Revamp Your Resume: Focus on Skills, Not Background

Your resume needs to make a good first impression, and fast: according to a survey of 2,200 hiring managers, one in six respondents said they spend 30 seconds or less reviewing resumes.

Given that candidates have such a short time frame, it’s important they highlight the skills they can bring to a job quickly and clearly. This clarity is especially important for people who have nontraditional career paths or backgrounds, who may struggle to get a foot in the door with employers who use traditional job posting requirements like degrees, certain previous job titles, and other proxies for skills.

Below, we’ve outlined a few tips on how you can make your resume skills-based so that a hiring manager can quickly understand the unique value you bring to a company or organization.

Emphasize transferable skills

Transferable skills are general skills that can be transferred from one job to another. One of our favorite examples of transferable skills is the story of Brenda Stevens, Dental Assisting Program Director and Instructor at Emily Griffith Technical College, who told us “Many moons ago I used to do hair, and didn’t realize there are a lot of similarities between doing hair and being a dental assistant. You're mixing a lot of materials together and working in somebody else's personal space.” Just because a person’s past job experience doesn’t hold the same title as the position they are hoping to get doesn’t mean that they don’t have the skills to be successful in a role that aligns with the skills they already have.

Steer the interview conversation back to abilities

At Skillful there’s a lot of interview questions we discourage employers from using, questions such as “tell me about yourself,” “what do you like to do for fun,” and “what is your biggest weakness?” Although, these questions mean well and have been used during interviews for a very long time, a lot of times they tend to be used to hire for “culture fit” which can exclude great talent from being hired. When a hiring manager asks these types of questions it is important for jobseekers to steer the conversation back to their abilities and what they can offer the company. Offering examples of the ways the skills the job requires have been used in past life experiences, or in past jobs, is a great way to show an employer the value of the candidate’s transferable skills. 

Ensure Social Media Profiles Stay on Brand

LinkedIn, a networking platform, should be used for professional purposes and should always remain on brand. In this site, job seekers have the opportunity to research career interests, find people who work in their dream industry, and see what skills these people have that they may also have. The skills that directly correlate to peoples’ career goals should be prominently displayed in the LinkedIn “skills and endorsement” section and in the “headline” section, so that employers are able to locate candidates using certain keywords.

Become a lifelong learner

Becoming lifelong learners who can keep pace with the evolving needs of a digital economy, is crucial to remaining marketable in this labor market. Employers want to see that candidates are eager to learn and job seekers who search for opportunities to reskill or learn new skills will have an advantage as technology and automation continue to disrupt the way we work.