Focus on “can do” instead of “have done” on your resume

If you’re using the traditional résumé format, you’re putting the emphasis on the roles you’ve held, with a chronological list of your jobs and the results you delivered. While experience is an important consideration, today’s hiring managers need candidates who possess certain skills. By emphasizing what you “can do” instead of what you “have done,” you can help your résumé to stand out from the others, says Bailey Showalter, vice president of talent solutions at Credly, a platform that verifies credentials.

Research shows that there’s not necessarily a correlation between a role that you’ve held in the past and your future performance in a different role, aside from the skills that you have,” says Showalter. “For hiring managers, the more important question is, Can you do the functions associated with the job you’re looking to move into?”

Flip the Résumé Upside Down

On a traditional résumé, most job seekers include a bulleted list of their skills at the bottom. Usually, the section is a short and sweet compilation of the technology they’ve used. For example, it may say “Proficient in Microsoft Office,” or “Experienced in customer relationship management tools.” To shift the focus from “have done” to “can do,” Showalter recommends bringing this box to the top of your résumé.

“Depending on the job you’re applying for, choose skills that are most applicable and include the mastery you have of those skills,” she says. “It helps hiring managers know what it is specifically that you can bring to the job.”

Hard skills are the most common capabilities included. These are your specialties and how you bring nuance to your skill set, says Showalter. But don’t overlook including soft skills that can overlap from role to role no matter the job title or industry.

“For example, I started my career in sales, and one of the strongest soft skills that I had to develop was stakeholder management,” says Showalter. “I had to bring together all the constituents involved in making a decision and make sure they had their questions answered and felt good about what they were moving forward with. I use that skill in my role today. Soft skills are largely transferable.”

A Skills Focus Can Help Hiring Managers, Too

The pain point for many recruiters is not being able to find qualified people. Job history and the outcomes an employee achieved in past roles are still important, but Showalter says recruiters in today’s job market shouldn’t make them the central focus of their candidate search. Focusing on skills instead of experience can help improve the hiring process.

“There are millions of open roles and not enough job seekers actively looking for jobs right now who can fill them,” she says. “As employers, we can either keep doing what we’ve been doing—and not filling the roles that we have open. Or we can start to rethink what we might have been doing that was screening out qualified talent because their industry experience wasn’t in perfect alignment.” Focusing only on past experience excludes a lot of people who may have otherwise been qualified, she says.

What makes someone successful in a role are the skills, competencies, and capabilities needed—and not an arbitrary number of years spent in a role.

“Look more at relatedness,” advises Showalter. “What are the relevant skills and capabilities you need someone to bring to the table? It does invite a change in thinking for hiring managers and recruiting teams. But as we change our thinking, we can expand our talent pools and start to alleviate some of the hiring shortages.”

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