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Resume Connection: Skills Employers Seek

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Top Skills Employers Seek

Following is a brief list of some the major skills employers look for in their job candidates. Each of these skills is something you should try to get across in both your resume and interviews.

  • Communication Skills: Are both your verbal and written skills strong? 
  • Teamwork: Can you work well with others but still carry your own weight?
  • Accountability: Are you willing to take on responsibility to deliver and meet goals? Are you willing to be held accountable for your own actions?
  • Adaptability: Do you quickly adapt to new environments, processes, and people?  Do you learn new skills quickly? Can you rapidly pick up new software applications or tools?
  • Motivation: Are you driven, goal-oriented, and dedicated to succeed every day?
  • Eagerness: Do you want *this* particular job for the right reasons -- i.e. because you find the position challenging & interesting?

Granted, most of these are really attributes rather than skills. Nonetheless, employers see them as "skills" and rate you on your competence in these areas.

You can think of them as "soft skills," which are in contrast to the "hard skills" you would normally list on a resume. You can and should develop these soft skills. But should you list them on your resume? The answer may surprise you.

Many people will list something like "team player with solid communication skills" on their resume. This is merely hype. It's not convincing. It's not quantified. It's purely subjective. The reader can't tell if you would score a 60 in team play or a 100.

The solution is to show, not tell, that you have these skills or attributes. For example, suppose you really are a great communicator. How would you show this? Some examples:

  • Revised existing maintenance procedures using input from subject matter experts. Use of new procedures improved maintenance efficiency 21%.
  • Assisted in project terms and conditions negotiations with customer, serving as technical liaison. Project was second most profitable in company history.
  • Investigated downtime issue, discovered it was due to operator training deficiency. Designed and taught training course. Downtime decreased by 34%.

Now, did you catch onto something else these examples showed? Yes, that's right. They showed you are a team player. These also showed that you have leadership and initiative. They also show you're a problem-solver. Why simply state something you're not backing up with facts, when you can state what you did that shows you have the mojo this employer is looking for?

If you don't have such accomplishments to list, then you shouldn't be making the claim. Making the claim without the track record to back it up is lying. If you do have the accomplishments, then list them upfront on the resume so you get the interview (if you send a resume ahead of an interview) or back up the interview (if you are using the resume as a post-interview sales letter, which is really the best way to use it).

If you don't have such accomplishments to list and the job requires those soft skills, then you're seeking the wrong job. If you want that type of job, then invest the time and effort to learn those soft skills and be self-motivated enough to apply them on the job. Then you'll have those accomplishments to showcase.

Some folks think it's OK to embellish what they did by just adding details that didn't really happen. For example, someone who was part of a team and acted a little pushy at times didn't "lead the team." This person annoyed the team, however. If one of your over-prodded team members is contacted during a background check (good ones go at least three levels beyond the contacts you provide), it'll come out that you are not only annoying but also self-aggrandizing. That type of person isn't a "team player" much less a "team leader."

Now, suppose the background checker asks that team member of yours if you were a contributor. Now you're on a different footing versus if that person had been asked to verify the lie that you were the "leader." It might go like this:

"Well, John was never in a leadership role but he had some great ideas nonetheless. Sometimes we had to tell him we had enough ideas for now, but yeah, he was definitely a contributor. We had a great working relationship."

Or it might not have that disclaimer tone at all.

An embellished resume is likely to hamper your job search efforts significantly, as is one that uses hype in place of fact. Remember to use facts and consider how they might be verified. If possible, keep a separate list of people who can verify each bullet point. If you're asked about a particular item, you can provide that info in addition to explaining it to the person asking.

Yes, your goal is to get a job. But if you're out of work, take a few moments to reflect how that really feels. You don't want to be back in this position again, any time soon. So you really want a job that you're suited for and that suits you.

Getting a job because you were able to deceive the hiring manager (usually your boss) sets you up for failure on that job (in several different ways). Getting a job because you and the hiring manager clicked and there's well-deserved mutual trust is a great way to start a long-term employment relationship.


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