Upskilling and reskilling amount to nothing if you don’t know how to showcase your newly acquired and relevant skills to prospective employers.
Let’s face it. Stating that you’ve worked in a particular job role, no matter how similar it is to the role you’re applying for, is no longer sufficient to secure a job interview.
Recruiters are looking for particular skills and traits.
The importance of soft skills such as creativity, flexibility, adaptability, and one’s willingness to learn has also increased in the Covid-19 era as more employees work remotely and are required to pivot quickly in order to solve problems thrown up by the pandemic’s economic impact on businesses.
So how can you showcase both soft and hard skills effectively?
1. Build a Reputation that Precedes your Resume and Job Interview
Most employers would do an online search of your name prior to meeting you. As such, make sure that your online presence works in your favour. Use avenues such as LinkedIn articles or your own professional blog to write about topical issues related to your industry and area of expertise. Explain how particular work experiences have contributed to your insights on a subject. As far as possible, incorporate how picking up a certain skill has been beneficial to you insofar as it has helped you deliver results in the past and influenced your view on a particular subject. Ensure that your pieces are analytical and/or present a fresh perspective. This would show prospective employers that you’re a thinking person with opinions and ideas.
2. Examine the Job Ad in Detail and Research the Company
You must be prepared to customise your resume for each application by stating the skills most relevant to the role and the company. In order to determine which hard and soft skills to highlight, look at the key responsibilities outlined in the job ad and research the company’s mission and goals. Which of your skills are aligned with this information?
3. Make Sure your “Skills” Section is at the Top of your Resume
To optimise your resume, don’t relegate your “skills” section to the middle or end of your resume. Ensure that it appears at the top of the first page (right after your name and other personal particulars, or within or right after a short “summary” section). The “skills” section has become the mainstay of any resume to provide the hiring manager with a convenient checklist. Mention skills that the employer listed in their job ad and complement these with details of the results you’ve delivered.
4. Optimise your “Skills” Section for Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Software
As headhunters, we take a more careful approach to looking through resumes, giving each one due consideration, but many companies are turning to applicant tracking system (ATS) software to sift large numbers of resumes. The software crawls through applications, searching for keywords, and phrases. Such software isn’t entirely able to infer your skills from your employment history, so you have to state such information clearly.
In order for your resume to get the attention it deserves, you must read the job ad carefully and pay special attention to phrases suggesting skills or traits.
For example, if under” job responsibilities”, the employer states that the candidate is expected to make presentations to stakeholders to convince them of the merits of a product or service offered by the company, you can infer that public speaking and communication skills are a must. “Persuasiveness” could also be a keyword.
5. Describe your Soft Skills Effectively
People often list only hard skills. However, you should also list at least 3-5 soft skills, be it communication skills, analytical or critical thinking skills, or the ability to learn quickly and easily. Put the skill/skills in the context of an achievement with a recent example of how you made an impact.
Here are some examples:
As the leader of a team of 10 sales representatives, I motivated them to double their productivity and increase total sales revenue by 50 per cent, outperforming all other teams.
Conducted webinars to train staff to improve their networking skills. 80 per cent of staff reported an increase in confidence and a 50 per cent increase in the size and strength of their client networks.
Describing how you picked up a certain technical skill can also be a reflection of your soft skills and abilities. For instance, if you recently picked up web development, you could describe how you taught yourself to code and how you built several websites for clients within a short period of time. This would show that you are a self-motivated learner who can deliver results swiftly.
This information can be expressed in cover letters too. As you look back on your previous jobs, think about the challenges you faced and how you overcame them. Perhaps you were able to rally your team to achieve results against all odds. Provide examples that truly illustrate your skills and capabilities.
6. Describe your Hard Skills Effectively
When it comes to describing your technical skills, don’t merely list them. Be specific about each one. Perhaps you know how to make pivot tables and macros on Microsoft Excel. Mention this instead of merely listing the name of the software.
7. Experiment with Resume Formats
Most candidates use the reverse-chronological format. While this format is easy to navigate, consider a combination resume format which marries chronology with function.
A functional resume zeroes in on skills, while a chronological resume presents a candidate’s work experience over time. A combination format captures an employer’s attention with both skills and work history.
It constitutes a list of your skills and capabilities first. The subheadings would be your skills, rather than the job roles you’ve held over the years. Your employment history comes second.
8. During the Job Interview: Answer Behavioural and Situational Interview Questions Effectively
Such questions are meant to get you to share how you dealt with specific situations. This could reveal a lot about your key traits and soft skills.
For example, you could be asked about working with a difficult team member and how you dealt with it. Other questions might be designed to evaluate your work ethic, or ability to solve problems. Be sure to describe how your actions in a given situation led to a positive outcome, or at least an outcome that taught you a valuable and enduring lesson. As you describe challenges or problematic situations, ensure that you don’t sound too emotional. Nobody likes a candidate who complains or whines at the drop of a hat.
9. Show Enthusiasm and Ask Questions that Further Showcase your Skills
Showing a genuine interest in the company and how you can use your skills and capabilities to help it achieve its goals will go a long way towards convincing the employer that you are capable of bringing a sense of mission to the job.
At the end of the interview, ask intelligent questions that can further showcase your skills and traits. For example, asking about professional development opportunities and career advancement within the company could indicate that you are an enthusiastic learner and have a strong work ethic.
10. What You Do After the Interview Could Reveal Important Traits and Skills too
Make sure you follow up after the interview with a thoughtful email that again expresses why you’re excited about the company and the position. This gesture could go a long way towards projecting you as a skilful communicator and/or an individual who is committed to maximising every opportunity.