For recent graduates or others without much experience in the workforce, writing a resume can feel pretty overwhelming. Whether you’ve just graduated in December or have made it your New Year’s resolution to get the job you want in 2018, learning how to write a resume is one of the most important skills you can master.
On resumes, most people assume that the most important thing to emphasize is their hard skills; that is, the skills they’ve acquired through training, certification, or education. And it’s no wonder; recent graduates and others entering the workforce have often worked hard to perfect these skills. However, with so many jobseekers emphasizing hard skills on their resumes, many are missing another critical element: soft skills.
Hard Data on Soft Skills
According to LiveCareer’s recently released 2018 Skills Gap Report, soft skills—those intangible and difficult-to-measure talents—have become as important, if not more important, than hard skills to many employers. With popular wisdom being that you can teach a new employee technical (i.e., hard) skills, such as filing, data entry, or computer applications, soft skills—like strong communication skills and conflict resolution—are more innate, and therefore harder to teach. This makes applicants who possess them more valuable than ever before in the eyes of employers.
Therefore, to succeed in today’s job market, jobseekers should focus not only on their hard skills but on choosing the most appealing soft skills to highlight on their resumes. In fact, the LiveCareer study found that of the top 20 skills listed in job ads, nine are soft skills. From this, the study found, jobseekers should conclude that applicants who possess and include these sought-after skills on their resumes have a higher likelihood of being considered a desirable candidate and getting an interview.
So, which soft skills appear most frequently in job ads? They are as follows:
- Customer Service
- Communication Skills
- Written Communication
- Problem Solving
- Organizational Skills
Articulating Your Skills
Hands down, communication and customer service rank as the most in demand in job ads. But what should an applicant do to articulate these skills? First, even those with limited work experience should consider past professional, educational, and volunteer experiences that might demonstrate these appealing skills. For example, a person who has been out of the workforce for several years but who has been volunteering likely has had experiences that would demonstrate these skills.
From leading volunteer work groups to organizing school bake sales, volunteers can find many examples of the use of stellar communication and customer service skills to ad to their resumes. Be sure to use specific examples and provide data whenever possible to highlight the impact your skills had on your projects. And, for those who feel they need to cultivate those skills, there are ways you can learn to build your communication and customer service skills that will be helpful in your work search.
Study the Job Ad
The next step in writing an effective resume is to study the job ad to identify the skills the employer is seeking. Make a list of the skills you possess and customize your resume’s Skills section to include those skills prominently. These are what are known as keywords, and they are critical to any job search. A good job ad will spell out in no uncertain terms what the employer needs; your job is to learn to articulate how you will meet those needs.
To do so, echo the exact language of the job post. This mirroring of language is critical since so many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) in the initial screening process. An ATS is a computer application that scans resumes and looks for keywords to eliminate candidates in the first round who aren’t qualified for the role. Studying the job ad and matching the wording of your skills to how they are worded in the job ad is critical to passing this step, as most ATSs can’t understand nuance in language.
So, for example, if the job ad lists “10 years of management experience” as a requirement, don’t write “a decade of management experience” on your resume. Those two phrases mean the same thing but the wording in your resume must be exact for an ATS to recognize your skills during a scan and determine you are a qualified candidate.
Finding the right job can take time, and you may need several iterations of your resume before you strike gold. If you find that you are striking out again and again, it’s possible you might need additional training, a professional resume builder, or a resume template that’s more appropriate for your skill level. Again, study the job ads that appeal to you and figure out of there is anything you are missing that might be critical to the job at hand. Whatever you do, don’t lose hope. The job you want is out there, just waiting for you to apply.
Jobseekers can discover additional resume-related findings, plus a free PDF download of the full report, by visiting the 2018 Skills Gap Report.