Ask a Career Expert: How Do I Include Soft Skills On My Resume?

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“Are soft skills worth highlighting on a resume? And if so, what’s a good way to do it?”

First things first: YES, soft skills do play an important role in hiring. Employers aren’t looking for robots that can only execute on a job description. They need people who can positively impact the culture and see what’s around the corner- people with depth (this goes triple for executives btw). Soft skills are a way to address this. However, doing so CREDIBLY is something that trips many jobseekers up.

Simply put: if you’ve got a keyword section on your resume that has things like “Goal-Oriented” and “Emotional Intelligence” in there, you’re doing it wrong!

1) IDENTIFY THE MOST IMPORTANT SOFT SKILLS TO HIGHLIGHT

Soft skills are like dessert- quality is more important than quantity! The first step is to thoroughly evaluate target job postings to identify major soft skills employers are on the lookout for (and that you possess).

Let’s say you do this and identify the following skills:

  • Interpersonal– ability to work in teams, relate to people, and manage conflict.
  • Project Management– organization, planning, and consistently taking initiatives from start-to-finish. Not just for dedicated Project Managers anymore- many employers want to see this as a skill set for employees of all stripes.
  • Problem Solving– ability to use creativity, logic, past work experience and available resources to solve issues.

2) DEVELOP POWERFUL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

If you’ve ever come across a resume which truly POPS, chances are it’s because soft skills have been tightly integrated with accomplishments. Hard numbers may reassure an employer that you’re a safe bet, but they inspire little passion (that’s why “dry” resumes which do nothing but list one metric after another tend to make your eyes glaze over). But when you add soft skills into the mix, ideally in a way that lends depth to you the PERSON (not just you the candidate) you’ve got something special.

a) Utilize the STAR Method to Reframe Career Accomplishments. Get away from day-to-day responsibilities. What wins did you pull off? What projects would have crashed and burned without your efforts? How did you BETTER things? Now break down what you’ve come up with in the following manner:

S = Situation. What was the problem? Be as specific as possible. Overly general accomplishments DO NOT WORK.

T = Task. What’s the goal?

A = Action. Which specific steps did you take to reach the goal? Focus on what YOU did, not the team. If describing team contributions, be sure to credit them or risk looking like an egomaniac!

R = Result. Final outcome. This is the time to talk yourself up. Take credit for what you accomplished, and if you can highlight multiple positives, even better!

b) Now that you have your STAR accomplishments, integrate them within your resume. Remember: resume accomplishments are most effective when you highlight the RESULT first, followed by how you got there. Here are examples of soft-skills based accomplishments which hew to this structure:

INTERPERSONAL- Established Risk Management as a key pillar of the organization, building and training 20-person in-house team responsible for ERM systems and processes development, as well as major cross-divisional initiatives.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT- Delivered over $5M in annual cost savings, along with improved business agility, through total project management of paper-to-digital record archiving initiative. Worked heavily with teams across Houston, Toronto, and London offices to attain aggressive 1-year implementation target.

PROBLEM SOLVING: Increased revenues by 12% through overhauling outdated and ineffective proposal process, consulting with SMEs within the industry, developing standardized language and offerings, and training 8 U.S. sales teams in adopting new approach.

One last tip: don’t confine soft skills to just your resume! Weave them into the stories you share during the interview, and show employers that you consider them to be crucial to your worth.

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We don’t just build resumes: we give you the keys to unlock a new level of career success! ResumeOrbit’s exclusive Competitive Insights, included with every search package, answer the 3 biggest questions on every jobseeker’s mind:

-How do people who have the job I want market themselves?

-Which positions would be the best fit for my current aspirations?

-Which companies would mesh well with my priorities and outlook?

1) TOP 1% BRANDING. How do the leaders in your industry market themselves? We’ll study their strategies and apply these findings towards your job search documents and LinkedIn presence.

2) DREAM JOBS LIST. We’ll provide you with a list of 10 job titles held by professionals with similar backgrounds and aspirations. This will help to clearly define your search wheelhouse, and save hours in wasted effort.

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4 Things You Should Do Before a Job Interview

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By Anish Majumdar, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW). Congratulations, you’ve landed a job interview! For most people (myself included), this moment of elation quickly gives way to nerves. What do I talk about? Am I really qualified enough? And most importantly, how can I get the edge over the competition and make this position my own? In this post we’ll talk about the qualities employers are searching for during the interview, and what specifically you need to do to maximize your chances of success.

