Building Skills-Based Resumes: Strategies for Success

Mar 11, 2024 | Career Advice, Career Training, Professional Development

Crafting a resume for a job you are applying for with no prior relevant experience can be a tricky task for those who are attempting to change careers and break into a new industry. If you’re interested in tech sectors, it is especially challenging to convey competency and potential through a few application documents. Skills, however, play a pivotal role in capturing the attention of recruiters and hiring managers, particularly in a skills-based resume format. 

Skills based resumes, or functional resumes, focus on “specific skills you have and particular aspects of your experience, centering on those that are most transferable to the job you’re seeking—as opposed to a chronological or reverse-chronological resume, which emphasizes your work history,” as defined by The Muse. For those navigating career changes to industries they have minimal or no relevant experience with, highlighting what about your expertise is transferable can be transformative to job searches. Effectively showing competencies is at the core of creating a successful resume. Since skills-based resumes prioritize the demonstration of relevant abilities and expertise, highlighting a diverse range of transferable skills not only communicates your potential to excel in a given role but also underscores your versatility and adaptability.

Employers seek candidates who possess the necessary skills to thrive in their organizations, and a skills-based resume serves as a powerful tool for conveying precisely that. By strategically emphasizing key competencies and providing tangible examples of their application, candidates can effectively differentiate themselves from competitors and stand out as worthy of further consideration. The following sections highlight effective strategies to use when building a skills-based resume.

Showcasing Skills in Skills based Resumes

The structure of a skills based resume, also known as functional resumes, can vary based on individual preferences and experiences; some may choose to list skills in a traditional bulleted format, while others may opt for a more visual representation. Organizing skills into categories or proficiency levels can make them easier for employers to scan and assess. Skills can be categorized based on their relevance to the job role or industry, such as technical skills, soft skills, and industry-specific knowledge. Regardless of the format chosen, it’s essential to ensure clarity and readability to facilitate easy comprehension for employers. A few more tips…

  • Utilize action verbs and quantifiable metrics when demonstrating skills and accomplishments. Action verbs inject dynamism and impact into a resume, conveying a sense of achievement and proactivity. Quantifiable metrics provide tangible evidence of one’s contributions and proficiency, allowing employers to gauge the scope and impact of previous roles. Example: Instead of stating “responsible for managing a team,” one could write “led a team of 10 members, resulting in a 20% increase in productivity.” This approach not only adds specificity but also highlights the candidate’s ability to drive results.
    • When quantifying achievements and contributions, it’s crucial to use specific metrics that showcase the outcomes of actions. For instance, quantifying sales figures, cost savings, percentage improvements, or project completion times can effectively illustrate the value added by a candidate. Example: “increased monthly sales by 30%” or “implemented a cost-saving initiative resulting in $50,000 in annual savings.” These quantifiable achievements provide concrete evidence of a candidate’s capabilities and accomplishments.
      • Provide evidence of skills mastery through projects or portfolio websites. This is highly beneficial for showcasing practical application and expertise and allows employers to explore professional work in more detail. Example: Include a link to a digital portfolio showcasing design projects to help provide tangible evidence of skills and capabilities.
        • Soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving are equally important to highlight on a resume, as they are valued by employers across industries. These skills can be showcased through extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or leadership roles. Example: participation in team-based projects, volunteering for community initiatives, or holding leadership positions in student organizations demonstrates strong interpersonal skills and leadership capabilities.

          Emphasizing Expertise

          If you have no relevant educational experience related to the specific job that is being applied for, skip out on an actual education section in your skills-based resumes. But, for those who have done some type of skills-based learning, whether through a traditional college degree or an online certificate program, it’s encouraged that you list out the relevant educational experiences in its own section. Listing relevant online certificates and specializations on the resume not only validates one’s expertise but also signals a proactive approach to skill acquisition and career advancement. In an increasingly competitive job market, employers are often inundated with resumes that boast similar qualifications and experiences. Highlighting specialized certifications can serve as a powerful differentiator, particularly in fields where specific technical skills are highly valued.

          By strategically curating skills-based resumes to feature all types of educational experiences, candidates can effectively convey commitment to professional growth and readiness to tackle the challenges of today’s tech-driven workforce. Check out this Indeed Career Guide: Entry-Level IT Resume: Example, Template and Writing Guide.

          Tailoring Skills Based Resumes for Every Application

          When writing any type of resume, it is important to tailor it for every application. Tailoring a resume showcases that while your experience might not line up exactly with the job description, but your skills and expertise does. It also demonstrates a proactive approach to your job search, one that shows you are paying attention to detail and have genuine interest in the positions that you are applying for. An idea on how to go about tailoring skills-based resumes for every application is having one document that lists all of your skills, experience, and education so that when applying for specific jobs, you can pull and tailor already written points of your expertise. Make sure when tailoring any resume, that you research the company and job role to align with specific requirements and preferences. Some tips: 

          • Use language that is found in the job description in your resume. Many hiring managers and recruiters scan resumes to find key words and phrases that match what they are looking for in candidates. By incorporating similar language into your resume highlights, your resume has a greater chance of standing out of the stack. 
          • Match skills and experiences with the core competencies sought by the company. Research a company by taking a deep dive into their website, LinkedIn page, or any other online presence. What do they stand for? Do you stand for similar things? Do you think you’ll fit in with the company culture? How might you highlight this in skills-based resumes?

          Demonstrating Continuous Learning

          Skills-based resumes strategically emphasize your commitment to lifelong learning and professional growth (which are attributes highly valued in any career) by highlighting the specific skills, certifications, and learning experiences you’ve done and are now expert in. During the process of career growth, commitment and persistence can make all the difference. Those who are determined to build skills-based resumes are already halfway to making a career dream come true. Opportunities often arise when least expected, and dedication to professional growth will undoubtedly be recognized and play a pivotal role in success.

          The strategies outlined here, from showcasing to emphasizing expertise and tailoring resumes for specific applications, serve as your initial tool box in the journey for that dream job. They are not just recommendations; they are tools to carve your narrative, aligning your skills with the industry’s demands and standing out amidst a stack of candidates. Remember, your skills-based resume is not a static document but a living testament to your commitment to continuous learning and professional growth.

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