Tips for resume: skills and abilities
The more job experience you have, the more difficult it becomes to keep the resume concise. I’ve noticed that this is difficult for many women and I can understand why: We accumulate more and more experiences; experiences we might be proud of, even if they are not really relevant for the position.
Then there are also other aspects which I observe with many of my clients: You want to be open and honest about everything you have ever done; or you think some of the experience might be relevant in some way that you can’t anticipate. We don’t want to leave something out - it could be potentially relevant for the application, right?
Then there’s the matter of lacking confidence. If you don’t feel quite confident that you’re able to convince an employer that you’re the right person for a job, you want to add all your skills and abilities to your resume to prove that you’re good enough. Or if you feel uncomfortable talking about your skills and abilities in the cover letter, it’s easier to stick them all in the resume. In both cases your expectation is that the employer will recognize how great you really are by looking at your resume. That unfortunately rarely happens. Instead of overloading your resume because you’re not feeling confident about how to promote your skills and abilities in the cover letter, check out how to to do self-marketing in the cover letter here.
Ready to use for all applications
You might also think: if you pack all our skills and abilities in the resume, you can use it for all job applications. It’s all there, the employers just need to read it and pick what’s relevant for them. Many of us have taken this lazy approach in the past because we have a busy life between a full time job, commuting, spending time with partners, friends and kids and we don’t really want to spend too much time writing job applications.
I’ve been asked many times if it’s really necessary to adjust the skills and abilities on the resume to the position and the company. Well, of course you can use a standard resume, no one is stopping you, but don’t expect much. Recruiters can easily spot whether you invested time in your application or if it’s a copy/paste deal. Spending some time on identifying which skills and abilities on your resume are relevant for the position you’re applying for is definitely worthwhile and will substantially increase your chances. Hardly any of my clients enjoy spending time with their job applications, so most want to keep the effort to a bare minimum. Good news for you: I’m there to take over this tedious task from you.
Identifying relevant skills and abilities for your resume
You probably accumulated all kinds of different skills and abilities in your career so far and not all of them are relevant for each position you apply for. I personally gained experience in team management, project management and account management, among many things. These skills qualify me for a wide range of positions but not all of these skills are relevant for every position.
I therefore prepared several drafts: my resume for leadership roles focuses on different skills and abilities than my resume for project management roles does. If you’re in a similar position, take this as a starting point and prepare different resumes for your different skill sets. This is already a certain level of customization.
Position your achievements and strengths well
Are you very modest and don’t like to brag? You are used to do a good job and let your experience speak for you? Then you think again like many of my clients. You probably provide a lot of info regarding your job experience on your resume but omit important skills and achievements or list them at the end of your resume. One reason is that you don’t want to look like you’re bragging. The other is that you don’t see how some of your skills and abilities from private life or university times could be relevant for a position.
If you received a grant, scholarship or similar, this says a lot about your skills and abilities, like dedication, ability to learn, etc. It must absolutely be included in the resume. It’s the same if you were invited to participate in special projects which required team work. Also experiences from your private life can support your application. If you volunteer in rescue services, you are used to taking the right decisions under high pressure and to dealing with people in distress. These are valuable skills and abilities for many job profiles, especially customer facing roles.
Make a hard cut
Take a critical look at your resume and remove all parts that aren’t interesting for employers anymore, e.g. primary and secondary school or student jobs. Take a look at the position description and ask yourself which of your skills and abilities are really relevant for this position. Even if you’re very proud of your academic achievements, they might not be so relevant at a later stage of your career. I recently worked with a client who had provided a lot of detail on the academic achievements and included a long list of publications but only two bullet points to describe the current work experience.
Once you have years of work experience under your belt, your work experience is most relevant in terms of hard skills. Cut back on your academic achievements unless you’re applying for a position where an academic career is a prerequisite. You can of course use your academic achievements to highlight some soft skills, like perseverance, high self-motivation, analytical skills, etc. In such a case, your academic experience can add value if presented in the right way.
Personalization is key!
The third step is to go all in on personalizing your resume: describe your skills and abilities using the same language as the employer in the job posting, look for the key words the employer uses to describe the position and rephrase your resume to include these keywords. This creates an immediate connection with the employer when they recognize that you “speak the same language” and lets them instantly go through the checklist in their mind.
I hope these tips for resume skills and abilities will help you to achieve better results in your applications. Download my free checklist for further help in identifying the most relevant skills and abilities. If you need further help, reach out to me for personalized coaching.