Here are the 3 fundamentals of a great interview:

-Enthusiasm. Make it crystal clear that you are excited by this job. I recommend stating this outright near the start of the interview, and using a few accomplishments from your career to establish why you’re a great fit. Sounds obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of well-qualified professionals who stall out during the candidate selection process for a perceived lack of excitement/interest.

-A willingness to get into the nitty-gritty. Interviews work best when they address specifics. Ask your interviewer to elaborate on the major aspects of the job, and how they impact the company-at-large. Wherever possible, bring greater clarity to details on your resume through supplying supporting information. A candidate who is willing and able to deal with the micro aspects of the job comes across as far stronger than someone who won’t.

-Confidence. There’s a big difference between confidence and bravado. The latter is making unsupported claims and covering up weaknesses through bluster. Confidence is clearly stating your areas of expertise and having the courage to admit when you don’t know something, or failed to achieve an expected outcome. Confidence means owning your career and taking responsibility.

Now that we have a broad overview of where we need to end up, what can we do to get there prior to the interview?

1) Find out who will be interviewing you and their role within the company. LinkedIn can be very helpful in this regard- beyond checking out their profile, are you connected with someone who knows this person? Focus on finding commonalities or shared interests, as these can be a great way to break the ice.

2) Assess the key requirements of the position, and make sure your resume explicitly supports it. Assuming an interviewer will “read between the lines” and magically see your fit for the position is a recipe for failure. Unless your resume instantly communicates your suitability, and backs it up with tangible accomplishments, it’s a liability.

3) Find your happy place on the day of. Don’t even think about the nuts-and-bolts of the interview until you’ve taken the necessary actions to get into a positive headspace. For some, that means taking a long bike ride or hike. For others, it’s spending some extra time with that first cup of coffee in the morning. You want to bleed off as much extraneous stress as possible so that you can go into the interview clear-eyed and mindful.

4) Set up a reward for immediately after the interview, and stick to it regardless of outcome. That last part is crucial. Whether you thought you aced the interview or tanked it, give yourself a treat afterwards. It doesn’t have to be expensive or involved, just something that gives you pleasure. And when you feel those stress levels rising prior to the interview, remember that you’ve got something good coming.

One final thought: during the interview itself, focus on making a connection with your interviewer, not on landing the job. The truth is, there are many factors that go into hiring someone which you have no control over. Don’t place all of the pressure on yourself- no one can withstand that. Instead, focus on what you can control, and always remember that you are bringing a unique set of skills and passions to the table.

Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Founder of ResumeOrbit.com, a consulting firm that specializes in Resume/CV Development, LinkedIn Profile Development and Executive Bio Letter Development for senior and mid-level professionals.

How to Generate More Interviews With Your Resume

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By Anish Majumdar, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW). It’s a situation pretty much everyone finds themselves in at some point during their careers: sending your resume out to scores of recruiters and/or hiring agents…and not hearing anything back. Before you consider giving up on your ideal job, remember that the issue isn’t you so much as how you’re coming across on the page. As the owner of a career development firm that works with jobseekers in this position, I know firsthand how big of an improvement a few simple changes to the resume can make. Here are 3 powerful tweaks you can execute that will immediately increase the amount of attention your resume receives:

1) Develop a Clear Job Target

Specificity is one of the keys to a successful search in today’s job market. Instead of going the “one size fits all” route with regards to your resume, research open jobs using sites like Monster and Indeed and start developing a database of positions that interest you. While you should ideally end up with a single job target, it’s perfectly fine to conduct a job search across multiple targets. Just be sure to develop a separate resume version for each.

Insert the EXACT TITLE of the position you’re applying for right at the start of the resume. This will minimize the chances of your document being mis-categorized or lost in digital limbo during the submission process.

Develop an opening paragraph that highlights why you’d be a great fit. Key experience at a previous job, a recently acquired degree or training certification, even soft skills such as team building/leadership or managing multiple client priorities are all examples of what might work within this section. Keep it brief, no more than 3-4 lines, and make sure it comes across as genuine.

Create a “Core Competencies” section. Look through the job postings you’ve gathered and make a list of skills that are frequently requested (that you actually possess). Now create a section beneath the opening paragraph that lists these skills. For example, a Marketing specialist could have terms like Marketing Plans, Corporate Branding/Rebranding, and Trend Tracking & Analysis within this section. Utilize bullets to differentiate between terms and keep things tidy.

2) Structure Your Work History to Support Career Goals

At its core, a resume is a personal marketing document. While most jobseekers know to leave off negative information such as why they were let go at a particular job or other workplace conflicts, it’s the savvy ones that understand the importance of emphasizing and de-emphasizing positions within the “Professional Experience” section to support their career goals. Ask yourself the following questions to determine the optimal layout of this section:

Is the position directly relevant to the job I’m after? If so, begin the position with a few lines describing unique responsibilities, followed by a “Key Accomplishments” or similar section offering bulleted accomplishments. This approach provides the necessary context and really makes an impact visually.

