But remember, every job description is different. Tailor the keywords and skills on your resume and in your cover letter for each position.
You need to use the job description to customize your resume skills and work history sections. But don’t stop there. Research the employer to gain insight into the workplace culture and company values. You may discover additional qualities that would be prized by the employer.
If you know someone who works at the company, or has in the past, reach out to ask about the workplace environment and what the employer considers important in its workers. Also check websites such as Glassdoor and Fairygodboss for company reviews by employees and former employees. (You might even get an idea there about the employer’s interviewing process.)
The company’s website can tell you a lot, too. Reading the About Us page is typically a good place to begin.
For instance, in a section called “Living our values,” IBM includes the following:
If you were applying for a job at IBM, you would want to consider what soft skills you possess that fit this framework — customer service, attentiveness, initiative and loyalty — and weave them into your resume.
Here at Robert Half, we focus on and promote our four LEAD principles. They are:
If you’re applying for a job at Robert Half, you might highlight skills that speak to your leadership, drive and diligence, as well as your confidence and ability to collaborate.
Bottom line: Pay close attention to how the company says it operates and the workplace environment it promotes, and emphasize your most pertinent strengths.
When you write a resume, it’s important to organize the content so it’s succinct and easy to read. A three-column, three-row highlights section near the top of your resume, just above your professional experience, is helpful way to list the nine soft and technical skills that speak directly to the posting’s required qualifications. It’s also a good place to add keywords you’ve identified.
You don’t need more than a couple words here to show what you bring to the table. This should be a bulleted list a reader can quickly scan. Complete sentences will come in your work history.
Here are some examples of what professionals from different industries could list in this section:
Accountants are expected to crunch numbers, but also to make data-driven conclusions and communicate them to people outside of their department. You might include skills in these areas:
When customers have issues or concerns about a company, they turn to customer service departments to solve their problems. Dealing with the public in these roles often requires skills in these areas:
A business analyst wears many hats: data specialist, finance professional and problem solver. Skills for the resume of a business analyst might include:
Check out all our business analyst jobs!
Marketing jobs can run the gamut from social media or email marketing specialist to product manager and brand manager. But in general, candidates applying for marketing jobs need to show a mix of soft and hard skills that reflect the creative yet analytical nature of the career. Some examples include:
Job hunting in the marketing arena? Check out our available marketing and creative jobs now!
Web developers need both the tech skills to accomplish their tasks and the soft skills to work with clients and internal stakeholders. Whether you’re looking at a front-end or back-end position, you’d want to carefully review the tech stack that the job posting describes, then tailor your resume to address the employer’s needs and work environment. Some soft and hard skills for a web developer’s resume might include:
Search our open web developer jobs!
Graphic designers need to possess a combination of creative flair and technical mastery. In addition to creating a digital portfolio that wows, you could mention these hard and soft skills on your resume:
Browse all our graphic designer jobs!
If you’re in a specialized field, such as legal or technology, another option would be to create a skills column on the side of your first page. This would give you more space to list all skills, divided by technical and interpersonal, that pertain to the job you’re applying for.
The important thing is to make the skills section an attention-grabbing part of your resume. Not every employer uses an ATS, so you want this section to stand out to the reader.
Remember that skills should be highlighted in your work history and other resume sections, such as volunteer activities or professional certifications. There, you’d be less likely to name a specific skill than to show it — for example, you “led a team project” to successful completion, not you “have leadership skills” or “project management skills.”
Here, you would also give concrete examples of your impact at your current or past employer. Impressive skills on your resume will get you careful consideration. Impressive results on your resume can get you the interview — and possibly the job offer.
Here are some tips and examples on how to present your resume skills:
Communication — Focus on your verbal, writing, and presentation skills and your collaborative and customer service skills. In your work history, show how your track record of strong communication with your colleagues, manager, clients, or customers delivered solid results.
Multitasking — It might be more challenging to show quantifiable results for multitasking. But you can still give the employer an idea of the competing tasks and situations you've handled regularly — and how you did so calmly and efficiently:
Leadership — You don’t have to be managerial to show leadership. Taking charge of an essential deliverable of a larger team project, working in an entrepreneurial manner independent of a team, and burrowing deep into a problem above and beyond expectations to reach a solution all demonstrate leadership and an ability to inspire colleagues. Outside of your official duties, stepping up for volunteer roles within the company can also create an opportunity to demonstrate leadership by action.
Problem-solving — Show the essential role you’ve played for current and past managers by spotlighting examples of when you’d double down on resolving longstanding team problems or show creativity when faced with a challenge.
Dependability — Hiring managers want people on their team who’ll do what they say they will do. Dependability can be critical if you’re working with outside clients; missing a deadline can mean losing business and a damaged reputation.
Technology — The technology skills on your resume should be relevant to the job you’re pursuing. If you’re looking for an administrative assistant role, you don’t need to fit in the coursework in data logic you took before switching majors. And if you’re a UX designer or computer programmer, there won’t be many calls to advertise your familiarity with Word or Google docs.
We’ve said it all above in one place or another. But now that you have a sense of what you should be doing, here’s a recap of things to avoid doing with your resume:
Don’t exaggerate or lie about your skills — or anything else. Never give in to the temptation to inflate a job title, add a certification or skills you don’t have, or embellish a job tenure that didn’t last as long as you say it did. Making false claims or stretching the truth isn’t worth the risk. Most companies conduct background checks and call references, and falsehoods will severely damage your trustworthiness — and likely cost you the job.
Don’t leave out numbers. As we’ve discussed, don’t be vague. No matter what position you’re applying for, it would be best if you tried to quantify your value. Did you reduce expenses for your company, increase sales or reach new target markets? Did you respond to customer inquiries or process orders X% faster than the previous year? All of those accomplishments involve numbers that you can use in your resume.
Don’t misuse words. Check your resume for wordiness. If you feel like a section is short, getting flowery with your language can be tempting, but “because” is nowhere near as good as “because.” Also, avoid using business jargon clichés like “synergize” or “outside the box.”
Don’t forget to proofread. Before sending your resume, review it with a fine-toothed comb for spelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes. Then ask someone who understands your job-search goals to look it over. Review a printed copy: Sometimes it’s easier to catch errors on paper than on a computer screen.
Your resume, and the skills on your resume, should be an accurate, truthful report of you, your work history, and your abilities. But help the hiring manager and recruiters by crafting it to address their needs directly. That means being thoughtful and meticulous. The time and work you put into that will pay off when interview invitations come in.
It’s time to put your skills to work for you!
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