Last updated on April 25, 2017
A couple decades ago, a skills resume was unheard of. Instead, the resume trend was to list out every job you ever had and include every duty and responsibility that went with them. Three, four, and five page resumes were not uncommon and everyone from grocery clerks to executives did them this way. Closer to a CV, these lengthy tomes were dry reading and gave no indication of what your accrued experiences had developed within you. Sometimes, they’d even mask what you could be capable of.
Speaking as a hiring manager in my other other job and someone who regularly evaluates resumes, I can tell you, despite what they may have told you in high school Careers class, those days have long passed.
To stand out now and catch my eye and that of any prospective employer, your better presentation is made with a well-worded, succinct skills resume of a single page.
In a skills resume, you want to leave the responsibilities behind and instead, use it as a showcase of your transferable skills. This is what sells you. What are “transferable skills”? These are skills that can be used in a variety of occupational circumstances and will open up a larger world of opportunities to you.
To showcase transferable skills best, use action words, verbs that communicate your confidence in each of those skills you offer to a prospective employer. And don’t just tell me what you can do – quantify it. This is the essence of a skills resume.
Nothing sells you like stating why I can’t live without you and then quantifying it with evidence.
What I used to see – the “duties” CV:
*Supervised and coached a team of 20 second-tier agents on the night shift in a fast-paced, call centre environment
*Led my team to surpass in all categories; consistently exceeded benchmarks and targets 3 years in a row
*Oversaw a variety of departments from retail to operations to training
Sounds okay, right? Wrong. I’d probably round-file that one nowadays. I still know nothing about how this person operates and that’s something I need to know. How will they benefit me, my team or my company by throwing them into the mix?
I want to know what kind of person you are and I’m just not getting it in this presentation.
What I want to see – the skills resume:
*capable, experienced mentor and people-developer
*promoted 65% of my team – 5 to next tier agent, 6 to team lead, 2 to manager
*flexible, self-motivated, and meets deadlines with room to spare
*decisive problem solver; critical thinker, sense of humour under pressure
*researched, championed, implemented new company-wide process for account management
*outlined and championed multiple website improvements that positively impacted customer experience in areas of intuitive layout, addition of tooltips, and linking help site articles to targeted website product and shopping cart areas
*team goal focused – maintained and exceeded customer retention targets in my department 3 years running
*adaptive and self-teaching – during 5 year tenure managed and mentored retail team agents of 2 unrelated product brands, moved on to co-ordinate operations, and later assumed training for all brands
The second layout is quite a bit more exciting than the first and I’m getting a definite sense of what this person is capable of. I have an idea about their personality and their drive and that if I hire this person, I’m pretty safe to assume they’re going to work that hard for me. Why wouldn’t I want them?
This resume would go to the top of my phone screen pile, because they’ve piqued my interest. I already know in my head I want them for an interview and the phone screen is just a formality. They’ve almost sold me already and now I not only want to meet them face-to-face, but I’m excited about it.
I would think it goes without saying that you should be very careful about the descriptive language you use, but I’m going to spell it out a bit, because I do see it happen quite a lot. When you’re desperate to find a job, I understand that you’re sometimes willing to do just about anything. I have one word for you – don’t. Embellishment out of desperation could kill a perfectly wonderful opportunity for you.
Since presenting a skills resume is a great way to also convey a sense of your personality, you want to avoid creating an impression that doesn’t match reality no matter how awesome it may sound on paper.
If you’re a calm and mellow personality with a high attention to detail, then sell it. Don’t use phrases like “vivacious and dynamic go-getter”, because I’ll be looking for that person in the interview. When I don’t see them, then I’m already questioning if the rest of your noted skills also don’t match reality.
By the same token, if you’re a little high energy fireball with a “take a knife to the heart and storm the gate” personality, you don’t want to present yourself as a calm and low-key contributor. Sell me on your fire.
Every place needs a blend of each type to work well, so don’t be afraid to sell me what you’ve got. If you’re honest, you have a much better shot of claiming one of those available positions if not with me, then at one of the other places you’ve applied to.
The Skills Resume Secondary Effects
Creating a skills resume the right way blows a lot of your competition out of the water and increases your chances of getting hired.
But that’s not all.
Outside of positions that require certification or a degree, a skills resume makes moot having a particular level of schooling and focuses on real world experience and achievements.
This is an extremely helpful presentation for people who have been working their whole lives, have a tonne of experience, but never went to post secondary school or didn’t finish high school. Just because you didn’t go to college or university doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a great job where you can be a huge asset and bring the wealth of your years of real world experience. Quite frankly, you will blow your younger, though school-educated, competition out of the running every time with that experience.
A well-crafted skills presentation is also open rather than closed. It encompasses what a variety of companies are looking for over multiple industries. It keeps you from being pigeon-holed and will allow you to apply for a wider assortment of positions that are all looking for these kinds of sought-after skills.
You already know you have to learn the product or the job-specific things after you get hired, so it’s less important what the specific industry is, right? You want to find something that fits your unique multiple areas of expertise. So sell yourself into a new direction. If you’ve been stuck in a very limited field of opportunities with your old-fashioned resume, your skills resume could allow you to find your bliss.
We all have to pay the bills and have all worked jobs, because we have to live. The nice thing is it doesn’t have to stay that way. All those skills you picked up at those “just a job” jobs can take you in a direction you truly want to go and that can make you happier. We all have to work – if we can do it in a place that also makes us happy, why not go after that instead of a job that makes you want to stick a fork in your eye?
Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Remember – none of your experience is a waste. The only thing you need to do is sell what you’ve gained from it on your new skills resume.