A few months ago, a recruiter showed me the resumes in his database. Quickly, I realized most of the resumes looked alike. The resumes job-seekers sent him often characterized the candidate as an “honest, reliable, flexible professional with a great work ethic and superb communications skills.” Then, they went on to include a list of jobs. The paragraphs discussing their assignments included little more than their HR position descriptions. No doubt, most of these job-seekers are still wondering why the recruiter never called or emailed them.
I spoke with Dr. Elnora Tena Webb, a leadership coach, and Tomoko Ha, a certified career management coach, about this issue during a recent webinar you can watch on LinkedIn. Among other things, we touched on whether and to what extent, job-seekers should emphasize soft skills on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles. The job-seekers we work with, we agreed, are correct—soft skills should be demonstrated on their resumes and profiles. Another set of skills—hard skills—should be explicitly listed because these are the competencies you must have to be employed in your industry or profession. Employers use these competencies as search terms on LinkedIn recruiting products, and in their ATS systems.
Core competencies define your unique value.
According to Dr. Webb, the first thing executive leaders look for when selecting staff is that the candidate has the technical skills for the job. Some of the terms I used in the core competency matrix on an IT senior business analyst’s resume, for example, included:
- Business Process Improvement,
- Functional Documentation,
- Requirements Elicitation,
- Solutions Design,
- System Implementation,
- Product Launch,
- Testing (SIT & UAT),
- Organizational Readiness, and
- Agile & Waterfall methodologies.
It is tempting to grab a list of required competencies for your job title or industry off the Web and paste them onto your resume. There are two problems with this idea. First, the goal is to differentiate yourself from other job-seekers, so you do not want your resume to look like “everyone else’s.” Additionally, I’ve noticed that online job applications processes often include competency testing. The days when we can talk our way into a job and then figure out how to do it are gone. Only show core competencies on your resume and profile if you can pass a professional-level skill test.
Are software skills core competencies?
Yesterday, I spoke with a career coach that works with “rising professionals—“new college graduates entering the workforce. She described the Gen-Z and millennial recent grads she works with as “digital natives.” Gen-Z and some millennials have never known a time without smartphones, tablets, and laptops, so computer skills are noting special to them.
Increasingly, the managers and recruiters that are reviewing resumes will fall into this category. They will expect us to be fluent in MS-Office and similar productivity tools, just as they expect us to speak our native language fluently. Common software skills, then, are not core competencies that will differentiate us from other applicants.
All employees should have soft “leadership” skills.
Dr. Webb told us during her webinar she believes everyone has leadership potential. She considers leadership skills synonymous with “people skills” or “soft skills.” Dr. Webb listed 15 soft skills that, based on her research, business leaders should demonstrate:
- Effective communications,
- Work ethic,
- Team building,
- Work in harmony with co-workers,
- Critical thinking,
- Innovative approaches,
- Problem solving, and
- Continuous learning ability.
Leadership and people skills are the same across many disciplines and nearly all of us can say we have all 15 leadership skills, so employers won’t search on them. They would get every resume in response to their searches.
I told Dr. Webb that this confuses job-seekers. The solution we agreed on (after the recorded portion of the webinar) was that we should demonstrate leadership skills in accomplishment statements, rather than list them the way we list industry core competencies.
An IT project administrator I worked with recently wanted to say he led “Led Agile Scrum teams.” Instead of asserting this, we prepared the following accomplishment statement:
- Facilitated the ONE PM program that organized all IT Value and Economics Group project managers into a cohesive team. Prepared and disseminated content for news sessions, including detail on project accounting, project controls, Agile SCRUM implementation, and 2016 program funding prioritization guidance. Achieved average meeting attendance 67% above standard.
This bullet-point demonstrates soft leadership skills such as effective communications, flexibility, team building, working in harmony with co-workers, critical thinking, and problem solving. The overworked resume expressions such as “great team player” do not appear in this accomplishment statement or anywhere else on the resume.
Does your current resume meet the challenge?Does your current resume and LinkedIn profile include the core competencies prospective employers must see to consider you for a job? Does it demonstrate your leadership skills without resorting to worn-out expressions such as “creative and innovative designer?” Click here for an appointment to discuss your own resume.