How to improve your CV by highlighting soft skills
4 MINUTE READ
When putting together a CV the end goal is clear: you need to separate yourself from the other candidates in the stack by showing you are the best person for the job.
Doing so requires that you put your CV together in a careful and considered way. It’s a chance to show off where your real strengths and talents lie.
But it’s easy to end up selling yourself short by placing too much emphasis on skills that aren’t as important as you might think. As an IT recruitment agency, we see this happen all the time. Here’s how to avoid this all-to-common pitfall.
Tech skills are important, but they aren’t everything
As the media continuously draws attention to the importance of STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) it likely influences job seekers’ thinking when it comes to deciding what skills are worthy of a place on their CV. But a resume that reads like a long list of programming languages is unlikely to grab the attention of a prospective employer. Alongside technical skills, your CV needs to show you would make a good fit for the culture and ethos of the company.
This is not to say that technical skills aren’t important. Obviously, if the development job you are applying for requires a lot of Java-based coding, then you’d better know your Java. However, much of what separates average candidates from those that are truly outstanding is not their technical expertise – its their ability to work well with others. Numerous studies have shown that people skills (sometimes referred to as ‘soft skills’) matter a lot. So when putting together your CV, one of your priorities should be to demonstrate how great your people skills are.
Every job seeker needs human-based skills to land a job offer. An individual’s accumulated workplace experience should lead them to develop skills beyond the technical abilities listed in the job description ‘requirements’ section. Those who are able to show evidence of continual learning and growth across a range of key soft skills give themselves a real advantage over candidates who focus exclusively on technical expertise. Your CV should highlight how your past work experience has contributed to your own personal development.
Identifying your soft skills
To figure out which soft skills you should highlight, it is helpful to follow the four steps listed below.
- Identify one or two of the biggest projects you’ve worked on in your current role.
- Reflect on the biggest challenges to success in those projects.
- Ask yourself what you had to do (what specific steps did you have to take?) to overcome those obstacles. Those skills are the ones you need to highlight on your CV. Some of them may be interpersonal, others may be more technical, but chances are, none of them are “Microsoft Excel”.
- Find the clearest, most concise way to describe those skills in terms that show off your abilities with regard to what the job listing calls for.
For example: Did your team disagree over the best way to progress through a project? Did you play a role in steering the team towards a common vision? If so, you have demonstrated an ability to mediate disputes and build a collaborative environment. Or maybe you tackled a large and poorly defined problem by breaking it down into a series of smaller, more manageable projects. If so, this provides evidence of your project management and team communication skills. It is well worth taking some time to think through the steps outlined above and come up with some unique examples when you added real value to your team.
One of the benefits of following these steps is that it helps you figure out how your personal skills actually contribute to success in business. They won’t be diffuse, abstract things you’ll struggle to talk about in a job interview. Instead , you’ll have concrete examples of when you made a real difference in a past project, and how you’ll use those same skills to meet similar challenges on your new team.
Obviously though – be honest with yourself. Don’t claim to be great at resolving disputes if you tend to shy away from confrontation. Otherwise, when you get the job, you’re likely to be placed in many situations where you feel uncomfortable. While highlighting your soft skills is one of the best ways to make your CV stand out, you (and the people you work with!) won’t be happy in a role that doesn’t align with what you are genuinely good at.
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