It seems like a total no-brainer: you should update your résumé and online profiles when you are job hunting. But there’s more to consider besides just adding your latest position and maybe dropping old or irrelevant ones.
Your résumé can do more heavy-lifting if you use it to showcase your skill set and potential, not simply your past positions. At a time of historically low unemployment, companies are having trouble filling open jobs. Moreover, technologies like automation and artificial intelligence are changing job responsibilities faster than most employers can keep up.
Given this reality, you’ll be a hot prospect if you demonstrate that you’re not only qualified for the job description of today, but have competencies that can be applied to the needs of tomorrow too.
You are more than your past.
These days, many résumés are read by machines looking for keywords before they reach human eyes. That means your résumé needs to work harder to get you past the screeners, both human and machine. Be sure you’re not obscuring your abilities by using jargon or empty language to describe them. Don’t just list past responsibilities; call out your skills by name!
By now, most everyone knows that you want to be specific about your results—quantify in real numbers, wherever possible—but you don’t want your résumé to feel like a list of disconnected accomplishments either. So, instead of saying, “I crushed it on Project X by increasing revenue by %,” you could package those results to highlight the competencies that enabled your success. A simple reframing can communicate the idea that these skills will benefit your new employer, too, even if the exact application is different.
Don’t skip the soft skills.
Most of us focus on hard skills and past accomplishments in our résumés, but soft skills have never been more important than they are right now. In our technology-driven world, as more tasks become automated, hiring companies want to know you possess the skills a robot won’t be able to replicate, like creativity, leadership, emotional intelligence and critical thinking.
Some of this may feel more natural to introduce in a cover letter or LinkedIn profile, but you can definitely weave soft skills into your résumé too. Rather than simply stating, “I am an effective problem-solver,” review your experience section and think about how your soft skills helped you achieve those results.
And look beyond the obvious too. We all have a tendency to underestimate soft skills that come to us naturally or seem like they’d be obvious. For example, an experienced manager may think it’s obvious they know how to motivate people, but it’s not.
Exceptional soft skills aren’t easy for hiring managers to screen for, so this is another opportunity to be proactive and sing your own praises. The key, however, is to back up your claims with concrete results. So, if you’re great at motivating a team, don’t just say it; be ready to share an example.
Revisit your education section.
These days, everyone needs to work at keeping their skills updated, making lifelong learners among the most attractive job candidates out there. If your education stops with a formal degree from an institution of higher learning, you should take a hard look at your résumé and be honest whether it truly matches up with the evolving skills your target jobs require.
On the other hand, if you’ve been actively maintaining your skills and gaining new ones, that definitely enhances your profile. Even if you’re not using all those skills in your current role or the jobs you’re applying for, your résumé should show off your embrace of lifelong learning. Knowledge gained from online courses, bootcamps, books and tutorials counts just as much as anything learned in a formal classroom and demonstrates your commitment to lifelong learning.
One of the things I look for first when evaluating job candidates is a commitment to learn new things. To me, a track record of consistently working to learn new things is a great predictor of success in a new role. Be sure to include links to projects or portfolios with your skills-based work, regardless of whether you were paid for it.
Every job is different.
Fundamental job functions and desired qualifications may be similar from one company to the next, but you can’t take shortcuts by using a one-size-fits-all résumé. Treat your job hunt like you’d treat the job itself and give it your full care and effort by tailoring your résumé for each opportunity.
The job description is your blueprint for building a résumé that highlights your most relevant skills. When you align your résumé with the employer’s specific requirements and expectations, it shows you understand the role and why you’re the right fit for it.
Poke around the company website, read what’s being said in the media, and then structure your own experience and expertise in a way that makes sense in the same context. Maybe you’re a software engineer who’s been working at a financial services company, but now you’re applying for jobs in very different industries. Look for opportunities to demonstrate how your skills translate.
Honesty is the best policy.
It may be tempting to embellish your résumé by inflating your role on a successful project, listing skills you haven’t yet mastered, or revising your title to sound more impressive. When my company conducted research into the skills gap, 16% of respondents admitted to lying on their résumés or LinkedIn profiles (among men, 24% confessed to lying).
Don’t do it. Just don’t. If you feel you need to fudge the truth to be considered for a job you want, slow down and think about gaining those qualifications for real. There’s no shame in acknowledging the skills you’re lacking or haven’t kept up to date. But you do need to take action to fill the gap, if you’re going to get the job you want and succeed in it.
Résumé-writing isn’t exactly fun. It’s natural to want to crank through the tedium and get to the good stuff: getting hired to do work that’s interesting, challenging, and rewarding. Instead, take the time to develop yourself into the best possible candidate, and then take the time to ensure your résumé is doing the best possible job representing you and your skills.