Traditionally, resumés highlight the roles that a job candidate has held in the past, listing them out in chronological order, complete with descriptions of the responsibilities and the results delivered.
While experience remains a big factor in the minds of hiring managers, a largely overlooked section that could help make your resumé a lot more attractive is the “skills” section of the resumé, the part that is usually allocated a small segment right above “references available upon request”.
“Research shows that there’s not necessarily a correlation between a role that you’ve held in the past and your future performance in a different role, aside from the skills that you have,” says Bailey Showalter, vice president of talent solutions at Credly, a platform that verifies credentials. “For hiring managers, the more important question is, can you do the functions associated with the job you’re looking to move into?”
That’s why Showalter advises hopeful job applicants to flip their resumés upside down by bumping up their “skills” section.
Flip your resumé
Usually, job seekers include a bulleted list of their skills at the bottom of their resumé. The list normally consists of a concise description of the technology they know how to use, like “Proficient in Microsoft Office.”
Instead, Showalter recommends emphasizing what you “can do” by giving the skills section a facelift and bumping it to the very top of your resumé.
“Depending on the job you’re applying for, choose skills that are most applicable and include the mastery you have of those skills,” she says.
Showalter recognizes that hard skills, which are your specializations, are often emphasized in resumés. However, she cautions against looking over or downplaying soft skills as these are usually skill sets that can overlap from role to role, no matter the job title or industry.
“For example, I started my career in sales, and one of the strongest soft skills that I had to develop was stakeholder management,” she says. “I had to bring together all the constituents involved in making a decision and make sure they had their questions answered and felt good about what they were moving forward with. I use that skill in my role today. Soft skills are largely transferable.”
Focusing on skills can help hiring managers, too
Today, many places are experiencing labor shortages because many recruiters cannot find “qualified” people based on potential employees’ job histories and the outcomes they’ve achieved in past roles. Focusing on skills instead of experience can help solve this problem.
“There are millions of open roles and not enough job seekers actively looking for jobs right now who can fill them,” Showalter asserts. “As employers, we can either keep doing what we’ve been doing—and not filling the roles that we have open. Or we can start to rethink what we might have been doing that was screening out qualified talent because their industry experience wasn’t in perfect alignment.”
As Showalter says, focusing solely on job experience when trying to fill positions excludes a lot of people who may have been perfectly qualified.