Can I use the position to highlight soft skills or a unique aspect of my background? Many jobs that aren’t directly related to what you’re presently after can still hold value in these 2 areas. Use the same approach as above but make sure these positions take up less space within the document.

Is the position a liability? If you took on a role that was a significant step down in terms of responsibilities, salary, etc. or simply didn’t work out, then it’s worth considering leaving off entirely. As long as it doesn’t create a major time gap within the resume, then simply skip to the next position. If it does, then briefly encapsulate the position within 1-2 lines and move on.

3) Eliminate Red Flags

One of the most frequent reasons resumes get rejected is due to “red flags” that pop up during the evaluation process. Here’s the thing: being upfront about a potential vulnerability gives you the opportunity to control it, whereas ignoring it basically guarantees that it’s going to be perceived as a negative. Here are the major causes of red flags and how you can keep them from becoming a barrier to your candidacy:

Lack of a clear link between stated career goal and work history. It’s important to use the opening paragraph you developed in step #1 as a kind of running theme within your resume. Make sure that the skills and attributes mentioned here are expanded upon throughout your work history, particularly with regards to recent jobs you’ve held. Don’t be afraid to be a little redundant if necessary. A clear link is crucial to establishing credibility during the hiring process.

Significant time gaps in your work history. While a gap of a few months between jobs won’t raise any eyebrows, anything over 6 months needs to be addressed. Create a “Career Note” of a few lines and place it directly within your work history, between the 2 positions in question. Examples of information to include here can range from managing family responsibilities and fulfilling a personal life goal to taking an advanced training course or exploring new career avenues. Just make it clear that you weren’t sitting around doing nothing.

Lack of necessary education and/or training. If you’re currently obtaining a degree or advanced training in a particular area, don’t wait until graduation to leverage it within your resume! Simply add the words “In Progress” as well as the anticipated graduation/completion date when listing it within the “Education” section and you should be good to go.

*Note: this piece originally appeared on Lifehacker.com.

Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Founder of ResumeOrbit.com, a consulting firm that specializes in Resume Development, LinkedIn Profile Development and Executive Bio Letter Development for senior and mid-level professionals.

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Applying for a Less-than-Perfect Job? Try This Instead.

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Imagine this: you’re scanning job postings and come across one for a company that you would love to work for. Problem is, the job lacks something essential: degree of responsibility, salary, clear fit based on your experience. However, because your ideal job isn’t offered, you figure, “What’s the harm?” and shoot off a resume.

A few weeks pass, and another position opens up at this company. This time it’s a perfect fit. Although you didn’t hear anything back from your first application, you go ahead and re-send the resume.

And nothing happens. What gives?

When you use an online application system, you are essentially feeding information into a database that will be vetted by an administrative assistant or HR person. These (usually overworked) professionals are doing their best to screen and qualify all of the talent coming in, which could mean hundreds of separate applications for multiple positions in a range of departments. With time at a minimum, their function is to quickly separate potential hires (who are moved further along the process) from those who don’t match the basic criteria laid out in the position they’ve applied for. When you apply for a position that you’re not an excellent fit for, it becomes very easy for them to reject your application. Furthermore, when you re-apply for a different position, chances are very good that it’s the same person who will be reviewing your resume. Make no mistake: minor changes to the resume won’t mask the fact that you’re the same person applying for a different job within a very short period of time. At this point, most employers will screen you out for this position as well, and regardless of how qualified you actually are, will most likely remove you from consideration for future roles at the company. Despite applying with the best of intentions, this “shotgun” approach turns your candidacy into the equivalent of spam.

Here’s a different approach: when you come across a less-than-ideal job posting, research the company and reach out to a person who would be in a position to hire you. Oftentimes, the job posting itself contains relevant contact information. A simple message works best: brief introduction, what you’re looking for, why you’d be an asset to the company, and a request for a 15-minute call. Cold contacting a company has been shown to be an effective way of bypassing the send-resume-and-wait approach. Instead of being perceived as spam, you come across as an individual who is truly interested in making a meaningful contribution to the company. And when the ideal position opens up, you’ll be first in line.

Anish Majumdar is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Founder of ResumeOrbit.com, a consulting firm that specializes in Resume & CV Development, LinkedIn Profile Development and Executive Bio Letter Development for senior and mid-level professionals.