As technology evolves and businesses change, the skills that companies seek in potential employees also inevitably shift. So, if you are back on the job hunt after a few years (or even months), your resume likely needs to be updated to reflect today’s top desired skill sets.
But what exact skills should every resume include, and how can you ensure you showcase them in the most impactful way?
To gain further insights, we spoke with Lori Shreve Blake from the USC Career Center to identify the essential elements jobseekers must include on their resumes — and what they can omit to improve their prospects.
If there is one skill that every employee in any type of role needs, it’s communication. Those with strong communication skills will be able to delegate tasks clearly, ask clarifying questions when necessary, proficiently conduct presentations, share relevant information and collaborate well with others.
Of course, regardless of how impressive your communication skills are, it can be challenging to integrate them into your resume, Shreve Blake acknowledged.
“In a resume, it’s not supposed to be a list of responsibilities: You’re supposed to focus on the accomplishments. So, tell me in an accomplishment-based bullet how you are effective in your communication style. Give an example of something you were able to do because of those communication skills,” Shreve Blake said.
Another skill to highlight is time management, according to Shreve Blake. In fact, the skill has become increasingly critical in today’s job market, as companies redefine their operations and expand the responsibilities for individual roles.
“Now more than ever, there is more on [employees’] plates. There are more balls in the air that they have to juggle. And so how do they manage their time effectively to get the work done?” Shreve Blake said.
A company is hardly ever an organization of one — and whether it has five employees or 5,000, those teammates need to be able to work together. An organization cannot operate successfully if it isn’t run by a team that knows how to collaborate well. Employers recognize this and, as a result, search for candidates who have demonstrated their ability to cooperate with their colleagues and contribute to team-based projects.
“Examples that focus on accomplishments showing how you collaborate with colleagues are very important for resumes,” Shreve Blake said.
Although you may not be seeking a manager role, that does not mean leadership skills aren’t attractive to employers. It shows you can take charge of a project, help advance the company and be trusted with higher-level responsibilities within your team.
It isn’t necessary to have held a supervisory position in the past to demonstrate leadership skills, either, Shreve Blake noted.
“Many people can have a formal title of leader, but leadership comes in many forms,” she explained. “It could be the leader or planning of a particular event, or leading a particular project. That’s all leadership.”
No matter your total years of experience, it quickly becomes evident that work entails handling a slew of issues and challenges. So naturally, it’s imperative to showcase that you have previously confronted and resolved problems, whether in a professional setting or in other aspects of life.
“There’s an old saying: Don’t bring your supervisor a problem, bring them a solution to your problem. And so, use the resume to show how you’ve really leveraged your quantitative skills, your qualitative skills, the skills you use in problem-solving to get the job done,” Shreve Blake said.
The Skills That Are Actually Required for the Job
It may seem obvious, but all too often, candidates do not include the skills that will genuinely be relevant to the position on their resumes. Why should an employer hire you if they have no assurance of your ability to effectively perform the required job duties?
This issue can arise when you’re unsure about your next desired job. It may be tempting to use a general resume for all your applications, but if you’re applying to a range of positions, it’s crucial to tailor your resume specifically to each role.
“Don’t send me your engineering resume for a career counseling job. If you did career counseling in your past somewhere, make sure that is translated when you’re applying for the job,” Shreve Blake used as an example. “I do hiring, and if I get this one-size-fits-all resume, it’s an automatic no.”
Plus, you may not even reach the interview stage without including certain tailored skills within your resume. Many companies now use applicant tracking systems, which scan a resume to ensure you’re a suitable candidate before forwarding it to the hiring team. You’ll want to confirm your resume contains the right keywords to advance through the first phase of the screening process.
Most resume templates will also feature a “Skills” section, so applicants can enumerate the skills that may not have been showcased in past work experiences. In this section, people may list abilities such as speaking Spanish, using Photoshop, coding software, managing social media and more.
Shreve Blake definitely recommends using a skills section on your resume — it’s an effective means of highlighting the technology you’re familiar with and any specialized platforms you’re adept in. For example, you may be applying for a job where they use a specific type of software system, and showing you’ve worked with that same platform in the past can enhance your candidacy.
If you’re looking to expand your existing skill set, consider signing up for Skill Up, the online learning platform from USC. It offers short, professional advancement courses designed to address skill gaps in your career.
Add Excel… but Avoid the Obvious
Speaking of hard skills, it has been previously recommended to list out proficiencies like using Google or being familiar with the Microsoft suite in the skills portion of a resume. As technology has advanced, however, these types of basic skills are no longer seen as remarkable, but rather expected. Make sure you’re featuring skills that are desirable and sought after, not ones that are simply expected.
Of course, there are exceptions, even with the Microsoft suite. While most people have some familiarity with Excel, there are various advanced functions and formulas within the application. Since Excel is a regularly used tool in many companies, and there are more advanced features, it’s OK to emphasize the skill on your resume.
Use your best judgment when determining which of your abilities you want to single out on the resume for each job.
The Bottom Line
Your resume is a platform to demonstrate that you have the skills and abilities to succeed in the role, proving you are the ideal candidate. Make sure your resume illustrates not only the quantitative skills, but also the qualitative skills, including communication, leadership, collaboration and more.
When your resume clearly spotlights these skills, it is more likely to stand out to potential employers, ensuring it advances past any initial screening processes. Remember to confirm your resume is comprehensive, organized, easily readable and proofread.
Your resume is your chance to make a positive first impression — so make it a compelling one.
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