One of the trickiest aspects of writing a resume is highlighting your skills. You don't want to sound like you are bragging, yet you want to clearly demonstrate that you have the jobs skills the employer is looking for. How do you know what skills to highlight? How do you do it effectively?
Identifying Which Skills to Highlight on your Resume
Assessing the Employer's Needs
The best way to identify which skills you need to highlight on your resume is to put yourself in the employer's shoes. What are the employer's needs? How can you fulfill those needs? To accomplish this, look at the employer's job description. Everything you need to know should be there. If it isn't, you may want to contact the company for more information about the job. You can do this by requesting an informational interview. Many employers are willing to do this.
Read the job description carefully. It will give you clues into what the employer is looking for. It will also give you the keywords you need to use, so your resume will get past the initial computer screening that so many companies are using today. Even a short four-line job description could contain all the keywords you need to compile a relevant assessment of your skills.
For example the following listing is quite short.
- In need of someone who knows how to screen print and is able to do graphic art work. If you don't have good experience and just want to learn that isn't for me. We have a small growing shop and we need someone part time to help get our orders completed, handle customers and so on. Must be able to print and do graphic art work.
- The key skills are the ability to screen print and create graphic art work (notice they mentioned it twice). They also mention an ability to handle orders, and that they are a growing company. The skills you to highlight for this position are screen printing experience and graphic art experience
- The job skills the employer has listed are the ones you want to highlight on your resume. Don't worry if you can't use every skill listed. If you have experience in the industry, you will know which ones are the most important. If you are trying to break in, choose the skills that you know you have and go with that. Honesty on a resume is vital.
You also want to identify the needs a job posting only hints at. In the above brief listing, the employer is hinting at their needs to handle growth in the business, to meet challenges in completing their orders, and to have someone who can handle customers. Once you identify an employer's "hidden" needs, you can highlight those skills on your resume.
How to Highlight Your Skills Effectively
The best way to highlight your skills effectively is to imagine yourself already in the job. Then look at your past work experiences. Think of specific duties you performed and the benefits you provided.
Use Power Words
Now, use power words to describe your skills in action. Don't say, "Printed t-shirts." Say, "Prepared screens for four-color art work. Exposed and developed screens." Describe some of the steps. Give life to the actions you performed on the job. Express your skills in a manner that is impactful, forceful and persuasive - whatever your job may have been - by using action-oriented verbs, such as:
reduced | pioneered | targeted | designed | managed | streamlined | secured | expedited collaborated | authored | coached |increased |monitored | systemized | conceptualized
Show Your Benefit
Quantify the benefits your work provided to your employer. Things like, "Increased profits by 10%," or "Reduced waste by 10%" demonstrate that your skills will benefit your future employer as well.
As you develop your list of skills, share them in a way that demonstrates that you have become more responsible and valuable as time has progressed. If at all possible, make sure the most valuable skills are highlighted under the most recent employment.
You also want to avoid repeating the same information. If you can't demonstrate growth in your skills from one job to the next, focus all your skills in one section. Rather than list skills under each employer, consider listing specific projects and their results. This is another subtle way of highlighting your ability to benefit an employer.
Your resume is your opportunity not only to highlight your skills, but also to sell the benefits those skills offer a potential employer. Successful resumes assess the employer's needs, make a powerful impression by using action-oriented verbs and prove a candidate's benefit to the employer by quantifying skills, accomplishments and professional growth. When successfully executed, these strategies will effectively highlight your skills within the space constraints of a resume and give you a competitive edge within the job market.